Author: Judy Huston
AWSA Health &Genetic Chairperson
Printed in the December 1998 issue of the AWSA Times.
It's time to write my first "real" article for this section. There are so many topics to cover and so many interesting things to learn to help our dogs. I thought I'd write about whatever I'm currently dealing with in relation to Kyra since many of you will undoubtedly be dealing with the same thing, if not now, in the future. So, this month's topic is:
There are more important issues to write about than this, but this time of the year some of us are watching as our dogs' noses are getting lighter and pinker. Let me tell you about my own show girl, Crystal's Lady In Red (Kyra).
Ky and her littermates, born in Sept. 1995, had beautiful dark pigment. Ky's sister, Emma, who belongs to Joe and Lucille Jasinski, even had black nails. In Ky's second year her nose was lighter. While it turned totally black again, it didn't stay that way as long. Then in February of last year, I was showing Ky in a UKC Show at the Ann Arbor Dog Training Club. She was the only one in her class and the judge was giving her strange looks. Without really having us do much of anything, he told me to wait while he walked over to the table picked up a book and read something. He walked back and handed me a red "2nd" Place ribbon. He basically implied he was doing me a favor to "place" her at all since the standards for the GSD (different than for the WGSD) says a pink nose will be disqualified. To clinch it, I walked out of the ring and Diana (who was showing Polo, Ky's half-brother) said "he hit you for her nose, didn't he?" I was shocked! I guess "a mother's love is blind" -- to me she was perfect. But boy I did a double-take when I realized her nose was definitely not black (notice I have a hard time saying it was pink). Okay, it was "almost" pink.
Judge Bernice McDermitt who was not judging our breed said she was upset at the call. She said "he shouldn't have done that, it's just a snow nose." I agreed. Then, in late August of this year, I was showing Ky in Ohio and Bernice was there again and we started talking about "snow nose" -- I did a double-take at Ky again -- her nose was already very light. It had stayed dark for an even shorter period. So now I was on a quest. We were showing with the United Kennel Club and our dogs are judged by GSD standards. Ky was going for her Grand Championship and I felt she would be looked at even more critically now and her nose was light. Fortunately no one else called her on it. But I had to learn about this condition and turn it around if I could. I may have found the answer when I attended Wendy Volhard's Healthy Dog Seminar in October of last year.
Unfortunately most of the ready reference material I have states only that it is technically called "hypopigmentation" (or snow nose) and that it results from loss of sunlight. Once winter is over pigment darkens again but, as I stated earlier, apparently it doesn't always return as dark as it was initially. Another reason for this condition is a deficiency of B vitamins, PABA in particular. The condition of a pink stripe down a dog's nose, such as you sometimes see in Malamutes, is not snow nose because they were born this way. A White Shepherd born with a pink nose will probably always have a pink nose no matter how much you supplement. In this case, the pink nose is genetic so obviously in selecting breeding stock, you need to keep this in mind and select for black pigmentation.
Some of us have tried products like Kelp or Cell Tech animal food which are advertised to help this condition. Sometimes there does seem to be a slight reversal and other times there is no change. The products suggested to me from the Wendy Volhard camp are the following:
B Complex With Choline, Inositol & PABA
Vitamin C, Calcium Ascorbate powder
NatureMost Megamino Amino Acids
The Vitamin C works together with the B to help absorption. I give them to Kyra just before she eats. One B Complex tablet in the AM and one in the PM. The Vitamin C is given by body weight. 1/2 tsp. for each 50# of weight. The Amino Acid tablet is given in the AM only.
I started Kyra on this program while I was still at camp in October. Her nose went from light to black. These supplements work on the eye rim and mouth color as well and I swear everything looks blacker. Gorgeous! Pam and Michelle Koons took one look at Ky and ordered the products for Luger. Doug Wynn said "Samson's nose is not as dark as it was. Where can I get these products." A man I met at the UKC Show one weekend has an American Eskimo with a pink nose. He heard me talking about the products, looked at Kyra and ran to get a pencil and paper to write everything down. Pam recently remarked "even Kyra's ears are getting darker."
I want to do what works for my dogs and I know you do too. So far this has worked for me. I know it is safe because Vitamins B and C are water soluble and once the body has absorbed what it needs, it will eliminate the rest. These vitamins are not stored in the body. They are also helpful with stress (for you too) and for the skin in general. In case you don't know it, the B vitamins that brighten our dogs' coats and darken their pigments work on us too. The B vitamins are necessary for our skin and for our hair color. If your hair is prematurely gray, it may be a simple Vitamin B deficiency. There are documented cases where gray hair turned back to its natural color after supplementing with the B complex vitamins.
Note: If you feed your dogs raw food like I do, on the days you give your dog raw liver, there is no need for the Vitamin B at that meal as liver is chock full of it. And, the reason you give the product both morning and afternoon is because each dose is only good for between 4 and 8 hours, then it needs to be supplemented again. And, Wendy Volhard also points out that "obviously diet is if prime importance. If you are using the Natural Diet (her diet outlined in her book), there is no need to add anything but the megamino acid tablet.....but if people are using dog food (she recommends PHD), they should go onto the healthy dog diet. It is very probable that the success you will have in returning your dog's pigment back to black will be directly related to the diet you feed -- in addition to the above supplementation. Together maybe we can figure this out and keep our shepherd's pigment black.
I'd love to hear from you if you try this program. Be sure to take a "before" and an "after" picture.
This is an update on Snow-Nose. After Ky’s nose initially turned very black, it went back to a lighter black in the middle – certainly not pink but not jet black like the outer edges. In certain light, it looks black – in sunlight her nose is definitely on the light side. Three days ago I decided to up the Kelp by ¼ teaspoon, add a Paba supplement in the PM, and increase the B vitamins to 3 in the AM. I’ll keep you posted!
Photos courtesy of Michelle Koons
Luger in winter Luger in summer Chris, always had a pink nose.