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5 Medical Reasons Why Your Dog Has a Dry & Crusty Nose

Medically reviewed by Dr. Sara Ochoa

Pet owners have always been told that a dog with a cool, moist nose is a sign of a healthy dog. Does that sound like your dog or is there something else going on?

If your dog’s nose is cracked and dry, it’s probably not a cause for alarm. In fact, there are plenty of common reasons for this to happen.

Anything from common allergies to minor skin conditions can cause this to happen.

In the off chance that there is something more going on with your dog’s health, you’ll probably notice other signs and symptoms beyond a dry nose.

The skin on your dog’s nose contains Keratin – a protein that keeps the skin healthy. Sometimes, that keratin goes into overdrive. If that happens it can cause a build-up of skin cells on the surface of the dog’s nose.

It’s not a pretty sight. Your dog’s nose will appear rough and bumpy. It will feel crusty to the touch and might even appear cracked.

There are a few reasons this can happen, which we talk about further into this post.

How Dog’s Keep Their Noses Moist

Dogs have an amazing sense of smell. They use their noses to find discarded food at the dog park, to smell where another dog has marked his territory, and to understand the world around him.

However, a dog’s nose does a lot more. For one thing, dogs can’t sweat like humans do. Instead, the thin mucous covering the nose helps to keep them cool on hot days.

Dogs even use their noses to regulate body temperature. When they pant, air passes over the noise and picks up moisture from the wet nose. The moisture takes some of the heat generated from the body and is exhaled through the mouth.

Dogs naturally keep their noses wet by licking them. You may notice this after your dog goes on a sniffing spree at the park.

The do this as a way of sealing in the scent particles. They also keep their noses wet by touching moist surfaces with their noses.

French bulldogs are prone to dry nose.

Breeds With Naturally Drier Noses

Some breeds, especially brachycephalic dogs, tend to have drier noses. The reason is simple. Brachycephalic dogs including French Bulldogs, English Bulldogs and Pugs are born with flat faces and short snouts. Their physical features prevent them from being able to get their tongues adequately over their noses.

Since they can’t manage the moisture on their noses, they tend to dry out. It’s unsightly, but probably bothers us more than it bothers them.

No need to worry unless there are other signs and symptoms of underlying disease. Keep reading for common signs of disease and tips on how to treat a dog’s dry nose.

Some breeds that tend to have dry or crusty noses include:

  • Alaskan Malamutes
  • Labrador retrievers
  • French bulldogs

Common Causes For Your Dog’s Dry Nose

It’s completely normal for a dog’s nose to shift from seeming dry one minute and moist the next. For example, a dog’s nose tends to dry out a bit when sleeping. This is because of the amount of time that passes without him/her licking the nose.

Naturally, the dog’s nose will feel a little drier after a nap. Within minutes, his/her nose will be back to normal.

The following are some common reasons for dry noses in dogs. These are normal, everyday occurrences that shouldn’t be of concern.


Pet owners living in cooler climates may have their heat source cranked high. This tends to leave the air dry. Without the added moisture in the air, your dog’s nose may naturally feel drier.

Dogs love to nap where the air is warm as well. If that’s the case, your dog’s nose may feel a little warm to the touch sometimes. In this case, it’s likely do to the warm air circulating around.

With furnaces pumping out heat, a dogs nose can get a bit on the dry side. This is because the heat sucks moisture from the air.

Cold Weather

Spending time out in the cold weather (even for a short period of time) can dry out your dog’s nose. Older dogs are even more prone to the drying effects of the weather because they naturally lose some of that mucous that typically coats the noses of younger pups.


The summer months are when we spend the most time outside with out canine companion. Unfortunately, our puppies’ cute little pink noses can actually burn in the sun.

Sunburn is another prevalent cause of dry noses in dogs. A dog’s skin isn’t as robust as you might think. This is especially true of dogs with thin hair or fur. For example, the hair/fur around the muzzle tends to be thinner and sparser.

If you can see skin on your dog, it can burn. It’s typically dogs with light-colored coats and noses that lack pigmentation, who can suffer severe sunburns.

Dogs that suffer sunburns are characterized by dry and cracked nose skin, including around the belly and ears.


Severe dehydration can also result in a dry, crusty nose in your dog.

A dry dog nose that results from dehydration is accompanied by various other symptoms such as reduced skin elasticity and lethargy.

Dehydration can result from an illness, heat stroke, or an underlying infection. Dogs are especially vulnerable to dehydration if they have had diarrhea and vomiting.

If you experience this symptom with your dog, you should contact your vet as soon as possible.


Like human beings, aging also comes with various complications in dogs.

Senior dogs need more rest. Therefore, it is common for them to sleep longer. In such cases, their noses remain dry most of the time, making age a common cause of dry noses in dogs.

