Why is My Dog's Nose Dry? Crusty, Dry Dog Noses and What You Should Do About Them

Why is My Dog's Nose Dry? Crusty, Dry Dog Noses and What You Should Do About Them | Pup Wax

We reveal what's behind your dog's dry, crusty nose, whether or not you really need a dry dog nose treatment for your pup, when you should check with your vet about dog nose hyperkeratosis or something more serious, and what dry dog nose causes are probably no cause for concern.

Preventing Pup Nose Woes

Before we jump to the causes and treatments for a dry dog nose, let’s understand why our pup’s noses are moist in the first place.  

Click here to skip ahead to our step-by-step instructions for how to moisturize and treat a dry dog nose.  Otherwise, keep reading.

how to treat your dog's dry nose step by step

We humans have always been fascinated by dog noses, snouts, or snoots. We have relied on the super powers of our best friends to guide search and rescue efforts, help us track anything from game to rare truffles, detect certain diseases earlier and with greater accuracy than modern diagnostics testing, and to unearth concealed narcotics and cadavers in police detection work. When our pup’s noses are not hard at work, we are playfully, lovingly booping them as long as they will entertain it.

What more do we know about the canine nose besides that it’s got exemplary tracking abilities? How is a dog able to catch even the faintest of scents? Do issues like a dry dog nose affect your dog’s ability to smell?

As it turns out, yes, getting the sniff right can indeed be difficult if your pup develops a dry dog nose.

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Why is a dog’s nose wet?

Dog noses thrive when moist. The top part of the nose has a special mucous layer that captures and preserves scents, which enhances the ability to smell. Your pup will occasionally lick their nose, moistening it and transferring those scents to the inside of their mouth.

dog licking its nose with long tongue

At the roof of your dog’s mouth are olfactory glands that receive the scent captured from the nose. These glands send signals to your dog’s brain to help them interpret the scent.

A dog’s nose is seemingly constantly wet in part because they keep licking it. Licking the nose helps to keep it clean. Dogs also may be trying to cool off by “sweating” through the nose. It is thought that as the saliva evaporates, it cools down the surface area of the nose and in turn, the blood circulating through it.  This blood then circulates through and cools the rest of the dog’s body.

 Fun pup fact: Your pup sweats through their paws too, but not through the skin on the rest of the body.

Clearly, your dog's nose being wet is a good thing. Whenever you boop your pup or your pup nuzzles you, your scent is being transferred onto your pup and your pup’s scent onto you. Helping your pup to keep their nose moist strengthens their ability to smell and interpret your scent, so with each of these interactions, you are strengthening the bond between the two of you.

Does this mean a dry dog nose is a bad thing?

Not necessarily. A dog’s nose typically oscillates between wet and dry. Your dog’s nose will get warm and dry for a short while which is completely normal.

So, what causes your dog’s nose to go dry? Some of the reasons behind dry dog noses include:

  • Your dog stopped licking their nose
  • Breed traits
  • Weather
  • Low humidity (indoor or outdoor air dryness)
  • Age
  • Deformities

Not licking their nose 

When your pup stops licking their nose, it can temporarily go dry. This frequently happens when a dog is sleeping. As they snooze, the nose will feel warm and dry but become wet again when the dog wakes up. If this is the only cause, the dryness will quickly resolve on its own!

Breed

Dogs with flat faces (brachycephalic) have a hard time reaching their noses with their tongues. Such dogs include toy breeds like Pugs, Shih Tzus, Brussels Griffon, Chihuahua, and the Miniature Bulldog. In large breeds, the English Mastiff, and Boxers are prone to dry and crusty dog noses because of their flat faces.

Alongside developing dry and crusty noses, brachycephalic toy breeds like the pug also suffer breathing problems because of their tiny noses. Interestingly, breeds with small noses also generally have a reduced sense of smell due to the reduced surface area which translates to a smaller number of scent receptors.

Did You Know?

