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dog parent must-knows

Everything you need to know about treating your dog’s dry nose

It’s not just humans that face dryness and sniffles thanks to winter (or year-round) blues. Here are the ins and outs of doggie nose woes and what to do about it.

Updated October 19, 2020

Created By

Victoria Lancaster,

The essentials

  • Don’t be immediately alarmed Most of the time a dry nose is nothing serious to worry about.
  • When you should be worried Symptoms like a flaky nose can signal an underlying health issue or autoimmune condition.
  • Dog’s have allergies too Each pup has different sensitivities that can cause a dry nose.
  • Balms are the perfect at-home fix Snout Soother is one of our favorites.
  • Dogs need to have wet noses for a reason They depend on their nose’s mucus membrane and sense of smell to interpret the world and keep them cool.
a dry cracked dog nose

this pup needs some moisture stat

How to recognize a dog with a dry nose and what it means

The easiest way to recognize a dog with a dry nose is by touching their nose. If their nose is dry, it will feel a bit like sandpaper and warm to the touch instead of feeling cool and wet. To the naked eye, the surface of the nose may look a bit like dry or cracked soil. 

The skin on a dog’s snout contains a protein called keratin.  When keratin is produced rapidly, it can cause dryness and crustiness. It’s important that dogs have wet noses to enhance their senses. The moist layer over a dog’s nose allows them to absorb scents. For the most part, a cool and moist nose is crucial for a happy and healthy pup. Dogs with dry noses can experience changes to their sense of smell, depleted olfactory glands, and blocked nasal passages. 

Noticing changes to the wetness of your dog’s nose throughout the day is normal. Some breeds, in fact, are more prone to these fluctuations. Pugs and bulldogs, for example, may be prone to dryness or a crusty nose because they have shorter noses. They are classified as brachycephalic breeds. This makes it harder for them to lick their nose. Lhasa apsos often have blocked tear ducts which also causes their noses to go dry.  

But different dog breeds are not the sole culprit of dry nose, and it’s important to recognize that there could be another underlying issue.

The different causes of a dog’s dry nose

Dehydration. Long walks and other forms of exercise can cause a reduction of fluids in the body and thus, a dried out snout.

Allergies. Dog’s have them too! Itchiness or hives are often signs of allergic reaction. They are caused by fleas, the environment, or food.

👉 The vet is the best person to diagnose your dog’s allergies. 

Change in the weather. Exposure to the changing elements can cause a cold and sometimes accompanying sniffles.

Sunburn. Too much direct exposure to sunlight or heat (like a radiator) can cause a burn and a chapped nose. If sunburn is to blame, dryness will be accompanied by flaking.

Nasal hyperkeratosis. This is what causes the excessive production of keratin on the nose and on areas like your dog’s foot pads. We recommended checking for dryness in the paw region. If nasal hyperkeratosis is to blame, other areas will likely see similar dryness.

Autoimmune disease. Lupus and Pemphigus are common autoimmune diseases that cause dryness along with cracking and bleeding. Though they can also cause the surface of your dog’s nose to appear smoother and more bare than normal (loss of keratin).

Underlying illnesses. Fever or other illnesses may cause a dry nose. Your dog may experience symptoms like vomiting or changes in their daily activity.

Age. Older dogs tend to have long periods of inactivity or lethargy which can cause dryness.

Sleep. If your dog is sleeping, they’re likely not licking their nose. This can be tied to old age, because senior pups sleep more.

🚨 A pro tip for recognising underlying issues is to check for the color of your dog’s gums. Pink and moist is healthy while bluish pale is not. When assessing the nose, check for blood and crusty skin in addition to dryness. 

keep your dog's nose moisturized during the winter

A quick note on autoimmune disease

Autoimmune diseases in dogs operate in a similar way as they do in humans. The immune system of your pup will no longer decipher good cells from the bad cells and will attack its own body. If your dog does have an autoimmune disease, such as Lupus or Pemphigus, you may notice sores or scabs around the dry nose area. They will usually display a difference in their energy and activity levels. The vet may recommend taking a biopsy (if it is a disease that affects the skin) or a running blood test. Then, they’ll likely prescribe medications or another form of homeopathic treatment for your dog.

