Nasal solar dermatitis or most commonly referred to as Collie nose is a nose affliction seen often in Collies. However, Collie nose can also afflict other breeds including Australian Shepherds, Shetland Sheepdogs, and other related breed types. Collie nose is caused by prolonged exposure to the sun in dogs that lack correct pigmentation on the nose. Correct pigmentation of the nose can be hereditary but can also develop later from disease or scarring. The entire nose may lack coloring or only small portions of black coloring may be missing.
De-pigmentation of the nose is also known as Dudley nose. The nose may appear black when the pup is born but as he ages, the nose coloring can fade or even disappear. There have been cases where the pigmentation returns following a period of time of no coloring. Snow nose is different as it occurs during the winter months only to have the correct pigmentation return in the spring.
Nasal solar dermatitis is mainly seen in sun-filled regions of the US like California and Florida. The nose may first appear normal excluding the black pigment normally seen in dogs. As the nose is exposed to sunlight, the skin around the nose and that between the muzzle and nose will become irritated. As the problem persists, the hair will fall out and the affected skin forms a crusty scab and may ooze discharge. When left untreated or with prolonged sun exposure, the nose can become fully covered with the affliction. The skin may begin to bleed and the ulceration can ultimately lead to skin cancer.
Other similar skin disorders can be confused with nasal solar dermatitis. However, this disorder is distinguishable by the fact that the lack of skin pigmentation on the nose was missing before the dermatitis developed. Other similar diseases will cause the pigmentation to disappear after the disease begins. But with all cases, exposure to the sun can increase the severity of the diseases.
Beginning treatment for Collie nose is removing the dog from the sun. Because exposure to ultraviolet rays can also be harmful, even days with cloudy skies should be avoided. The affected dog should be kept indoors as much as possible to prevent exposure. Sunscreens or sun blocks with SPF of 30 or higher can be applied 30 minutes prior to sun exposure but this generally doesn't help since dogs tend to lick the product away.
For minor irritations, the affected area can be treated with hydrocortisone but major afflictions should be examined by a veterinarian. A biopsy may need to be completed to check for skin cancer. In some cases, owners with dogs that lack pigmentation on the nose have the nose tattooed with black ink. This can be done when the pup is young to help avoid potential problems in the future.
Owners of dogs that lack nose pigmentation should take preventative measures to keep the nose protected. This can mean that your pet may not be able to visit the beach or play outside on a regular basis. Sunlight should be avoided when it is most intense (9 a.m. to 4 p.m.) and if the dog allows, use a sunscreen to shield the nose from ultraviolet rays. At the first signs of irritation, apply proper treatment and always seek veterinarian care should your dog not respond to treatment or the ulceration worsens.
DOG OWNER'S HOME VETERINARY HANDBOOK, Fourth edition, copyright 2007, Wiley Publishing.
A NEW OWNER'S GUIDE TO COLLIES, by Alice Wharton, copyright 1998.