Toy breeds with flat faces were originally bred for companionship or ostentation. Their olfactory senses could not be relied upon for hunting or other scent work.

shih tzu with dry dog nose dressed in a shirt

Weather

In hot weather, your dog’s nose will seem to sweat a lot as a cooling mechanism. If the heat becomes truly unbearable, the nose may even dry up for a while. Once the dog finds a shady area or comes indoors and can cool cool off, the nose will become moist again.

Both dry and cold weather can also lead to a dry and crusty dog nose. This is seldom a cause for alarm unless temperatures and weather are extreme and the exposures are prolonged.

During winter, your dog may seek warm spots and camp out in front of a fireplace or heater to keep chills away. The heat from the fireplace or heater may dry out your dog's nose.

To prevent weather and air-related causes of nose dryness, ensure the room in which your dog spends most of their time is humid enough to moisten and soothe their snout when indoors and apply a high quality nose balm such as Pup Wax®.

Age

An unfortunate but sure sign that your pup is aging is when their nose is constantly dry. When this happens, you’ll have to help your aging pup keep their nose moist. There are plenty of ways to do that including applying Pup Wax® balm on the nose to moisten it.

Congenital deformities

Dogs born with a deformity, like a cleft palate, are more likely to suffer a dry dog nose. It is possible to fix some congenital deformities while the dog is still a puppy, and dryness caused by other forms can often be managed through the application of topical products to a dry or crusty nose.

When should I be worried about my dog’s dry nose?

While a temporary dry dog nose is usually no cause for alarm, a skin condition, allergy or underlying disease can cause excessive dryness.

A dry, crusty, and or flaking nose is often accompanied by other symptoms including:

  • A runny nose
  • Frequent sneezing
  • Difficulty in breathing due to a stuffy nose
  • Reverse sneezing. This is when your dog pulls back a sneeze to try and clear mucus from their nasal passage.
  • Loss of appetite

All of these symptoms are signs of trouble and should be evaluated by a veterinarian. Your pup not only has a dry dog nose but may also have an underlying disease destroying their health.

A dry dog nose could be a sign of the following conditions:

  • Nasal Hyperkeratosis
  • Demodex mange
  • Parvo
  • Malignant growth
  • Tooth abscess
  • Ticks and fleas

Nasal Hyperkeratosis

Dog nose or nasal hyperkeratosis, a common cause of dry dog nose, is when excess keratin production leads to the nasal tissues hardening and cracking, even to the point of making a pup more vulnerable to secondary skin infections.  (Keratin is a protein prevalent in hair, nails, and similar structures in the body.) Some breeds are thought to be more at risk of dog nose hyperkeratosis than others, particularly flat-faced or brachycephalic breeds and toy breeds, but any dog can develop the condition.  The hardening and cracking of the dog nose can resemble a "crusty" nose, but it is important to remember that this "crust" when hyperkeratosis is present consists of an overgrowth of actual skin cells, not a crust formed of dried mucous, and so it should NOT be picked off.  Picking it off can cause your dog to bleed and lead to infection.  Soothe and keep your dog's nose moist with a high quality nose balm such as Pup Wax® that is made from organic, all-natural and clean ingredients to help relieve your dog's nasal hyperkeratosis.

Demodex mange

Mange is a parasitic infection that often affects your dog’s coat. Tiny mites invade your pup’s coat causing skin inflammation and hair loss. Mange starts on one part of the dog’s coat and spreads to the rest of the body.

Besides rapid hair loss, these mites can also cause dryness in areas with bare skin like the paws and nose. A severe case of mange, also known as sarcoptic mange or scabies, may cause the nose to itch and flake a lot.

Parvo

Parvo disease is more of an internal issue than a topical one. Parvo is a gastrointestinal disease in dogs caused by the parvovirus. Puppies and young dogs are more at risk of developing parvovirus than older adult dogs.

Parvo causes severe dehydration in dogs. When this happens, your pup's skin and the nose become dry and flaky. If left untreated, parvo will slowly cause your dog’s health to deteriorate to the point of death.

