what are the cause of a dry nose on a dog?
Pet Health Questions and Answers

My Dog’s Nose is Dry and Cracked – What Should I Do?

It’s no secret that a dog’s nose is pivotal to their quality of life. Whether they’re scenting everything that comes in their path or rubbing it against that of a canine playmate, a pooch relies upon their nose to enjoy just about every element of their day.

If your dog’s nose is dry and crusty, it could be a sign that something isn’t quite right. Let’s take a look at the various ways that you can ensure your pooch stays happy and healthy – from the top of their tail to the very bottom of their twitching nose.

Does a Dry Nose Mean That My Dog is Sick?

Common opinion would tell you that a healthy and happy dog will have a wet, shiny nose – any hint of dryness is usually seen as a bad thing. The truth behind a dog’s physical condition is nowhere near as black or white as this – nobody can declare if their dog is sick or healthy based purely upon feeling their nose.

If you do have concerns based upon the fact that your dog’s snout appears to be brittle and cracked, however, it never hurts to be vigilant – this will be a result of your dog’s nose being dry for a prolonged period of time.

If you spot any of these symptoms alongside a dry and cracked nose, make an appointment with a vet:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Yellow or Green Discharge from Nose
  • Fur Falling Out
  • Dry, Cracked Paws
  • Constant Scratching or Licking

What are the Causes of a Dry Nose on a Dog?

There are a great many reasons why your dog has a dry or cracked nose – some of which are entirely innocuous, while others are potentially dangerous, especially in conjunction with other behaviors. Remember, a dry nose alone is not a reason to panic.

  • Your Dog Has Not Licked Their Nose. Believe it or not, the main reason that dogs typically have wet noses is that they make them that way. Your dog will frequently lick their nose while they are out and about, but if they have been dozing, they would not have had the opportunity to do this.
  • Your Dog’s Tear Ducts are Not Operating Fully. If your dog looks like they’re crying, don’t panic, they’re depressed – dogs produce a great many tears naturally to keep their eyes lubricated and their tear ducts functional. Many times these run onto the nose and keep it wet and moist, so if you’re concerned, check that your dog doesn’t have an eye infection. Just remember that certain breeds of dog, such as the Bichon Frise, struggle to generate tears organically and thus may often have a dry nose as a result.
  • Your Dog is Living with an Allergy. Just like humans, dogs that experience allergies are likely to experience a sore, dry and cracked nose. You’ll need to ensure that you take the appropriate care to provide moisture to your canine’s conk. Interestingly, a great many hounds are allergic to plastic – which is obviously what the majority of food and water bowls are constructed from.
  • Your Dog Has Spent Too Much Time in the Sun. Your dog’s fur coat typically protects them from sunburn on their skin (although the rays of the sun can still bounce up and burn your hound’s belly if you’re not careful). One of the most exposed areas of canine anatomy is the nose, however, and a dog’s hooter can quickly grow dry and cracked when a hot sun beats down upon it. What’s more, your dog’s nose may start to dry up and crack if they’re not drinking enough water on a hot day. If you have any suspicion that your dog has not taken enough fluid, follow our steps as to what you must do if your dog is dehydrated.
  • Your Dog is Close to a Heat Source. If your dog likes to stay snuggled up to a fireplace or a radiator during the winter months, they may leave themselves at risk of a dry nose. This is typically nothing permanent unless it starts to crack too – but even then it’s easily remedied, as we’ll discuss shortly.

This is not to say that a dry nose should necessarily be ignored in all cases though, as this symptom can point to something more severe.

Does my dog have a fungal infection of the nose?

Medical Conditions That Cause Dry Nose on Dogs

There’s no need to go racing to the vet at the first sign of a dry nose on your dog, as it may well be something comparatively innocuous. If you suspect that there is be a medical reason for the ailment, however, keep an eye out for any of the symptoms of these health conditions – all of which feature a dry and cracked nose as a symptom.

Nasal Hyperkeratosis

Hyperkeratosis is a condition that typically impacts upon dogs in one of two places – their paws or their nose. In both cases, the condition causes the skin to harden and become calloused – which, in turn, leads to the nose cracking and leaving your furry friend at the risk of infection. In addition to this, a dog living with nasal hyperkeratosis will lose their enhanced sense of smell.

