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canine health problems

How to treat dog nose hyperkeratosis, according to a vet

Hyperkeratosis is a fancy word for overgrown, thick, dry, or cracked skin. There’s no cure, so proper treatment is critical to keep your dog happy and healthy.

Updated August 19, 2021

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a dry cracked dog nose

Close-up of dog nose hyperkeratosis

Dog nose (nasal) hyperkeratosis is a condition caused by an overgrowth of skin cells (keratin) on the surface of a dog’s nose.  You may notice the skin on top of your pup’s nose looks rough, thick, and even crusty or cracked due to this excess keratin. Vets often refer to it as idiopathic in nature, meaning we don’t always know exactly what causes it. 

It’s not usually a cause for concern. But it shouldn’t be ignored either. This is because dry, cracked, or crusty skin can be more susceptible to infections. And it just doesn’t feel good for your poor pup!

Nasal hyperkeratosis is more than just a dry nose, it’s really a buildup of an additional growth of skin too. Dogs can get dry noses for a variety of reasons, but they don’t necessarily have an overgrowth of skin cells, just dry skin. Nasal hyperkeratosis is a much more pronounced dry nose, with thicker skin on top of the snout.  

While nasal hyperkeratosis is usually not a serious medical condition, it’s always best to check with your vet so they can make recommendations and rule out any other conditions that could be linked to it.

👉 Always watch out for signs of secondary infection. If your dog’s nose starts to bleed, has a foul odor, or there is a mucus-like discharge coming from it, have your dog checked out by your veterinarian.

It’s different from paw pad hyperkeratosis

Some dogs that have nasal hyperkeratosis can also suffer from paw pad hyperkeratosis at the same time. Paw pad hyperkeratosis, also known as footpad hyperkeratosis, affects a dog’s paws. Not every dog with one condition will have both, though.

Oftentimes, when dogs develop an overgrowth of skin cells on their paws it’s due to gait abnormalities. On the other hand, not much is known about why nasal hyperkeratosis develops in dogs.

Treatment options for dog nose hyperkeratosis

While nasal hyperkeratosis in dogs can be managed, there is not a cure available. So it is important to note that you will likely need to treat it on a regular basis for the remainder of your dog’s life.

Management includes rehydrating and moisturizing your dog’s skin with warm water soaks and applying a soothing ointment on a daily basis. There are also pet-specific natural balms available for this purpose.

👉  Avoid putting hydrogen peroxide, rubbing alcohol, Neosporin, baby oil, or any topical human medications on your dog’s nose. 

A note on CBD oil and coconut oil

While many people look to CBD oil as a remedy for all of their pet’s conditions these days, CBD oil does not do much for nasal hyperkeratosis. Coconut oil is fine to apply to the top of your pup’s nose, though Vaseline and the available nasal balms are typically thicker, which provide a longer-lasting and more soothing effect.

Meet Snout Soother: One of our favorite balms made specifically for nasal hyperkeratosis

Ingredients
Kukui Nut Oil, Grapeseed Oil, Coconut oil, Chamomile, Organic Hempseed Oil, Shea Nut Butter, Jojoba Oil, Candelilla Wax, Natural Vitamin E, Rosemary Extract

How to apply Snout Soother

  1. Distract your pup with treat or toy
  2. Clean their nose first (always with water or a vet-prescribed cleanser, NEVER rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide which destroys healthy skin cells and delays healing).
  3. Use fingers or a cloth
  4. Rub the balm into the skin
  5. Use a reward

Remember:

  • Apply 2-3 times a day
  • Always apply in the evening

👉  Dab a bit of Snout Soother nose balm or another tasty treat like peanut butter on their paw after applying. This way, your dog will lick their paw instead of their nose, letting the balm work its magic.

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Causes of dog nose hyperkeratosis

Certain dogs may be more likely to develop nasal hyperkeratosis than others.

For instance, certain dog breeds are genetically predisposed to it. These include brachycephalic breeds and cocker spaniels. Brachycephalic breeds are those ‘smoosh-faced’ breeds, such as English bulldogs, French bulldogs, pugs, and boxers. Occasionally, golden retrievers can even get it. It’s also more common in middle-aged to older dogs.

When determining if your dog has nasal hyperkeratosis, it is important to have your pup evaluated by your vet to rule out other conditions or underlying causes that can sometimes show similar signs.

Medical conditions that can cause similar signs of (or sometimes be confused with) nasal hyperkeratosis

Canine Distemper Virus. Thankfully, this virus is not very common now due to vaccinations that prevent it. Typically, if a dog has distemper, they will also have a history of severe illness prior to developing nasal hyperkeratosis.

Zinc Responsive Dermatosis. This is a rare, genetic condition that is more common in Siberian huskies and Alaskan Malamutes.

Superficial Necrolytic Dermatitis. This is also a very rare condition. Dogs with this are usually extremely ill with liver or pancreatic disease and have severe skin lesions.

Hereditary Nasal Parakeratosis. This is another rare, genetic condition that can be seen in young Labrador retrievers.

Pemphigus Foliaceus. This is an autoimmune disorder that usually also affects other parts of a dog’s face, such as the ears, around the eyes, and higher up on the nose.

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus. Another autoimmune disorder, this one is caused by an out of control immune system. Dogs with this will usually have other clinical signs and feel unwell.

Leishmaniasis. This is a parasitic infection that is spread by sandflies. If your dog has a recent history of traveling with you to a southern European country in the Mediterranean region, you should let your vet know, as this could be a possible cause.

Because these other conditions could cause signs similar to nasal hyperkeratosis, it is always a good idea to have your pup checked out by your vet to be on the safe side. They may want to do a biopsy or check some bloodwork.