Malignant growth

Skin cell tumors are a less common cause for dry dog noses. Some tumors may be benign while others can require surgical removal.

Tooth abscess

Dental issues in dogs can manifest as a dry dog nose. One such dental problem is a tooth abscess which can cause severe pain to your pup. This throbbing pain will be felt in the jaw, ear, and as a headache. Skin inflammation follows, causing the mouth area to feel warm and soft.

A dog with a tooth abscess will have problems regulating body temperature. The pup will also have a fever and a dry dog nose.

Ticks and fleas

Ticks and fleas normally affect your dog’s coat. They like to hide in the hairs while they feed on a dog’s blood. A severe tick infestation however can even lead to a dry, crusty dog nose and other serious conditions such as complete loss of appetite and hair loss.

How can you treat a dry dog nose?

A dry dog nose is easy to treat if you know what the underlying condition is. Take your pup to a trained vet to diagnose the root cause. Once you have ruled out any serious causes or treated any underlying disease appropriately, you can address the dryness of the nose with a high quality nose balm such as Pup Wax® that is made from organic, all-natural and clean ingredients.

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The following tips apply if you have a healthy dog that tends to suffer from nose dryness. A severe dry nose that is excessively crusty, flaky or with sores will require a professional medical diagnosis first.

How to take care of your pup’s dry nose step-by-step

1. Keep track of the periods when their nose dries out

Identify the specific times when your dog's snout goes dry. Is it when they go out in the summer or when the chills of winter kick in? Does it only dry out when they sleep or is their nose simply too short to reach with their tongue?

A dry dog nose could be a sign of severe dehydration in your dog. Other signs of dehydration in your dog include:

  • Pale sticky gums (normal gums should be pinkish)
  • Laziness
  • Excessive panting
  • Body weakness
  • Dry sunken eyes

Giving your dog lots of water often solves the problem. You can also offer hydrating fruits like watermelon and cantaloupe. These fruits are sweet, refreshing, and have a 90% water content.

2. Identify allergens in your home

Sometimes the cause of a dry dog nose could be an allergen lurking in your home. Common environmental allergies include dust, pollen, and mold. Dogs are vulnerable to allergies just as humans are.  Pests like fleas and mites also fall in the category of allergen.

If your pup is sneezing and pawing at his nose a lot, he may be allergic to something in his immediate environment. The constant pawing of the nose contributes to its dryness. Identify and eliminate any allergens that are affecting your dog.

3. Use a soothing, toxin-free dog nose balm

Keeping your dog's nose moist prevents dryness and cracking. A lot of dog owners like to use pet-friendly lotions to moisturize the nose. The lotions may work temporarily, but without a wax base, they do not keep the nose moist for longer periods.  Wax such as beeswax or soy wax acts as a natural barrier that seals moisture in and irritants out.

Using Pup Wax® is a sure way of keeping your dog’s nose moist for extended periods. Go for dog-approved products like Pup Wax® that contain only healthy ingredients to help your dog soothe, nourish, and heal their dry cracked nose.  Avoid any ingredients that have questionable safety in dogs or that are what we call empty filler ingredients without any proven health benefit.  The ingredients in any product applied to your precious pup should work together to enhance your pup’s well-being.  Learn more.

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Pup Wax® contains ingredients including organic virgin coconut oil, a holistic approach that is also used to fight fleas and ticks in dogs. The organic beeswax and organic coconut oil also carry antiviral and antibacterial properties that can help fight diseases like demodex mange and sarcoptic mange. 

Pup Wax® is a great nose balm that includes ingredients such as soy wax and virgin coconut oil to soothe and further moisten your pup’s snout. Coconut oil is a natural treatment for hotspots, itchiness, or inflammation that may afflict your dog’s snoot.

As your dog ages, you will have to help keep their nose moist. Applying Pup Wax® as an everyday nose balm can help your pup retain their ability to smell for a longer time and more effectively by preventing loss of moisture.

