Crusty Dog Nose

Kelly Roper
Contributor: Mychelle Blake
Dog with crusty nose

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.

Environmental Factors

A dog's nose can become dry and crusty if they're exposed to too much warm, dry air. Dogs that love snoozing in front of your space heater or home heater vents may be at risk of a drier nose. Likewise, dogs can also develop a dry nose from licking themselves while they're sleeping. This dryness usually goes away soon after he wakes up. For dogs that develop dry noses from the air in their home environment, just keep their noses moist with some balm.

Dogs sleeping in front of heater

Allergic and Skin Reactions

Some dogs have a reaction to certain substances, such as plastics in their bowls or their toys, and rubbing their noses against them each day can lead to dry and cracking skin. If you have a dog with this sensitivity, make sure you use other types of bowls made from stainless steel or ceramic and avoid toys with plastic and latex. If there's an allergic reaction involved, discuss with your veterinarian who may prescribe medication to help clear it up and a balm for his nose to ease the dryness.

Sunburn

Dogs with pale-colored or pink noses and white or light-colored coats are at higher risk of sunburn. If you take your dog out regularly in the sun and notice that the nose is dry, cracking and irritated, this may be due to sunburn. If you notice your dog getting a sunburn, use a sunscreen made specifically for dogs when you go out. My Dog Nose It! is a sun protection balm made specifically to protect dog noses from the harmful rays of the sun.

Fungus

Some dogs can develop a fungal infection on their nose, such as ringworm if their nose comes in proximity with anything carrying the fungus. Aspergillosis is a type of fungal infection that affects a dog's sinuses and nasal cavities and symptoms can include bleeding from the nose, nasal swelling and discharge. Fungal infections are treated with anti-fungal drugs such as Ketoconazole, Itraconazole, and Fluconazole.

Discoid Lupus Erythematosus

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.

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

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.

Old boxer dog with crusty nose

Pemphigus Foliaceous

Pemphigus foliaceous is an autoimmune disease of the skin that produces pustules and crusty skin lesions. 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

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 excess crust, and then applying a moisturizing ointment such as bag balm.

Blocked Tear Ducts

If you notice that your dog's nose is dry and crusty, but only on one side, this could be due to a problem with his tear ducts. A duct could be blocked or there's a problem with tear production on one side. In these cases, your veterinarian will perform a test of your dog's tear production. If a duct is blocked your veterinarian will perform a flush with a saline or sterile water solution and prescribe antibiotic tear drops. If the problem is chronic, surgery may be needed.

Remedies for Dry and Crusty Dog Noses

If your veterinarian determines that your dog's dry nose is not caused by any serious illnesses, there are several substances you can use to soothe your dog's skin. Your veterinarian may prescribe lotions or ointments for use. He or she may also suggest some non-prescription remedies. Always check with your veterinarian before using anything as a dog can, and will, lick at whatever you put on his nose and the substance must be safe for him to ingest, as well as safe for his skin. Many lotions made for humans contain toxic ingredients for dogs such as zinc oxide, diclofenac, calcipotriene, hydrocortisone, and lidocaine. Another product to avoid is Vaseline which can make your dog very ill if he licks too much of it off of his nose. Products that are made specifically for dogs, or are safe, include:

  • Snout Soother is a balm made just for dogs and the care of their sensitive noses. In addition to its healing properties, it also can protect against sunburn as well.
  • Dr. Harvey's Organic Healing Dog Cream is made primarily with shea butter and can be used anywhere on a dog where he is experiencing skin irritation.
  • Burt's Bees Paw and Nose Relieving Lotion with Chamomile and Rosemary for Dogs is a soothing lotion for your dog's nose and paws that is vet recommended.
  • On the Nose Therapy Balm soothes dry noses as well as provides protection and against sunburn and windburn.
  • Alpha Pet Zone Coconut Oil for Dogs is an organic, raw, virgin and vegan product that not only provides relief for a dry, crusty nose but for many other skin conditions.
  • Coconut oil, olive oil, and shea butter are all safe to use on your dog's nose on their own, although you may find more success with the products containing these ingredients made for dogs. The formulated products are made to stay on a dog's nose longer and won't be licked off or drip off as quickly as the ingredients in their natural form.
  • One caveat about coconut oil is that some dogs may have an allergic reaction to it or get diarrhea if used too much. It should also be avoided for dogs that have a tendency to get pancreatitis.
Dog with crusty nose

Is My Dog's Dry Nose Serious?

It's always a safe bet to take your dog to the veterinarian when anything out of the ordinary arises with their general health and body condition. If you're not sure about whether to bring your dog in for a dry and crusty nose, it helps to review when you see the condition occurring. For example, if you notice your dog's nose becomes dry and crusty during weather changes, it's likely it's a reaction to the environment. You should contact a veterinarian for sure if you observe any of the following scenarios:

  • If you apply a nose balm to your dog's nose a few times a day and you see no improvement after a few days.
  • If you see other symptoms of concern along with a dry nose, such as lack of appetite, diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy or anything else unusual.
  • If the nose becomes so dry and crusty it cracks or it changes color or develops sores and scabs.
  • If you see bleeding or any discharge that is not clear and moist coming from the nose.

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