Crusty Dog Nose

Kelly Roper
Flickr user pmarkham (Pete Markham)

Any dog can get a bit of a crusty nose at times. Sometimes it's caused by something as simple as digging and nosing the ground or rubbing against a kennel fence. However, a crusty nose that never seems to heal could be a sign of a more serious underlying condition. Get info on various diseases and disorders that can affect the skin on a dog's nose.

Causes of a Crusty Nose

A crusty nose can sometimes be more than it appears to be. It can be an outward sign that your pet is suffering from a more serious illness. Here are some of the most notable causes for this condition.

Discoid Lupus Erythematosus

According to Becky Lundgren, DVM, Discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE) is an inflammatory skin disease that causes pigment loss and ulcerated sores on the bridge of a dog's nose, as well as his lips, ears and eyes. The genitals are sometimes also affected.

The exact cause of the disease hasn't been identified yet, but there's some speculation that it could be a less serious, non-systemic type of lupus. However, dogs with DLE may be more susceptible to developing squamous cell carcinoma, a type of oral cancer. The condition might also be triggered by increased exposure to UV light. Corticosteroids and immunosuppressive drugs are sometimes used to treat the condition. When UV light may have played a significant role, vets usually recommended keeping the dog out of direct sunlight as much as possible and applying a recommended type of sunscreen to help protect the nose.

Distemper and Hard Pad Disease

Distemper is a highly contagious viral disease that mainly affects puppies as well as dogs that are not up to date on their vaccinations. Dogs that contract this disease and manage to survive it are often left with some lasting effects, one of which is hard pad disease.

According to Mar Vista Animal Medical Center, hard pad doesn't just affect the pads of a dog's paws, it can affect the nose as well. The condition causes the tissue to become thick, hard and prone to crusting.

At this time, there is no cure for distemper and its resulting hard pad disease, so it's extremely important to make sure all puppies receive their initial vaccinations and that they receive boosters throughout their lives as recommended by their veterinarians. The nose is treated by gently washing the affected area and applying an antibiotic salve as recommended by a veterinarian to provide moisture and help avoid infections.


Zinc-Responsive Dermatosis

According to Carlo Vitale, DVM, zinc-responsive dermatosis occurs when a dog's intestines are unable to metabolize zinc efficiently. Among other processes, zinc is needed to maintain healthy skin and promote healing. A zinc deficiency produces thick crusty lesions and scaling around the eyes and mouth, but the nasal plane can also be affected as well as the foot pads.

It's difficult to measure zinc serum levels, so diagnosis is often backed up by looking at the physical symptoms as well. The treatment for zinc-responsive dermatosis sometimes includes making dietary changes. The vet may also decide to supplement an affected dog's zinc intake intravenously.

Pemphigus Foliaceous

Pemphigus foliaceous is an autoimmune disease of the skin that produces pustules and crusty skin lesions. According to the Animal Dermatology Clinic of Vancouver, BC, the condition usually appears on the bridge of the nose first, where skin lesions lead to crusting and scaling.

This disease is diagnosed by taking a skin biopsy. It is treated with a combination of immunosuppressive drugs and special shampoo to help remove the crusting. An affected dog will need to be monitored and receive treatment for the rest of his life, but the medication usually brings the problem under some control.

Idiopathic Nasodigital Hyperkeratosis

The Animal Dermatology Clinic of Vancouver, BC also lists nasodigital hyperkeratosis as a cause of "crusty nose." The cause of this condition is not yet known, but it leads to an overproduction of keratin on the top of the nose, and it can also affect the foot pads, much like the lasting effects of distemper.

A vet will only diagnose idiopathic nasodigital hyperkeratosis once conditions that produce similar symptoms are ruled out. There is no absolute cure for this condition, but severe cases are usually treated by washing the affected nose tissue to remove some of the excess crust, and then applying a moisturizing ointment such as bag balm.

Only Your Vet Can Make a Diagnosis

The information presented here is meant to inform you, but it can't replace a professional veterinary diagnosis. If your dog's nose looks unusual and appears hardened or crusty, contact your vet for an appointment right away. Your vet will do his or her best to reach an accurate diagnosis and recommend treatment, including how to care for the skin itself to keep your dog more comfortable and prevent a secondary infection.

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Crusty Dog Nose