Four primary conditions bring upon nasal hyperkeratosis in dogs:

  • Pemphigus Foliaceus This is a skin disease that inflicts dogs, typically once they start to reach middle age in canine years, resulting in the dry and crusty skin all over a poor, suffering hound. If you suspect that your dog has Pemphigus Foliaceus, get them to see a vet ASAP, as this condition will only be treated with professional medication.
  • LeishmaniasisThankfully, this particular condition is comparatively rare – it’s a tropical disease, and is only passed on when a dog is bitten by a sandfly, Should your dog be struck down, however, it will turn nasty very quickly. The condition is named after the Leishmania, a parasite that finds its way into your dog’s body once infected. Once this occurs, your dog will experience a variety of skin irritations – including a dry and cracked nose – in addition to severe damage to all internal organs. Again, if you have any suspicion that your dog has been infected seek professional help. Leishmaniasis can be cured with medication, but it could cause kidney failure if left untreated.
  • Zinc Responsive DermatosisThis condition is related, as the name suggests, to a lack of zinc. This is usually sourced through Fido’s diet, but if for any reason your hound is struggling to obtain the supply of zinc that they need, you will find that their fur begins to fall out and their skin turns red and blistered. Happily, the condition can be treated and reversed with zinc supplements.
  • Canine DistemperThis is a very worrying disease, and the fact that it leads to hyperkeratosis in the nose and paw pads is the main reason that people have often worried that a dry nose equals a sick dog. Canine Distemper is a similar condition to Rabies in that it causes a complete shutdown of all a dog’s major organs and faculties, and it’s highly contagious. Unfortunately, there is no cure for Canine Distemper, but the symptoms can be managed and a dog made as comfortable as possible for their remaining days. Avoid an infection in the first place by seeking a vaccination. However, treatments are readily available and can spare a lot of heartbreak for both pet and owner.
  • Alabama Rot Arguably the most terrifying disease that could infect any disease, examples of Alabama Rot are thankfully rare in the USA today – although a recent outbreak has swept the United Kingdom. Alabama Rot, or to use its official name Idiopathic Cutaneous and Renal Glomerular Vasculopathy (CRGV) is caused by infection found in muddy conditions. The result will be hardening and cracking of the paws and nose, which will quickly turn into ulcers and lead to failure of the internal organs – it’s a fast but painful demise for a dog, and one that should be avoided at all costs. If you must walk your dog through muddy conditions, always wash their paws and nose as soon as you get them home.

Nose Fungus on Dogs

As well as the medical conditions discussed above, it’s possible that your dog has been subjected to a fungal infection. Many of these will lead to a dry, cracked nose – as well as a variety of other unpleasant side effects for your canine companion. Here are some of the most common fungal infections that plague dogs, and what you can do to rectify them.

can I put Chapstick on my dog's nose?

  • Cryptococcus – This nasty condition, which enters a dog’s system by inhaling soil that is marked by bird droppings, requires very early diagnosis and treatment to be successfully cured with drugs. The symptoms include a runny nose in addition to the dry and cracked skin around the nasal area, as well as the possible forming of ulcers on the skin.
  • Aspergillosis – Probably the most common of all fungal diseases in dogs, this condition will strike down a dog that is already struggling with their immune system thanks to stress or some other kind of sickness. Inhaled through spores in the ground, the condition can lead to nosebleeds, cold and flu symptoms and eventual loss of ability to walk. Thankfully, most traditional antifungal drugs available to vets can treat it.
  • Coccidiomycosis – This is arguably the most frightening form of fungal infection, as it can turn fatal before long. It’s typically found in dry territories, and the infection will lead to a very severe cough and fever in your dog (not dissimilar to Kennel Cough, but considerably more severe), and eventual loss of function of internal organs.
  • Blastomycosis – This infection can be quite nasty as it attacks a dog’s respiratory system, but thankfully it can also be managed and cured with a minimum of fuss. Usually found in damp and rural territories, this infection is generally found in bird droppings.
  • Histoplasmosis – Also known as Ohio River Valley Fever, this infection is usually found in territories that contain plenty of nitrogen in the soil. Additional symptoms are few and far between but may include chronic diarrhea that leads to a loss of weight.

Dog Dry Nose Treatments

If you notice that your dog has a dry or cracked nose, it may or may not be something serious. Either way, it will probably be uncomfortable for Fido – and, thankfully, there is plenty that you can do about it. Let’s discuss some of the treatments that can be used to soften and moisten up a dry doggy nose.

How to Wash Your Dog’s Nose

The first step to restoring moisture to a dog’s dry nose is simply to wash it – though many dogs aren’t fond of getting water in their faces so that Fido may be a little resistant at first.

It’s simple enough to wash your dog’s nose without turning the hose on him or her. Just get a soft washcloth or flannel and apply a little non-perfumed soap (something from a specialist pet store is best, as a great many human beauty products can irritate a dog’s skin).

Once you’ve done so, dab at your dog’s nose gently until it’s nice and moist, then dab it dry with a soft, fluffy towel. Don’t be tempted to use talc or anything similar here, as that will irritate your dog’s nose. Repeat this process a couple of times per day – ideally first thing in the morning and just before bed – and you should find that your dog enjoys a wet nose again in no time at all!

Dog Nose Balms

Once you have washed your dog’s nose, you may want to add a balm to lock in that moisture and keep it from drying out again. Just remember what we said right at the top of this article, however; dogs lick their noses constantly. This means that you’re going to have to be vigilant about ensuring that you are not placing anything that could toxic to Fido on the tip of their hooter.

