Golden Retriever Snow Nose [What Causes It?]

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[Updated July 2019]

When we first brought home our Golden Retriever puppy Ellie, she had a very black nose. Over time and especially after her first winter her nose started to turn lighter.  Now at age 3, her nose is pink, and it hasn’t changed back.

What is Golden Retriever Snow Nose, and what causes it? The term “snow nose” is a common condition that not only affects Golden Retrievers but also Labradors, Siberian Huskies, and other breeds that have a white or light coloured coat.

It happens when a dog’s dark nose loses pigment and becomes lighter. A dark nose can turn brown or pink.

Snow nose occurs in the winter months when there is a loss of sunlight and is sometimes called “winter nose”.

No Snow Needed For Snow Nose

Snow nose doesn’t occur because of the snow, but it gets the name snow nose or winter nose because the nose loses its colour pigmentation when the daylight hours are shorter in the winter months.

Some dogs noses will return to their darker colour in the summer months, but some dogs as they get older will keep their light coloured noses all year round.

The term snow nose doesn’t just affect dogs living in cold climates, but it has also been reported to affect dogs living in warmer climates as well.

Golden Retriever with pink nose.

Should I Be Concerned?

The temporary loss of pigmentation on the nose is a cosmetic issue that does not harm your dog and there is no need to be concerned.

As your dog ages, the colour change can become permanent, the nose will still be healthy but just lighter than before.

Snow nose is not a health concern, but if you notice any changes in your dog’s nose such as crusts, sores, discharge, sneezing or wheezing, you should consult your vet.

A loss of pigmentation in the nose can also be caused by an underlying thyroid condition, and you will want to consult your vet to get thyroid levels tested.

Another cause of pigment loss in your dog’s nose could be from contact dermatitis. Some dogs have a sensitivity to plastic, and continued exposure to it will lighten their nose. If you use a plastic food and water bowl, it is best to switch to stainless steel or ceramic bowls.

Making the switch to stainless steel or ceramic bowls will also be more hygienic because plastic harbours bacteria when it gets scratched.

Can Snow Nose Be Treated Or Prevented?

There is nothing that can be done to prevent or treat snow nose. As mentioned above, the loss of pigmentation in the nose can be a temporary seasonal thing for some dogs, and for other dogs, it can be permanent all year round.

Snow nose does not cause any harm to your dog, nor is it associated with disease. It is a cosmetic issue, and there really isn’t a lot of knowledge as to why it happens to some dogs and not to others.

Golden Retriever standing in snow.

Take Care Of Your Dog’s Pink Nose

If your dog has a naturally pink nose, or it has turned pink temporarily, or permanently, you will need to protect your dog from sunburn.

Just like humans with fair skin, dogs with pink noses are at risk for sunburn and need to be protected from the sun.

A great way to protect your dog’s nose from getting sunburned is by applying a natural moisturizing sun protection balm.  The one I recommend is from Snout Magic.

Snout Magic dog nose butter.

Snout Magic is a 100% natural and organic soothing balm, that contains ingredients like Shea Butter, Coconut Oil, Olive Oil, and Cocoa Seed Butter.

There is no need to worry if your dog licks it off.  It is all natural and will not harm your dog, as long as you continue to apply the balm it will offer protection.

Snout Magic is also great for dogs who suffer from dry cracked noses.  It prevents windburn, heals rashes and skin irritations, and helps with many other nose conditions.

It is great for you too if you suffer from chapped lips and dry skin.

Final Thoughts

If you have a dog whose dark nose has faded to pink during the winter months, then rest assured it is snow nose, and it is not harmful to your dog.

However, if your dog has other changes occurring in his nose such as sores or any discharge it is best to consult your vet.

Remember to take special care of your dog’s pink nose as it will sunburn easily.

What About You?

Have you noticed your Golden Retriever’s nose turning pink?  Did your dog’s nose return to black in the summer?

Share your thoughts and comments below, I would love to hear from you.

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14 thoughts on “Golden Retriever Snow Nose [What Causes It?]”

  1. I’ve had 2 male Golden Retrievers and both their noses turned pink. They were both neutered. I now have a third also male. His nose is still black and he hasn’t been neutered. I wondered if this was the connection. Pink noses are considered to be a ‘fault’ in the show ring. Neutered dogs are not shown. Any thoughts on this? Could it be hormonal?

    • Hi Carol,
      This is very interesting and certainly a huge coincidence. The truth is that there is very little research on why snow nose occurs and what causes it, no one really has the answers. But, we do know that certain breeds are more commonly affected like Golden Retrievers, Labs, Huskies, and Bernese Mountain Dogs. Theories suggest that the causes are due to the climate, which is why snow nose occurs mainly in the winter, it could also be caused by eating or drinking from plastic bowls. Another theory suggests that it could be caused by a lack of the enzyme tyrosinase.

      There is no indication that snow nose is caused by hormones, but in your case, it seems very coincidental. Without further research on the subject, no one has the answer. The good news, however, is that it is purely cosmetic and doesn’t affect the health of your dog.

      Thanks so much for sharing your experience. I appreciate it!
      Take care,

      • Both your reply and the question before it raise an interesting question as to whether hormones might play a role in snow nose.