Aging dogs are more prone to dry nose.

5 Medical Reasons for a Dog’s Dry and Crusty Nose

A dry and crusty nose is a common problem among dogs. However, there are things you should watch for that may indicate something else is going on.

1. Autoimmune Disorders

Autoimmune disorders can seriously impact the immune system and require medical attention.

Discoid (Cutaneous) Lupus Erythematosus

This autoimmune disease affects the skin. This is the most common type of skin lupus in dogs. Dogs with this condition develop crusting and scabbing of the skin. This usually start around the dog’s nose. In can also result in a loss of the skin’s pigmentation in the affected area.

Pemphigus Foliaceus

This autoimmune skin disease attacks the substances that bind skin cells. Signs of an autoimmune disease like this include:

  • Lesions of the nose, face, and ears that are crusty.
  • Thickening of the paw pads
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Depression

2. Fungal or Bacterial Infection

An infection in your dog’s nose is called nasal pyoderma. It can lead to dry skin, cracked skin, discomfort, and discharge from the nose.

Fungal or bacterial infections are typically treated with an oral or topical antibiotic.

When your pup’s nose feels warm to the touch, it might be a sign of an infection or fever. While a wet nose may be expected for any dog, some remain dry even when healthy.

3. Allergies

Dogs can also suffer dry noses as a result of allergies. It’s important to determine your dog’s allergens and take preventive measures. Anything from dust to cleaning products could be the culprit.

4. Blocked Tear Ducts

Healthy tear ducts in dogs allow excess tears to drain from the eye to the nose and mouth. Sometimes, however, dogs can develop a lacrimal duct obstruction (blocked tear ducts). When this happens, the excess tears cannot drain normally through the nose.

This results in a lack of moisture in that area leading to a dry nose. Some breeds like the Lhasa Apsos are prone to blocked tear ducts.

5. Canine Nasal Hyperkeratosis

This is another condition that affects a dog’s skin. Excess keratin is produced around the nose and paw pads. This causes the skin to thicken and harden. Sometimes it’s so bad that the skin cracks.

The danger of cracked skin anywhere on a dog is the emergence of secondary infections. The causes of this condition vary. They can include:

  • age-related
  • parasites
  • canine distemper
  • auto-immune disease
  • zinc deficiency

Tips for Treating Dry Dog Nose

Dry and crusty dog noses, when not severe, can be treated with simple products designed especially for dogs.

Moisturizing, for instance, is a highly effective way of dealing with dry nose in dogs.

When moisturizing, ensure that you use safe and quality products. Human moisturizers are a no-go as they may contain harmful ingredients that may harm your dog.

Dogs keep licking their noses to moisten them. If you use moisturizers with some toxins, they can ingest them and become sick.

If your dog has a chronically dry nose and you notice or unusual signs and symptoms, seek veterinary care. You’ll want the veterinarian to diagnose any underlying disease. Once an underlying cause is treated, the scabbing and crusting may lessen or disappear.

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Sun Protection for Dogs

If you spend a lot of time outdoors with your dog in the summer, consider protecting your dog’s skin. My Dog Nose It is a velvety smooth nose balm. It dries quickly and doesn’t have a greasy or oily feel.

This product is made in the USA using a pH balanced formula. You don’t have to worry about parabens, Zinc Oxide or Titanium Oxide because there are none in this balm.

Use it on your dog’s nose, ears, and other unprotected areas.

dog nose balm

Antimicrobial Paw & Nose Dog & Cat Protection Balm

Sometimes our furry friends have more than just dry noses. Paw-Forte Antimicrobial Protection Balm helps to soothe and moisturize dry skin, but it may also help to heal cut skin, superficial wounds and cracked skin.

antimicrobial protection balm for dogs

Other Ways of Treating Your Dog’s Dry & Crusty Nose from Home

There are a few simple techniques you can try at home. One idea is to soak the nose with a warm, moist towel for a few minutes. Just dab the nose gently with warm water to help open the skin pores.

Take some petroleum jelly and gently rub a small amount into the skin. It’s harmless even if your dog tries to lick it off. The best time to apply balms or things like petroleum jelly are at night or when your dog is sleepy.

There are countless balms on the market specifically made for pets. These are safe and designed with dogs in mind. If you’re regularly applying balm to your dog’s nose and it doesn’t appear to be getting better, see a veterinarian.

Dry noses are usually caused by common, everyday things. Sometimes, however, a more thorough examination or wellness check should be performed to rule out underlying conditions.

Summing It Up

We love our dogs no matter what they look like. That dry and cracked nose only makes us love them more!

If your dog hasn’t been to a veterinarian in a while, it might be time for a check-up. It’s always best to rule out underlying conditions.


Whole Dog Journal


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