Can I Put Vaseline on My Dog’s Nose?

Yes, Vaseline is largely safe to use on a dogs nose. Be aware, however, that your dog’s stools may end up a little loose if they consume vast amounts of the product. If you worried about the impact petroleum jelly with having on your dog’s tummy, use an official pet-sanctioned product such as Snout Soother instead.

What's a good dog nose balm?

Overall, however, Vaseline is also a hugely effective way to lock water into a dog’s nose, meaning that if you can get into good habits of using this product once or twice a day you shouldn’t have to worry about a dry or cracked nose much at all.

Can I Put ChapStick on My Dog’s Nose?

Yes, you can – assuming you use the actual name brand ChapStick, as this is the same as Vaseline. For reasons best known to canines themselves, the cherry-flavored incarnation seems to work best on doggy noses. If you have a female pooch, be vigilant and prepare to defend her from any unwanted advances from Katy Perry.

Oils That Treat a Dry Nose on a Dog

There are also plenty of natural oils that you pick up from a health food stop that will keep a dog’s nose moist and wet. All of these oils are edible for dogs so they’ll be safe for licking, and you can add them directly to your pooch’s nose.

Try any of the following products:

  • Coconut Oil – As well as providing an irresistible taste that dog’s love, coconut oil is fantastic for doggy skin. Just ensure that you buy a genuine 100% extra virgin, cold-pressed product.
  • Almond Oil – This product is packed with all kinds of healthy fats, as well as minerals and vitamins that boost a dog’s skin health. These make Almond Oil a natural moisturizer.
  • Shea Butter – Humans tend to cover their knees, feet, and elbows in Shea Butter to prevent them from drying out, and this product can provide the same service to a doggy nose!
  • Castor Oil – Fair warning – too much Castor Oil can act as a laxative, so don’t overload Fido’s hooter with this product. A little bit, however, has fantastic healing properties and will ease and repair a dry, cracked nose.
  • Olive Oil – If you have a jar of Olive Oil in your kitchen, apply a teaspoon to your dog’s dinner or smear it on their nose. It will have a fantastic impact on every part of your canine’s skin.
  • Cocoa Seed Butter – This item stems from a cocoa tree, and thus is not loaded with poisonous chocolate. It’s very effective as a sunburn remedy, so it’s ideal on a dry, cracked nose.

Of course, there is nothing to stop you from mixing all of these ingredients together into a super-balm! If you combine them with Vaseline (or a store-bought specialist alternative) as a base ingredient, you will have access to every possible health benefit possible for your dog’s nose.  Conversely, you can also apply this balm to other parts of your dog’s anatomy that could be helpful, such as their paws.

dog warm dry nose lethargy

Preventing a Dry Nose on a Dog

Of course, preventing your dog’s nose from drying out and cracking is always better than waiting for it to happen.

To take these preventative measures, follow the following steps:

  • Always Provide Fresh Water. Dehydration is a significant symptom of dog’s noses – and paws – growing dry and cracked. Always ensure that Fido’s water bowl is full and fresh, and encourage your dog to drink regularly throughout the day.
  • Limit Your Dog’s Exposure to the Sun. On a similar note, make sure your dog is not spending excessive time in direct sunlight. Canines are sun-worshippers are their bodies to not organically generate the Vitamin D found in sunshine, but they can easily spend too long basking and find themselves sunburnt without realizing it. Walking your dog on hot asphalt in the height of summer will also have a potential impact on their paws and nose, so try to arrange your walkies schedule for very early in the morning and late at night when the sun is at it’s highest.
  • Ensure That Your Dog Does Not Have Allergies. If your dog seems to have a dry nose after trips outside into the grass, or after eating particular meals of treats, make sure that they are not having an allergic reaction. Likewise, if no amount of water seems to keep your dog’s nose moist, check that the plastic bowl that they are drinking from is not to blame. Your vet will be able to run tests that confirm any suspicions.
  • Use Oils and Supplements. As we have discussed previously, there are a great many different oils and supplements that your dog can enjoy as part of their food allowance that is great for their skin. Check with a vet that your choice of additions are suitable for your dog and that you’re providing appropriate amounts, but once you’ve done so, you may be stunned at the results.
  • Keep an Eye on What Your Dog is Sniffing or Licking. As we discussed, it’s possible that your dog’s dry or cracked nose is a result of licking and sniffing – and this inhaling – something that leads to a fungal infection on their nose. Master the, “leave it!” command and ensure that your dog doesn’t take too much interest that may do them harm in the longer term!

So, as you will now be aware, dogs do sometimes suffer from dry noses and the majority of the time it’s nothing to lose any sleep over – try not buy into the myth that only a wet, moist nose denotes a happy and healthy canine.

As long as you keep an eye out for any other signs of distress or ill health, and take the necessary action to apply treatment to your dog’s nose if it does start to dry out and crack, everything will be rosy and your pooch will continue to sniff and scent their way through a charmed life.