6 Reasons Why Your Maltese’s Nose Color Is Changing

The normally jet black nose on your Maltese stands out like a cute button on the white coat of your Maltese. Recently though, you’ve noticed some peculiarities with the color and texture of the nose. It’s starting to turn a bit pale, maybe a little pink. It’s a color you haven’t seen on your dog’s nose in a while, and you are starting to grow concerned – your dog’s nose is changing color, and you want to know why.

Why is my Maltese’s nose turning pink? Your Maltese’s nose might be turning pink due to several reasons, mainly due to the weather, injury, aging or health-related causes. It is a regular occurrence in the life cycle of a Maltese, and owners can expect to see it depending on the climate and living conditions of their home.

The pink nose is sometimes referred to as “snow nose” or “winter nose” and can affect many breeds, though some are more susceptible to it than others and some are more heavily affected by it when they get it. It usually starts as paler, patches at the center of the dog’s nose and can spread further. Sometimes it does not, and the change in color can barely be noticeable.

A healthy Maltese with a pink nose is usually still a healthy Maltese. Nevertheless, it doesn’t hurt to know the reasons behind the symptom and what you can do to treat or prevent it in the future.

0. Still Growing

Okay, so this is technically not a “reason” your Maltese is getting a pink nose, and it’ll probably not even cross your mind as a problem at this stage in your dog’s life cycle. A Maltese’s nose is initially pink from the day it is born and will remain so for some time in their puppyhood. It will only start to darken as they mature becoming completely black by 8-10 weeks old (though 12-14 weeks is not unusual either).

If your Maltese puppy’s nose remains stubbornly pink well and truly after transitioning into adulthood, it may be due to external factors or illnesses. Have a read of the following list to see if any of the reasons below are relevant, otherwise, it may be wise to consult your breeder or vet for further information.

1. Not enough Sun

It is thought that the pigmentation giving the black nose to your dog is due to a specific enzyme named tyrosinase. Tyrosinase produces melanin which is a natural pigmentation found in many organisms, not just dogs. Chemically, the breakdown of tyrosinase is sensitive to changes in temperature, and the enzyme tends to work more efficiently and quickly in a warmer environment.

The terms “winter nose” and “snow nose” came about because dogs tended to have a pinker nose due to an inadequate exposure to sunlight in the winter or snow seasons, where they are kept indoors away from the chilly elements. Pink nose from an insufficient level of sunlight is relatively benign and can be rectified by introducing higher levels of sunshine to your Maltese.

This doesn’t mean you should toss out your dog at the earliest hint of warmth in the morning so they can get their fix of Vitamin D. You can instead encourage greater sun exposure by placing the dog bed near a window, or wherever a nice sunny patch may be, so your Maltese can warm itself comfortably.

If you suddenly expose your Maltese to excess levels of sunlight, you might instead have the opposite effect of sunburn. And yes, that can be the cause of a pink nose too!

2. Too much Sun

A Maltese given too much sun can result in a sunburnt nose. Like sunburns in humans, the uppermost layer of skin on nose area can begin cracking and peeling away after the burn, revealing the tender pink subsurface underneath. Unlike having an insufficient amount of sunlight, this cause of pink nose can negatively affect your Maltese and is immediately more apparent visually. The nose may be crusty, flaky or dry and the dog might compulsively lick it to relieve its discomfort.

There are varying degrees of burns:

  1. A superficial burn, which imposes redness and dryness on the surface of the nose but otherwise has no other symptoms.
  2. A second-degree burn, which causes the first, topmost layer to be compromised and crack and has the potential to affect the deeper layers in the skin of the nose,
  3. A full, third-degree burn, which means that almost all of the layers of your Maltese’s nose are damaged, and now the tissues underneath can be affected too.

A third-degree burn is highly unlikely when coming solely from sunlight. It would take some severe neglect or abuse for it to happen and such a burn is more likely coming from other sources, such as a chemical or fire burn. The most likely symptom of a superficial burn is probably the one you’ll see if your Maltese is to get a sunburn. If this happens, give your Maltese a break and keep them away from the sun until the nose recovers its original color. You should also keep an eye out for sunburn in other places on your Maltese – they are prone to sunburn where their hair parts away on their snout, or even their belly (if they have been lying around on their backs outside).

Play with the dog indoors instead of outdoors when you can, and take the dog out for a walk when the sun is not at its peak, preferably at a time closer to sunset. Cloudier days are also a good interim solution for a sunburnt Maltese. Remember that the Maltese is an indoor breed and will happily romp around with its family in the comfort of its home.