👉 We recommend taking aside a few minutes each day to inspect your dog for any illnesses. Pay attention to gum coloration, any lymph nodes around the body, and of course their nose! 

Treatment and Prevention

You can treat (and in some cases prevent) your dog’s dry nose. Here’s how:

Get rid of allergens — If allergies are bothering your dog, the most important thing to do is identify the allergy and remove it from their living space. Some dogs are allergic to plastic, so be sure to check the material of their bowls. Other dogs are allergic to certain household products. More serious cases of allergies may require meds from the vet.

Use balms — It’s not the first time we’ve talked about the importance of balms for our dogs. We always recommend all natural and vegan-based products. Nose balm can also protect from sunburn. Think of it like lotion, but for pups.

Use oils — Many of the best balms include coconut and other oils in their list of ingredients. It won’t hurt to apply something like coconut oil to your dog’s nose. Some vets even recommend including it in your dog’s diet for its anti-inflammatory benefits. The advantage to using a balm over an oil is that oil tends to rub off quickly.

Take your pup for regular check-ups — There are some things that a vet will be able to quickly diagnose and put your mind at ease. We also recommend doing your own regular at home checks of your dog’s physical health.

Keep your dog hydrated — Lack of hydration is one of the principal causes of dry nose so we recommend checking on your dog’s bowl throughout the day. Often, dogs will go to drink at night so make sure the bowl is full with fresh water before going to bed.

Use medication when necessary — Immunosuppressive and other drugs (vitamin E, niacinamide, pentoxifylline) may be prescribed by the vet in the case that your pup does have an autoimmune disease.

Our favorite nose balm and how to apply it in steps

Snout Soother is still our favorite balm and by far one of the best treatments for dry nose.

Snout Soother is essentially a cocktail of all-natural, antifungal, and beneficial oils. Unlike other balms, it contains things like chamomile extract, hemp seed oil, and kukui nut oil, and a natural sunscreen element to name a few. It gets bonus points for protecting against sunburn, windburn, and hyperkeratosis.

How to apply Snout Soother and other blams

  1. Distract and keep your dog still with a treat
  2. Clean the nose with water or a cleanser prescribed by the vet
  3. Rub or dab the balm onto the surface of the nose with clean fingers or a gentle cloth
  4. Reward your dog to keep them from licking the product off of their nose

Remember:

  • Never clean your dog’s nose with rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide
  • Apply a couple of times throughout the day and importantly at night

What about a runny nose?

When talking about a dry nose it’s important to consider the opposite: a wet nose. We already know that wet noses are a good thing and mean a healthy sense of smell. Moist and cool noses are usually a sign of a healthy dog. It is normal for a healthy dog to have a thin layer of mucus over their snout. When looking at your dog’s nose it’s important to look for nasal discharge or discolored mucus.

When a wet nose is too wet, your dog’s nose will probably be running. Thin watery discharge could be a sign of inflammation or allergies. If the discharge is thick, smelly, or contains blood, the cause could be more serious and point to an infection. If you’re still left wondering, “why does my dog have a wet nose?” you should probably head to the vet.

Mythbusters, no-nos, and common questions of pet owners about doggie nasal dryness

Is Vaseline safe for dogs?

❌  There are a few misused at-home treatments that are important for you to steer clear of when treating your dog’s dry nose. For the most part, you should steer clear of products like hydrogen peroxide and Neosporin. In small doses, Vaseline can be used as a quick fix to soothe your dog’s nose. In large quantities, these products can cause illness and an upset tummy if your dog licks them off.

Can CBD lotion help heal dryness?

The research on using CBD to protect against dry noses in dogs is slim. If your dog is experiencing a dry nose for underlying issues, CBD may help with the pain. It has not been FDA approved, so all in all, look for products made from hemp instead of cannabis.

If a dog’s nose is dry, are they sick?

Remember that a dry nose does not always mean a sick pup or severe health issue. Underlying illness and autoimmune disease are possible diagnoses, but not especially common. If the dry nose is the only symptom your pup is experiencing, try some of the above treatments and methods.

As always, if you’re not sure about what is causing your dog’s dry nose and how best to treat it, the vet is your friend. It’s important for pet owners to compose regular checks of their dogs at home. Everyone wants a happy and healthy doggie, after all.