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canine health problems
Close up of dog's nose

The essentials

  • There are many potential nasal planum diseases in dogs — Some, like ringworm, are short-term conditions that will improve with treatment. Others, such as lupus, require life-long treatment and monitoring.
  • A nose issue is not always a nasal planum disease — Allergies, weather changes, and sunburn can also affect your doggie’s nose.
  • Breed can play a role in nasal planum diseases — Wrinkly dogs are often more prone to mucocutaneous pyoderma, while ringworm is more common in Yorkshire terriers. But all dog parents should be aware of the symptoms.

Our pups’ noses help them navigate the world, so as pet parents, we want our dogs’ noses to be in tip-top shape. When you notice something is off, such as a very dry nose or nasal discharge, you might get concerned and wonder if a disease is the cause. A vet will be your best resource for an official diagnosis, but consider this a useful resource about what types of nasal planum diseases are out there and why they occur.

Examples of nasal planum conditions in dogs 

Many conditions can affect a human’s nose — from colds to allergies and more; the same is true for dogs. The nasal planum, or top edge of the nose, is a typical place to notice potential issues. Below are a few of the most common nasal planum conditions in dogs.

Mucocutaneous pyoderma

Mucocutaneous pyoderma (MCP) is a bacterial infection that typically affects a dog’s lip folds but can sometimes involve their nose. German shepherds and German shepherd mixes are most prone to MCP. If your pup has this condition, they may have one or more of the following symptoms:

  • An unpleasant smell that emanates from the dog’s lip folds or skin wrinkles
  • Redness, irritation, inflammation, or discoloration of the affected area
  • Yellow or bloody crustiness that can lead to severe ulcers and fissures
  • Painful skin lesions (in severe cases)
  • Depigmentation (in chronic cases)

Diagnosis and treatment

It’s fairly simple to treat mild MCP, and vets have tools that allow them to treat more serious cases. If your dog has any skin lesions around their nose, it’s best to bring your dog to the vet for an exam. There are many diseases of the nasal planum, many of which can look similar, so it’s always best to get a formal diagnosis.

If your dog is diagnosed with MCP, then treatment usually involves:

  • Cleaning. To clean crusty skin off your pup’s nose, opt for either chlorhexidine antiseptic wipes or a chlorhexidine-based shampoo, though avoid using these products near your dog’s eyes.
  • Antibiotic ointment. Vets can often treat mild cases of MCP with topical antibiotic ointment. It’s best to get your vet’s recommendation for the option that’s best for your pup.
  • Oral antibiotics. According to our vet, severe cases of MCP can require at least one month of oral antibiotics.

Dermatophytosis

Dermatophytosis, also known as ringworm, is an infection of the skin, hair, or claws caused by one of three fungal species: Microsporum canis, Microsporum gypseum, and Trichophyton mentagrophytes. Ringworm can pass from humans to animals and vice versa. Pets that are considered immunocompromised and Yorkshire terriers are most susceptible. But, dogs can also pick it up from digging in the soil or going to the beach. Look out for:

  • Circular areas of hair loss
  • Scales
  • Crusts
  • Redness of the skin
  • Itchiness (though not every pet will experience this symptom)

👉 Check out the video below for more information about ringworm in your pets, including how to spot it. 

Diagnosis and treatment

Ringworm can clear up without treatment in healthy adult dogs, but it’s best to let your vet be the judge of that. And since it is contagious to humans and other pets, you’ll want to seek out medical advice.

Our vet Dr. Diener notes that an examination of the skin lesions and a fungal culture are often required in order to diagnose ringworm in pets. To take the fungal culture, your pup’s vet will pluck some hairs around your pup’s lesions and place them on a culture plate. The vet will then look at the plate each day for up to 10 days to evaluate the sample for any color changes or fungal growth.

In the meantime, your vet will probably start your dog on some therapies. Your pup’s treatment plan could include:

  • Topical treatment. For mild cases, a vet will often prescribe a topical treatment, such as an antifungal shampoo or ointment. You’ll need to wear gloves to apply it to your dog’s skin.
  • Topical therapy. In moderate to severe cases of ringworm, a vet will often prescribe an antifungal medication and topical therapy that you’ll need to use on your dog for at least one month.
  • Cleaning. It’s best to use diluted bleach to sterilize your home or the environment where you believe your pet may have contracted ringworm. Regular vacuuming and steam cleaning can also help nix ringworm in your home.
  • Oral medication. If your pet’s ringworm is long-lasting or severe, oral medications may be necessary. Yorkshire terriers often need this treatment.   

👉 Your veterinarian can give you information about treatments that may benefit your pup and let you know which precautions you should take to mitigate the risk of spread.

Discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE)

Discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE) is an autoimmune disease in which a dog’s own immune system attacks and kills cells within their skin, often around their nose. The precise cause of DLE isn’t known, but UV light seems to trigger it. Doggies who live in sunnier areas may be more prone to it, as are breeds like:

  • Collies
  • German shepherds
  • Shetland sheepdogs
  • Siberian huskies

Clinical signs of DLE can include one or more of the following symptoms:

  • A smooth nasal planum (it’s usually bumpy or cobblestone-like in appearance)
  • Heavy bleeding
  • Crusting, scaling, or cracked skin around the nose
  • Lesions or sores around the nose that can spread to skin around the eyes, ear flaps, or genitals
  • Depigmentation (black areas of the nose that become pink or red)
Canine discoid lupus

Red, smooth nose of a dog with DLE. Source: Wikipedia Commons

Diagnosis and treatment

To diagnose DLE, your vet will biopsy one or more of the skin lesions and send the samples to a pathologist for review. This is the only way to properly diagnose the disease. Though DLE isn’t curable, it is manageable with the help of a vet.

Common treatment options often include:

  • Topical corticosteroid creams. Just be careful not to let your dog lick the medication off of their nose, which could cause GI issues and reduce the cream’s efficacy.
  • Steroid free topicals. Research suggests the use of topical tacrolimus is safe and effective.
  • Immunosuppressants. Your vet may prescribe immunosuppressive drugs to help alleviate and treat your dog’s symptoms.
  • Changes in your daily routine. Since UV light can make DLE worse, you’ll want to avoid exposing your dog to it. This step may mean adjusting your walk schedule to take them out before sunrise and after sunset.
  • Oral antibiotics. Oral medications can aid in treating secondary bacterial infections if and when they develop. Tetracycline and doxycycline are two commonly recommended examples.

Pemphigus

Pemphigus is another autoimmune disease that affects a dog’s skin. There are two main types: pemphigus foliaceus (PF) and pemphigus erythematosus (PE). Though PF is one of the more common autoimmune diseases in dogs, it’s still relatively rare overall.

PF doesn’t typically affect dogs until they hit middle age. Some breeds are more susceptible, including:

  • English bulldogs
  • Akitas
  • Cocker spaniels
  • Labrador retrievers
  • Chow chows
  • Dachshunds

A vet should be the one to diagnose it, but you can keep an eye out for these symptoms:

  • Loss of pigment, crusting, and ulceration of the nasal planum
  • Excessive scratching
  • Lesions on the face, head, or outer ear

Diagnosis and treatment

It can be difficult to diagnose pemphigus. Your vet will likely need to biopsy some of your dog’s skin lesions to determine if pemphigus is the cause.

Long-term therapies are par for the course when it comes to pemphigus. Treatment can be expensive and involve some of the following:

  • Immunosuppressive therapy. Vets will often prescribe this therapy to help manage the condition.
  • Topical therapies. Topical therapies like steroids and tacrolimus can help target lesions and manage flare-ups. These are often temporary, fast-acting fixes, as chronic use can cause thinning of the skin.
  • Antimicrobial therapy. Dr. Diener notes that some dogs may develop secondary bacterial infections and need oral antibiotics. A vet may or may not also combine these antibiotics with topical therapy.

👉 It’s vital to work with your vet, as they will be able to determine the correct treatment plan for your pup.

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is a cancerous tumor that develops in some of the first layers of your pup’s skin. It’s the most common type of cancer that affects the nasal planum in dogs and cats. The nose, including the nasal planum, can develop tumors.

Like other cancers, SCC has no clear cause. According to our vet Dr. Diener, it’s most often seen in older, geriatric dogs. Labrador retrievers and golden retrievers tend to develop this cancer more often than other breeds.

Some clear and common symptoms include:

  • Ulcers, or open wounds, on the nasal planum that can bleed
  • A raised mass on the nasal planum
  • Sneezing
  • Nose bleeds
  • Pus
  • Head shaking
  • Pawing at the nose
  • Issues breathing out of the nose
  • Odor

Diagnosis and treatment

Vets will often diagnose SCC through a biopsy or cytology (a procedure that removes and evaluates fewer cells than biopsies). If your dog has SCC, there are some steps you and your vet can take to treat the cancer.

  • Surgery. Surgery is considered the top way to achieve the best long-term outcome for pups with SCC. The size and location of the cancer will determine whether or not it can be surgically removed.
  • Radiation therapy. Though radiation is not proven to be effective as a stand-alone therapy for SCC, it may help when combined with surgical excision. Your vet may recommend radiation if the surgeon can’t remove the tumor completely.
  • Chemotherapy. Research isn’t conclusive on whether chemotherapy can effectively treat SCC, but your vet can determine what might be best for your pet. They may also refer you to a veterinary oncologist for a consultation.

Dog nose hyperkeratosis

Dog nose hyperkeratosis occurs when the surface of a pup’s nose experiences an overgrowth of skin cells, or keratin.