        I’m averse to drawing conclusions where the sample size = 1 (or 2 in the case of the OP), but I live in a temperate climate where it rarely gets extremely cold, but my female gets snow nose every time she comes into heat, persisting until the pups are fully weaned when she does get pregnant. It seems like the loss of pigmentation is significantly greater during late autumn or winter heats than when she comes into season during the summer.

        I would hypothesize that some combination of genetics (we know that certain breeds, including Goldens, are more prone to the condition), especially coat color (white and lighter shades are more prone than others), weather, sun exposure, and hormonal changes may all play a role. Indeed, the weather might play a role less in terms of temperature, as is commonly thought, than in the length of exposure to sunlight as it typically gets darker earlier and winter and even in temperate climates, it is often rainy or overcast in winter.

        Since the condition is cosmetic and benign, it is not apt to draw the interest of veterinarians as a topic to study, but it could be a fruitful candidate for “citizen science.” If Golden Retriever owners were to take part in a survey, we could get a handle on what percentage of the breed experiences snow nose, the time of year, the climate characteristics and hours of daylight during the seasons in which it is most likely to occur, and any surrounding events deemed potentially relevant — e.g., pregnancy or heat, recent neutering, age at the first onset, etc.

        If we could extend the survey to lab owners, we could also take a look at whether chocolate or black labs experience snow nose if their yellow littermates do — which might in turn be suggestive of whether breed genetics or coat color genetics are primarily in play. I’d volunteer if others are interested.

        • Hi Lee,
          Your experience with snow nose is certainly interesting, in that hormones may play a critical role in causing snow nose. It is certainly an interesting topic that has scientists somewhat baffled as to what exactly causes pigment loss in some dogs.

          I know in my experience with my female Golden, her nose turned pink after her very first winter, and it remained that way. I’m not sure why in some dogs, the nose turns back to black.

          A survey of Golden Retriever owners, as well as Labrador Retriever owners, would certainly bring to light some interesting conclusions. Maybe a good place to start the discussion would be on a Golden Retriever forum or a Facebook Group.

          Thanks again for taking the time to share your experience, hopefully, in the future the topic of snow nose might be studied in more depth by scientists.


  2. What great information and it is a term I have never heard of.  I have had 3 Golden Retrievers (best dog ever), and on one of them his nose turned more of a brown color eventually.  Another one that is very blonde in color, his nose is still black but has turned pink on the top where his fur starts.  It has concerned me more in the summer months, because when I first noticed it, I was afraid that he had gotten sunburned.  I had never heard the term snow nose, or I guess gave it much thought as to why their noses had lighten up.

    I appreciated the information on sun protection for their nose.  Like I mentioned, I was concerned that one of my dogs had gotten too much sun and that is why it was more pink.  I didn’t realize that I needed to protect it from getting sunburned.  Thanks for giving me some new insight. 

    • Hi Marla, thank you for commenting.  I am so glad to have given you some new information and insight.  My Ellie is very blonde in color and her nose turned pink after her first winter, and has stayed pink ever since.  With a pink nose, you really need to protect it from the elements like cold winter air and the hot sun, so it doesn’t get sunburned.  The Snout Soother is really great at protecting your dog’s nose.

  3. Again something new I learn about dogs. I haven’t given the color of the dog’s nose much thoughts.

    It’s interesting to learn though that these bizarre phenomena exist. 

    I wanna check my dogs here now. Although we never have snow in this region I want to see if they still have “snow noses”.

    I think the pink nose look quite cute anyway 🙂

    • Hi Stefan, thanks for your comment.  There is always something to learn about dogs, I have learned so much from being a First Time Dog Mom.  The pink nose does look cute, and it is good that it is just a cosmetic issue.

  4. Oh my, that picture of the dog covered in snow reminds me of our Cyrus.  He is a clown and always runs his face into snow any chance he gets and then he shakes and snorts, it’s a riot.  I am so glad you said that “snow nose” is just cosmetic and nothing to worry about.  That’s what I thought, and I’m so glad that is the case.  As a Dog Mom, I worry about everything, as I’m sure you do as well.  Great site!  I love it!

    • Thank you for your comment.  Yes, “snow nose” is a cosmetic thing, my Ellie’s nose is pink, and stays that way all year long.  I am so glad you enjoyed my post and my website.

  5. I have never heard of snow nose before, I guess as long as the dog is in good health and is not bothered by it it’s okay.  Does the snout soother help to keep the pigmentation or is it just to make sure the nose stays moisturized and doesn’t get cracked in the winter?  I don’t have a dog, but have been considering getting one in the next while.  I like the golden retrievers.  Are they a pretty mellow dog?

    • Thanks for your comment.  The Snout Soother helps to keep the nose moisturized, and protects it from any sunburn.  When a dog’s nose turns pink “snow nose”, it needs more protection from the elements, like cold and sun damage.  Just like us humans who have fair skin, we need more protection from the harmful UV rays.  In response to your 2nd question, Golden Retrievers are a great dog for first time owners, they are very easygoing.  If you want further information, please check out some of the posts on my website, like: Living With A Golden Retriever, and Best Dog For First Time Owners.

  6. Very helpful information, wish I’d known about this when my dog was still alive. She had the “winter nose” for quite a while.

    We didn’t know if it was a health problem or just a sign of old age. Thanks for the info! I’ll remember this post when we get a new dog :).


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