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Nasal Pigmentation

Pet owners, especially those of large breeds, may notice depigmentation in the nose of their dogs. In most brown and black Labrador Retrievers, the color of their noses is similar to that of their fur. However, yellow Labradors develop nose depigmentation as they grow older. The change in nose pigmentation is clearly visible especially in the nose, lips, feet and tail areas. The color pigments that are usually seen in Labradors are yellow and brown.

The color of a Labrador Retriever’s fur is a result of the interaction of different genes. Because of a series of generation in breeding, these dogs may appear as a different pigmentation in some parts of their bodies. Recessive genes bring about these pigment results in the dog’s body. This appearance is usually manifested in yellow Labradors, but it has also been observed in some brown ones. All Labradors have genetic make-up that includes other genes of a different fur color, and so it is not impossible for a black Labrador to carry recessive genes for a brown or yellow fur and that a yellow Labrador may also carry recessive genes for a black or brown fur. A DNA test may be administered to determine the presence of recessive genes. It is because of the recessive genes that it is hard to control pigmentation through breeding.

Causes of Nasal Pigmentation

The pigmentation in yellow Labradors is caused by the recessive gene that is different from the color that manifests in their furs. This depigmentation could be traced on the amount of tyrosinase produced in the body during certain seasons as well as the aging process of the dog. The enzyme tyrosinase is responsible for the production of melanin in the body. It produces a black pigment on the Labrador’s nose and on some areas of the body. Because the production of tyrosinase is highly dependent on temperature, more melanin is produced during summers to protect the dog from harmful UV rays. With the presence of more melanin in the dog’s body, some areas including the nose may appear darker. However, their noses may turn pink during winters and when the dog ages older because lesser tyrosinase is produced.

Physical manifestations

Different nasal depigmentation can occur among Labrador Retrievers. The Dudley Nose occurs in yellow Labradors that have pink, flesh or brown noses. Most of the time, their nose color also show on the rims of their eyes and on the hairless part of the nose. Nasal depigmentation may occur in Labradors but they may still experience remission after a certain period.

There is also another type of nasal depigmentation that is not congenital to Labrador retrievers. Instead, it is a localized form that could be attributed to their manner of eating. Nasal pigmentation may change when Labradors are always eating out of dishes made of plastic or rubber that are likely to contain p-benzyl-hydroquinone. When this chemical is absorbed by the skin of the dog, it alters the normal production of melanin in the skin. The plastic dish nasal dermatitis may also be characterized by irritation or inflammation of the nose of Labradors.

Most instances of nasal pigmentation is just a cosmetic problem and should not be regarded as something that could hinder in their normal activities.


A diagnosis of nasal pigmentation will include a review of the history of its development as well as a physical examination and other necessary tests such as blood testing. It will also include a biopsy to eliminate other causes that may produce similar symptoms of nasal pigmentation.


Change in nasal pigmentation is a cosmetic problem and there is no specific remedy to this problem. Some pet owners have tried home remedies but its effectiveness is still questionable. Sunscreens are often advised to prevent depigmentation or dermatitis in dogs.

Living with Labradors

The only way to lessen the effects of depigmentation is to keep your Labradors indoors especially when the sunlight is at its most intense (9:00 AM to 3:00 PM). On the other hand, letting your Labradors stay outdoors during cloudy days is just similar as bringing them out on sunny days because harmful UV rays still penetrate the louds. It is always a good idea to use sunscreens to protect your dogs as they spend their time outdoors. Sunscreens should have an SPF of more than 15 and it should be applied around 15 minutes before exposure.

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