Unlike other nasal planum diseases found in pups, dog nose hyperkeratosis isn’t typically too concerning. But you’ll still want to get it treated. It’s most common in breeds like English and French bulldogs, cocker spaniels, pugs, and boxers. Middle-aged pets also seem to be more prone. The first step is noticing symptoms, some of which can include:

  • Rough skin on the top of your dog’s nose
  • Crustiness or cracking
  • Thick nose skin

Treatment

Dog nose hyperkeratosis is a manageable but incurable condition. Vets may recommend a soothing balm, which can help reduce bothersome symptoms. Our vet’s favorite balm to try is Dermoscent’s Bio Balm.

Nasal hypopigmentation and depigmentation

Nasal hypopigmentation or depigmentation is sometimes called “Dudley nose.” It’s strictly limited to a dog’s nasal planum and may be a form of vitiligo. Researchers haven’t yet pinpointed the cause. Some breeds, like Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, and Siberian huskies, seem to be most susceptible. Symptoms may include:

  • Nose pigmentation that gradually wanes over the first few years of a dog’s life
  • Permanent depigmentation (if temporary, it could be snow nose, which is often seasonal)

Treatment

Unfortunately, there is no treatment for this condition. The good news? It’s a cosmetic issue — your pup has no idea and can live a normal life.

Other causes of a crusty or dry nose

Even if your dog’s nose feels dry or looks crusty, a nasal planum disease may not be the cause. Other potential culprits include:

  • Allergies. Just like us, dogs can develop seasonal allergies (sometimes called allergic rhinitis or sinusitis) that can cause their noses to feel crusty.
  • Dehydration. A dry nose can sometimes be a sign of dehydration.
  • Weather changes. Even pups can develop sniffles as a result of weather changes. Wind can also dry out their snouts. 
  • Sunburn. Dogs can also get a sunburn, especially if they have thin coats or a pink or pale nose.
  • Age. Older dogs are most at risk for some nasal planum diseases, but sometimes a dog’s nose simply gets drier as they age.
  • Nap. Since your pup doesn’t lick their nose while they snooze, they may wake up with a dry snout. This change should be temporary. 

Best practices to protect your pup’s nose

Below are some tips and tricks to help keep your pup’s nose as healthy as possible:

Use sunscreen — A dog-friendly sunscreen like this one is a great option

Avoid products made for humans — Though Neosporin, rubbing alcohol, and Vaseline may help your skin heal, they’re not recommended for dogs. Pet-friendly balms and medications are always best.

Leave out plenty of water — Dehydration can dry out your dog’s nose and lead to other illnesses. Ensure their water bowl is always full.

Keep your dog’s nose clean — Cleaning your pup’s nose with water and a gentle, pet-friendly cleanser, particularly after they dig in the dirt or go to the beach, can help mitigate issues like ringworm.

Clean your home — Regular cleaning of your home can get rid of allergens and reduce the risk of parasites.

See a vet — Many nasal planum diseases are easier to treat if they’re detected early. See a vet if something seems up with your pup’s nose.

Give your pup the gift of good nutrition — Make sure you’re feeding your dog a balanced diet full of omega-3 fatty acids, which are great for skin (and nose) health.

Tried and true products we love

If your pup has a dry nose, a balm might be particularly effective. But depending on what’s going on, these products may or may not be beneficial to your dog. Some of our favorites to explore with your vet include the following:

Natural Dog Company’s Snout Soother serves as a moisturizer for your pup’s nose, protecting it from dryness and irritation. The plant-based balm can help treat broken skin, overgrowth, hyperkeratosis, and dry skin. Snout Soother is a cinch to apply — simply use your fingers to rub the balm onto your dog’s nose. Vegan ingredients include jojoba oil, rosemary, and vitamin E.

Though people often use Musher’s Paw Wax to protect their pup’s paws, some people swear by using it on their dog’s nose. It’s moisturizing, protects against cracks, and can even help soothe and soften the skin. And it’s made with nontoxic, plant-based ingredients.

Frequently asked questions 

How are nasal planum diseases in dogs treated?

It depends on the severity and type of nasal planum disease that affects your dog. Sometimes, regular cleaning will clear up the condition. Other times, life-long immunosuppressant therapy may be necessary.

What is nasal dermatitis in dogs?

Dogs with nasal dermatitis have a skin disease that affects the nose or surrounding area.

How is nasal hyperkeratosis in pups treated?

The application of a soothing balm can help treat — but not cure — nasal hyperkeratosis in doggies.

How do dogs develop nose infections?

The causes of nose infections aren’t always known. Some breeds are more susceptible to certain conditions. For example, chow chows and English bulldogs are at a higher risk for pemphigus. And the frequency of many nose infections increases as a pup gets older. UV ray exposure may make certain conditions worse, though your vet can provide more information. In the meantime, mitigation efforts, such as using sunscreen on your dog, keeping your home clean, and regularly grooming and bathing your pets, can reduce their likelihood of developing nose-related issues.

What can I put on my dog’s irritated nose?

A vet may prescribe topical medications, creams, steroids, or shampoos to help your dog. Pet-friendly balms may also help.