Dog Changing Colors

There are many reasons for a dog’s skin color to change. An aging dog’s nose may start turning pink. In cold weather some dogs get Winter Nose or Snow Nose, causing their nose to turn pink. There’s a long list of nasty dog diseases that cause changes in skin color from mange to thyroid problems to cancer. Dogs can get vitiligo, the disease that causes people to lose skin pigmentation. Another dog disease is called Black Skin Disease. Pomeranians are particularly prone to Black Skin Disease but any dog can get it. A dog’s coat can become dull with a low quality food. Even for a dog, you are what you eat. A dog with a plastic water bowl will sometimes have discoloration of their nose due to an allergic reaction. But none of these explanations fit Dakota.

For our Australian Cattle Dog/Husky mix (also known as an Ausky) it was pure genetics. Several dog breeds such as the Australian Cattle Dog, the Husky, Dalmatians and other breeds are born white or near white and develop their coloring over time. Nobody tells you exactly by what age they stop changing. What follows is the pictorial tale of one dog’s changing skin color AFTER the age you would have expected it to stop changing.

Dakota was a year and a half old in June 2008. You can see the wide path of pink across the bridge of her nose.
Australian Cattle Dog Husky Mix

Dakota was well past two when a black dot appeared on her nose. The black dot appeared in early 2009. It was the size of a pencil point. I watched in amazement as the dot grew bigger and bigger, evolving into a small, black island with a second dot appearing next to it. In addition, the black areas above and below the dots started expanding, growing toward each other as you can see from the photos. Look how much the black dots grew in a single month from April to May.
Australian Cattle Dog Husky Mix

When the first pencil point dot appeared, I pointed it out to my husband and nephew but neither seemed overly interested in a dot on a dog’s nose. I was fascinated. At two year’s old I did not expect our dog to be changing colors. At two and a half years old the dots were still growing and the black areas were still expanding.
Australian Cattle Dog Husky Mix

By September 2009, one of the dots had become part of the main black area, connecting the upper and lower black areas like a bridge. Dakota turned three years old on December 1, 2009 and her coloring was still changing.
Australian Cattle Dog Husky Mix

I kept a photo diary of the changing colors on our dog’s nose which continued to change even as she turned three years old. By December 2009, both black dots were fully connected to the other black areas. Most of the pink on her nose was now black.
Australian Cattle Dog Husky Mix

Dakota is considered a red merle. Not being a full blooded Aussie dog, I’m presuming that means her Aussie parent was a red merle. Color changes in merle colored dogs often continue thru adulthood causing the dog to become darker in color, particularly where the light merle areas are. Blue merles end up looking like black tricolors. Red merles who’ve darkened may be mistaken for red tricolors. Red merle dogs can lighten to blonde when they’re in the sun much like a human sun bleached blonde. Sun bleached color changes are not permanent. New hair growth will be the original coat color.

Of what use is this information? Unlike my dog training articles, probably not much. But any dog nerd would surely see the fascination in watching the dot on a dog’s nose grow bigger. Will it ever stop growing? I don’t know. Dakota just turned three on December 1, 2009 and her nose is still changing. Maybe a leopard can’t change it’s spots but Dakota is living proof that a dog can!

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