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Dry and Cracked Noses in Dogs
If you’re like many pup parents, you know what it’s like to be awakened in the morning by a cold, wet nose burrowing into you. While dogs’ noses are usually cool and wet to the touch, sometimes they become dry and cracked.
In this article, we’ll explore some things that can cause a dog’s nose to become dry and cracked and how you can offer your sweet pup’s nose some relief.
Why Do Dogs Have Wet Noses in the First Place?
There are two main reasons dogs have naturally wet noses:
Better Sense of Smell
Dogs have an incredible sense of smell, and it’s the “wetness” that is responsible. Your dog’s nose has a thin layer of mucus that helps their noses hold scents for longer.
Dogs do not have sweat glands like people. They “sweat” through their paws and noses to regulate their body temperature.
It should be mentioned that while a dog’s nose is usually cool and moist to the touch, it will naturally change from wet to dry several times throughout the day. So a dry nose is not necessarily a bad thing or something to worry about. However, when a nose is chronically dry and cracked, it can sometimes indicate an underlying health condition.
Reasons for Dry and Cracked Noses in Dogs
The following are the most common causes of dry and cracked noses in dogs. Many of these are benign and nothing to worry over; however, some will require medical attention.
Dogs can become slightly dehydrated after strenuous exercise or when they become too excited about something. A few laps of water and nose licks, and they’re back to normal quickly.
Older dogs produce less mucus, which can cause their noses to become dry.
Changes in Weather
Just as human lips can become dry and cracked due to sun exposure and cold or hot weather, the same can happen to your pup’s nose. This is usually a temporary condition.
Brachycephalic breeds such as Pugs and Bulldogs have shorter nose snouts. This makes it nearly impossible for them to lick their noses. Other breeds, like Spaniels and Lhasa Apsos, typically have blocked tear ducts, which can leave their noses a bit drier than most.
DDogs can have allergies, just like people! Many dogs are allergic to things like food, fleas, and environmental factors. And, just like people, allergies can wreak havoc on a dog’s eyes and nose.
Two common autoimmune diseases – pemphigus and DLE (discoid lupus erythematosus) – can result in dry, cracked noses. Pups with pemphigus typically have lesions all over their body, whereas dogs with DLE will have sores around their nose. They may even have changes in pigmentation around their nose, and their nose may sometimes bleed.
These conditions require medical attention.
Canine distemper is a very contagious and often fatal disease. In addition to a dry and cracked nose, other symptoms can include pus-like discharge from the eyes, fever, coughing, lethargy, lack of appetite, and vomiting.
Luckily, distemper is easily prevented by keeping your doggo up to date on their distemper vaccination.
Blocked Tear Ducts
The nasolacrimal system in dogs consists of narrow tubes that allow tears to drain from the eyes to the nose and mouth. When tear ducts are blocked, a dog’s nose will become dry, and its eyes will water excessively. Eventually, tears will stain their face.
Fevers can develop from a variety of illnesses and infections. In addition to a severely dry nose, a fever will also present with lethargy, shivering, panting, and a loss of appetite.
Hyperkeratosis is a skin condition in which excess keratin is produced, especially in the dog’s nose and paw pads. Over time, this causes the skin to thicken and harden, sometimes to the point of cracking. Dogs with this condition will have additional symptoms, including vomiting, lethargy, diarrhea, anorexia, soreness, and nose bleeds.
With this condition, vets will often trim excess keratin and prescribe an antibiotic and/or steroid cream for cracked noses.
Hereditary Nasal Parakeratosis (HNPK)
HNPK is a genetic mutation that affects specialized cells of the nose. This results in the formation of a crust that cracks. HNPK mainly affects Labrador Retrievers and appears between six months and two years of age.
How to Prevent Dry and Cracked Noses in Dogs
Unless your dog is diagnosed with one of the more severe illnesses from this list, their condition will typically resolve on its own. There are those cases where a dog may be of a certain age or have allergies, etc., when intervention may be necessary.
Here are some things you can do:
First, help keep your pup hydrated by making sure they always have cool, clean water to drink. If your dog is a bit finicky, you can try offering them a doggie water fountain instead of a bowl.
Next, if your dog is light-colored, be sure to apply a sunscreen made for dogs (NOT PEOPLE) before a long walk or hike to protect it from sunburn. You can also choose to walk in the early morning or dusk when the sun’s rays are not damaging.
If your dog suffers from allergies, do your best to remove allergens from its diet and environment. More severe cases of allergies may require vet-prescribed medications.
And finally, there are quite a few dog-safe nose balms on the market that work in the same way as our ChapStick. Ask your vet which one they recommend. Coconut oil is also a great moisturizer and is perfectly safe for dogs. Just be sure to stay away from people’s products, especially those that contain titanium oxide and zinc, as both are toxic to dogs and can lead to organ failure.
When Should You See the Vet?
If your dog shows any other signs besides a dry nose, take them to see your vet. Symptoms can include fever, discolored gums, excessive nose licking, excessive sneezing or coughing, and excessive scratching or rubbing on the face. Treatment will vary depending on which underlying disease is present.
Keep Your Pup Healthy with a Pet Insurance Plan
Like any other family member, your pup can suddenly develop an illness requiring medical treatment. Luckily, there are many different dog insurance plans that can help protect you from the high costs of veterinary care while also ensuring your fur baby the help they need.
- Tham, H.L., Linder, K.E. & Olivry, T. Deep pemphigus (pemphigus vulgaris, pemphigus vegetans and paraneoplastic pemphigus) in dogs, cats and horses: a comprehensive review. BMC Vet Res 16, 457 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12917-020-02677-w
- Williams, K., BSc, DVM, CCRP; Barnette, C., DVM. Discoid (Cutaneous) Lupus Erythematosus. Retrieved from: https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/discoid-cutaneous-lupus-erythematosus
- Gelatt, K., VDM, DACVO. Nasolacrimal and Lacrimal Apparatus. Retrieved from: https://www.msdvetmanual.com/eye-diseases-and-disorders/ophthalmology/nasolacrimal-and-lacrimal-apparatus
- Coufal, R., DVM. (2020) Dog Hyperkeratosis: Top Ways To Prevent And Treat It. Retrieved from: https://ponderosavetclinic.com/dog-hyperkeratosis/
- Wooten, S., DVM. Is Dry Nose a Sign of Illness in Dogs? Retrieved from: https://www.petmd.com/dog/conditions/respiratory/dry-nose-sign-illness-dogs
The information contained on this blog is intended for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. It is not a substitute for professional veterinary care. Always consult with your veterinarian before making any changes to your pet's health care or treatment plan.
The authors of this blog are not veterinarians and do not claim to be experts in pet health. The information provided here is based on our own experiences and research, as well as information from reputable sources. However, we cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of this information.
We encourage you to do your own research and consult with your veterinarian before making any decisions about your pet's health.