Treating the nose is usually unnecessary, but there are some ways to provide relief to your sunburnt Maltese. Certain sunscreens and balms contain natural formulations that offer relief to the nose and can be safe to eat if it gets licked away. A great example of this is the Snout Soother product from the Natural Dog Company. Do not use human sunscreen on your dog for this reason as the ingredients can be toxic.

3. Cold or dry air

As mentioned in point 1, the enzyme responsible for the dark pigmentation of your Maltese’s nose works effectively in warmer temperatures. Cold environments sometimes also have the added negative of carrying dry and chilly air, which can quickly lead to raw and chapped Maltese noses.  Particularly hostile environments (mainly outdoors) can cause the nose skin to crack and peel badly and can produce a raw, agonizing effect known as windburn.

Small, toy breeds like the Maltese generally tend to fare poorly in chilly weather, so a pink nose on your Maltese might be least of your worries. Do what you can to create a hospitable environment for your companion, including heating and humidifying the room that the dog stays in. Balms like the Snout Soother can be useful to prevent or slow down further drying from the atmosphere. If your Maltese excessively licks its nose, the saliva can exacerbate the problem and promote further cracking upon drying.

The problem of cold, dry air is best tackled preventatively rather than reactively, so work on creating a comfortable environment for your dog, not just your family. It is sometimes easy to forget how cold it can be near the floor, where your dog will be spending most of its home. And unless you happen to have subfloor heating, most of the heat will be unevenly distributed and circulating in the upper half of the room (hot air rises, remember?)

4. Aging

Much like puppies at a younger age, but only backward – the nose of a Maltese can turn pink after a long period of blackness in their adulthood. The ability in the body of a Maltese to catalyze tyrosinase and melanin weakens and slows down in their senior years, so this change is natural and expected. Some Maltese who have never had a pink nose beyond their puppyhood due to a stronger pigmentation might not even experience this phenomenon.

My healthy mixed Maltese had plenty of sun and exercise in the sun-drenched land of Australia, and so I never witnessed any degradation of color even in her dying years. There’s not much more to say here, other than the fact that you shouldn’t worry if it happens but keeping an eye out to see if it worsens is recommended.

5. Physical Trauma

Pink nose can be a secondary effect of some physical trauma or injury, such as a scrape, abrasion or burn. Given time, it will naturally heal and return to its former black color as long as it is not too significant. By that point, you’ll need to have taken your pet to the vet to get it treated or operated.

Accidents and mistakes happen, and they can happen no matter how much foresight, care or effort we put into ensuring the safety and health of our Maltese. The best we can do after an injury is to make sure the dog promptly gets the medical attention it needs, and the company and protection from its owner when it is in pain. As long as this goes well, your Maltese will get its normal nose back in no time!

6. Infection, Disorders, and Allergies

Last but not least, we have the roundup of health issues which can cause a pink nose on your Maltese. Before I continue, I would like to point out that I am not a qualified vet or specialist. I am providing this medical information for your interest and further reading. It is always advisable to consult with your vet before jumping to any conclusions, especially one that you take your Maltese to regularly.

Bacterial infections are a common culprit for an unhealthy nose, not just a pink nose. Check for inflamed, crusty, and swelling at areas near or on the nose of your Maltese. Unpleasant odors and nasal discharges are also concerning, so consult your veterinarian if you feel it needs to be looked out and treated. Nosebleeds or bloody discharge are a red alert and should be looked into immediately. Additionally, if the symptoms seem to be noticeably worse on one side or nostril, it could be caused by a foreign object or growth (e.g., tumor).

There is also a range of disorders which can cause a pink nose, including, but are not limited to:

  • A group of autoimmune skin diseases called the Pemphigus complex, which affects far more than just the skin on the nose of the dog
  • Discoid lupus erythematosus, which is another autoimmune disease
  • Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada syndrome (VKH), sometimes known as Uveodermatological syndrome or UDS, which is yet another autoimmune disease that’s not fully understood
  • Zinc-responsive dermatosis, which gives a rash-like symptom to the dog due to a deficiency in zinc

And of course, there is the dreaded skin cancer, which can affect any dog at any stage of its life.

Lastly, allergies could be responsible for the pink nose on your Maltese. Contact allergies will also cause the surrounding area of your dog’s nose to be lighter. Inflammation is a telltale sign of the body’s hostile reaction to an allergen. Like in humans, allergies can’t be cured, only treated or prevented, and is sometimes similarly challenging to pinpoint the exact stimuli. A commonly reported household cause is the use of plastics in the food bowl or water dishes used to feed your dog, so try out a ceramic or stainless steel alternative to see if that rules out the problem.

Further Reading

Dr. Karen Becker – “Two Things About Your Pet’s Nose You Should Know” – Link: https://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2012/04/23/pets-nose-color-signs-of-illness.aspx