- Nasal hyperkeratosis has many causes — Because there are many underlying conditions, treatment can be different from case to case.
- Symptoms can be misleading — Sometimes dry, cracked noses are signs of a genetic predisposition or infectious disease rather than consequences of dry weather or wind.
- Balms can help — Products made with natural ingredients, rich in salicylic acid, or made with shea butter can all help your furry friend feel better faster.
Hyperkeratosis is a condition caused by an overgrowth of skin cells (keratin) on the surface of a dog’s nose. Vets often refer to canine hyperkeratosis as idiopathic in nature, meaning we don’t always know exactly what causes it.
You may notice the skin on top of your dog’s nose looks rough, thick, and even crusty or cracked due to this excess keratin. These signs of hyperkeratosis aren’t usually a cause for concern. But they shouldn’t be ignored either. If left untreated, or if underlying causes aren’t addressed, a mild case of nasal hyperkeratosis can become severe, leading to a lot of discomfort and even infections.
👉 Always watch out for signs of secondary infection, like blood, odor, or mucus-like discharge. If these symptoms appear, have your dog checked out by your veterinarian immediately.
It’s different from paw pad hyperkeratosis
Nasal hyperkeratosis is more than just a dry nose; it’s really a buildup of an additional growth of skin, too. Canine hyperkeratosis is a much more pronounced dry nose, usually marked by thicker skin on top of the snout.
Some dogs that have nasal hyperkeratosis also suffer from paw pad hyperkeratosis at the same time. Also known as footpad hyperkeratosis, this condition affects a dog’s paw pads. 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.
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, as well as Doberman pinschers, and Cocker spaniels. Brachycephalic breeds are those ‘smoosh-faced’ breeds, such as English bulldogs, French bulldogs, pugs, and boxers. Occasionally, English cream golden retrievers can even get it. It’s also more common in middle-aged to older dogs.
Certain external and environmental factors can also cause canine hyperkeratosis. A few examples include:
- Parasites. Dogs can pick up parasites, like nasal mites, and parasitic infections in the environment around them, including dirty water.
- Zinc-deficiency. If a dog is not getting enough zinc from their diet, this can lead to too much keratin, causing not only a crusty dog nose and paws, but also nasodigital hyperkeratosis.
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 symptoms (or sometimes be confused with) nasal hyperkeratosis include:
- 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 pancreatic or liver disease and have severe skin lesions.
- Hereditary Nasal Parakeratosis. This is another rare, genetic condition that can be seen in young Fox red 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.
- Discoid Lupus Erythematosus (DLE). Another autoimmune disorder, this one is caused by an out of control immune system. Dogs with DLE will have discoloration and ulcers, and the bumpy, patterned part of their nose will become smooth.
Because these underlying 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. Some of these conditions can be life-threatening, so finding the cause is important. In addition to biopsies and blood work, pet owners should expect other diagnostic tests to help identify the cause.
Treatment options for dog nose hyperkeratosis
While nasal hyperkeratosis in dogs can be managed, in some cases there isn’t a cure. It is important to note that you will likely need to follow a treatment plan 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. Or, you can make your own DIY nose balm.
👉 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, and so provide a longer-lasting and more soothing effect.
Meet Snout Soother: One of our favorite balms made specifically for nasal hyperkeratosis
A high-quality vegan nose balm
Natural Dog Company Snout Soother®
Kukui Nut Oil, Grapeseed Oil, Coconut oil, Chamomile, Organic Hempseed Oil, Shea Nut Butter, Jojoba Oil, Candelilla Wax, Natural Vitamin E, Rosemary Extract
👉 Snout Soother also comes in a handy trial stick which is great for on the go or if you want to test it before buying a full tin!
How to apply Snout Soother
- Distract your pup with a treat or toy.
- 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).
- Use fingers or a cloth.
- Rub the balm into the skin.
- Use a reward.
- 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.
Frequently asked questions
How can I treat my dog’s hyperkeratosis at home?
Before starting any kind of at-home treatment, it’s important to first speak to your vet. Finding out the cause of your dog’s nasal hyperkeratosis will help you narrow down effective treatments for long-lasting results. Once you know the cause, eliminate your dog’s discomfort with soothing balms that will also reduce the likelihood of infection.
Lastly, monitor them closely—make sure that they are healing infection-free, that their appetite stays normal, and that they are comfortable.
What causes dog nose hyperkeratosis?
Common causes include autoimmune diseases, certain skin infections, and for some dogs, dead and old skin cells simply aren’t rubbed off in their day-to-day activities. But nasal hyperkeratosis is one of many conditions that sometimes doesn’t have a “known” cause.
How do I treat my dog’s dry and cracked nose?
Treating your dog’s dry, cracked nose depends entirely on the cause. Sometimes a dog’s nose can just get dry and cracked due to things like winter wind. Sometimes, it’s nasal hyperkeratosis, which can be caused by a number of other factors ranging from genetics to diseases caused by various external factors.
How do you get rid of nasal hyperkeratosis?
Currently, there isn’t a cure for nasal hyperkeratosis, but once the cause has been narrowed down, treatment becomes easier. Many pet parents dealing with dry, cracked skin use ointments, oils, and balms to treat nasal hyperkeratosis. For more severe cases, antibiotic ointments may be necessary to treat secondary infections.
Does hyperkeratosis go away?
While proactive care may stop any flare ups of nasal hyperkeratosis, depending on the cause and severity, it may be a condition that has to be managed for the rest of your dog’s life. If the cause is a fungal infection, as an example, simply limiting exposure may prevent nasal hyperkeratosis.