A dog’s nose needs to be moist on the outside and inside, and free from disease in order to function properly. Many owners worry if their dog’s nose feels dry, as they think it is a sign of poor health.
It is good to remember that a dog’s nose can naturally vary throughout the day, from wet to slightly dry, depending on things such as exercise, sun exposure and how much water he has drunk. Commonly a dog’s nose will feel slightly drier when the dog is asleep or has just woken up.
- A nose that is drier than normal can make the dog feel uncomfortable and also reduce his ability to smell.
- Crusty, flakey or irritated areas of the nose may be painful and cause the dog to rub or scratch its face.
It is important to consult a veterinarian if necessary so they can diagnose and treat the underlying problem.
Causes of a dry, crusty dog nose
Dog’s rely on their nose to fully explore their environment. Which is why if they are somewhere new they often want to have a good sniff around. It is a well-known fact that they have an incredible sense of smell estimated to be thousands of times better than humans. When his nose starts to dry and crust, you should consider mitigating the following possible causes.
1. Extreme heat or cold
Excessive exposure to the sun can cause the skin on a dog’s nose to become sunburnt, which can then lead to the skin peeling, cracking and crusting.
Sunburn is more common in dogs with fine hair and pink skin. Exposure to extreme cold such as cold winds or freezing temperatures can also cause a canine’s nose to become dry, cracked and sore.
A dog that is warm and thirsty will often have a dry nose. However, contrary to popular belief a dry nose is not a very accurate indicator of dehydration.
Other more reliable signs of dehydration include lethargy, dry mucous membranes (i.e. dry, tacky gums) and loss of skin elasticity.
3. Contact allergy
A dry, crusty nose in dogs can be due to an underlying allergy, often something which the nose comes in direct contact with. The most common contact allergy is due to the dog using plastic bowls for food and water.
4. Breed conformation
Dogs with short noses are known as brachycephalic, and examples include Pugs and Bulldogs. Due to the shape of their skull and small noses, they can struggle to lick their nose, therefore these breeds often develop a crusty and cracked nose.
5. Warm air
Dogs that regularly lie too close to a direct heat source (e.g. open fire, heater, heating vents) may cause their nose to dry out and the surface to become cracked in appearance.
Zinc Responsive Dermatosis is a skin disease that can occur if a dog’s diet is lacking in zinc or if he cannot absorb zinc properly from food. It is thought to be a breed related disorder in arctic breeds such as Huskies, Malamutes, and Samoyeds.
This type of skin disorder is also seen in large, rapidly growing breeds that are over supplemented with calcium. Symptoms include hair loss, dryness, crusting and scaling around the nose, mouth, chin, eyes, and ears.
Hyperkeratosis is a condition in which there is an abnormal thickening of the outer layer of the skin due to an increased production of keratin. Keratin is a type of protein which forms the tough, protective layer on the foot pads and nose.
Canine nasal hyperkeratosis describes a thickening of the skin on the dog’s nose, giving it a dry, crusty and irregular appearance. It is a hereditary condition in Labrador Retrievers. It can also be associated with the viral infection distemper, which is preventable by vaccination.
Skin infections involving the nose are more commonly found in dogs that like to dig and root with their nose. The skin on the nose can become infected with bacteria (e.g. pyoderma) or fungal infections (e.g. ringworm).
Bacterial infections may cause the skin on the nose to become inflamed, crusted and painful. Ringworm is a fungal infection, which can cause crusting and pigmentation changes to the nose, often accompanied by patches of hair loss on the face.
9. Dry Eye and blocked tear ducts
Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (KCS) known more commonly as dry eye, is an immune-mediated condition where the dog’s eyes do not produce enough tears to lubricate their surface. This causes the eyes to become dry, sore and they often produce mucus.
In some cases, it can also cause unilateral dryness and crusting of the dog’s nose due to damage to the nerve which supplies the nasal gland.
The nasolacrimal duct helps to drain tears from the eye to the nose. If this tear duct becomes blocked or damaged, one side of the nose can have a dry, crusty appearance.
10. Auto-immune diseases
These are diseases where the dog’s immune system attacks its own healthy cells. Auto-immune skin diseases such as Lupus and Pemphigus can lead to changes in the skin and nose, such as pigmentation changes, dryness, flaking, ulcers, and bleeding.
Certain types of cancer such as lymphoma and squamous cell carcinoma can affect the nose, causing signs such as scaling, crusting, ulceration, redness, and swelling.
The treatment options will vary depending on the underlying cause of the problem. Many mild cases of a dry, crusty nose in dogs can often be treated easily at home. However, if the dog is showing other signs of being unwell, or the nose seems painful or swollen, then it is best to seek advice from a veterinarian.
- It is important to limit sun exposure, especially for dogs with pink skin or those prone to developing a crusty nose.
- Application of a dog safe sunscreen product on the nose (and other non-haired areas of the body if need be) can help to protect the skin from damaging sun rays. Just like in people, sunscreen can help prevent sunburn and reduce the risk of skin cancer.
- Keep dogs out of the sun during the warmest part of the day and ensure they have access to shade if kept outside.
- Ensure that Fido always has free access to clean water to help keep him well hydrated.
- If an allergy to plastic bowls is suspected, then plastic water and food dishes should be replaced with stainless steel or ceramic ones. The swap should be completed for at least two weeks to check for improvement in the skin.
- Try to discourage dogs from digging or rooting with their nose, as this is one of the main causes of introducing bacterial and/or fungal infections onto the skin of the nose.
- If a skin infection is suspected, samples may need to be taken from the skin to confirm the diagnosis.
- Treatment for bacterial skin infections usually consists of oral administration prescribed of antibiotics for around 3 weeks.
- Treatment of fungal skin infections may consist of topical or oral antifungal medications until the skin is completely normal.
Nasal hyperkeratosis is a condition which usually needs lifelong management. Prognosis is good if there is early intervention and suitable management of the condition. Frequent administration of emollients such as petroleum jelly, propylene glycol or a dog-friendly protective balm helps to soften the dry skin and prevent painful fissures developing.
A topical keralytic ointment, such as Kerasal®, may be used to help to break down some of the excess keratin being produced.
Dry eye is treated with regular topical application of artificial tears and/or topical immunosuppressive ointment. If damage to the nasal nerve and nasal gland is suspected leading to a dry, crusty nose, then regular application of a topical emollient on the nose is also required.
A trial with oral administration of ophthalmic 2% pilocarpine to stimulate the nasal nerve may also be suggested by your veterinarian in some cases. If the nasolacrimal duct is blocked, then the vet will flush it. This may require sedation.
Nasal cancer is often diagnosed following a surgical biopsy. Treatment protocols vary depending on the type of cancer. Options may include surgical removal, chemotherapy or radiation therapy, in order to remove or slow down the cancerous growth.
A mild case of nasal dryness and crusting can often be successfully managed with home treatment. Try the following home remedies to give your dog relief.
- Use a warm compress morning and evening to clean and soften the hard skin on the nose. The warm water hydrates the skin while helping to remove any buildup of crusts and debris.
- Apply an emollient ointment on the nose such as petroleum jelly, propylene glycol, coconut oil or a dog-friendly hydrating balm to lock in moisture, form a protective barrier and soften the dried skin. You can do this up to three times daily to protect the skin.
- Supplement the dog’s diet with vitamin E and omega 3&6 essential fatty acids to help improve the natural skin barrier long term.
- Limit the dog’s exposure to the sun. Apply a dog-friendly sunscreen onto his nose when required.
- Seek Veterinary advice if the dog’s nose is not improving.