by Anne Jones RN, BSNE
We can count on two questions coming in to our health committee (Ask Us). Both tend to be seasonal but not necessarily so.
“Why has my Bichon’s nose turned pink?” is the first. That often happens around the first of the year because of the influence of the sun on pigmentation. The more sun exposure, the darker the pigment. In winter, weaker pigment will begin to fade and it is most noticeable to the owner when the nose color lightens. It is not a sign of illness, though it can weaken somewhat with poor health. A Bichon with very strong pigment may never have it fade but another issue that can affect pigmentation is neuter surgery. Hormones seem to affect the intensity of the color so once a dog, male or female, is no longer intact, the pigment may lighten. So don’t worry about a lighter colored nose, wait for summer sunshine and it will usually darken somewhat, though dogs with poor genetic pigmentation may continue to have less intense color year round. Not to worry, he/she is still your beloved buddy.
The other question we get is “My puppy has suddenly developed all sorts of spots (or blotches) on the belly. What is wrong?” and you can feel the agony and the worry in the email. Not to worry!! This is good!! Bichon skin may be spotted or blotchy or just pinkish white. The pattern is determined by the spotting genes present from birth but the color often does not show up until late in the dog’s first year of life, especially in pups born the previous late summer to early winter. That is again because sun will help to bring these spots forth and they often become very intense in a well-pigmented dog at about the time the sun starts its strongest season. There are Bichons with good pigment that have few if any spots and that is okay, too. Remember the spots on the skin are as much part of the genetic programming as that black patch over the eye of some terrier breeds or the spots on a Dalmation.