Tips on how to use Pup Wax® as a nose balm

  • Apply Pup Wax® to the nose after each bath or while grooming your dog
  • Apply a thin layer of Pup Wax® nose balm before going out in snowy or sunny weather
  • Pup Wax® is ideal for the dry noses of flat-faced breeds such as Pugs, Shih Tzus, Brussels Griffon, Chihuahuas, Miniature Bulldogs, English Mastiffs, and Boxers
  • Pup Wax® can also be used to soothe cracked dog paws

4. Check for other symptoms

If your dog shows no significant improvement after applying Pup Wax® nose balm, keep an eye out for other symptoms and make a log to discuss with your vet.  Vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, or dry sunken eyes are red flags.,

Contact a professional vet if you notice anything unusual in your dog beside a dry snout.

Conclusion

In the canine world, a wet nose is a true symbol of health and happiness. If your pup suffers from the occasional dry dog nose, a little TLC using Pup Wax® should solve the problem. Always consult your dog’s veterinarian if you suspect your dog’s dry nose is a sign of severe illness or an underlying condition.

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Dry Dog Nose FAQ

1. Can I use petroleum jelly on my dry dog nose?

  • We  advise against it.
  • Your dog can suffer vomiting and diarrhea from licking excess petroleum jelly off the nose.
  • Petrolatum-derived ingredients such as mineral oils and paraffin wax are known to accumulate in dogs' bodies over time. Parrafin wax and mineral oils are often touted as "all natural" or labeled as "white oils," including by a dog balm market leader. In fact, mineral oil is by-product in the distillation of petroleum and used to produce petroleum-based products from crude oil.  It is not known what the long term health effects are of gradual accumulation of mineral oil and petroleum in dogs. Mineral oil and other petroleum-based products can be contaminated with a cancer-causing impurity called 1,4-dioxane. Studies show that this chemical readily penetrates skin. The National Toxicology Program considers it a known animal carcinogen.  Although companies can easily remove it from ingredients during manufacture, tests documenting its common presence in products show that they often don't, leaving their customers at risk for potential chronic and widespread exposures to this cancer-causing compound. These trace contaminants in petroleum-based ingredients often readily penetrate the skin according to government and industry studies, and their presence in products is not restricted by government safety standards — they are legal at any level.
  • Petroleum jelly has a high viscosity which may hinder nasal perspiration.
2. Why is my dog’s nose drying out when they are asleep?

If your dog sleeps close to a heater or fireplace for long, their nose may end up looking dry and cracked. But not to worry, a few snout licks will clear the problem when they wake up.

3. What can I apply to soothe my dog’s crusty or dry nose?

    Pup Wax® is a vet-approved and pet-approved nose balm loved by dogs everywhere that will soothe your dog’s dry nose. Pup Wax® contains blends of organic and all natural humectant and barrier oils and waxes that eliminate dryness and seal in the moisture.

    4. Does my dog’s dry nose mean that he is sick?

    Temporary nose dryness is normal in dogs. Apply a thin layer of Pup Wax® nose balm to keep the nose moist. If you notice other, more serious symptoms accompanying your dog's dry nose, contact your vet immediately.

    5. What about sunscreen?

    We recommend using hats or avoiding excess sun exposure during peak hours. In order to reduce exposure to chemicals, we would not apply sunscreen to the paw pads, which are generally facing down, and use a protective barrier balm like Pup Wax® instead. If lengthy sun exposure is inevitable, a good, safe sunscreen applied to the nose is probably a good bet. We always encourage our customers to read up on the ingredients in their dogs’ products. We also give complete transparency into our own formulas on our website. Existing pet sunscreens often contain oxybenzones which are banned for use near certain marine wildlife habitats and have been shown to interfere with the human and animal endocrine systems. They also trigger allergic reactions in some dogs. Other physical sunblocks (such as zinc oxide based) that we might use as humans are also known to be completely unsafe for dogs. We continue to explore safe ingredients for sun protection. We will only bring products to market when we are completely satisfied about the safety and effectiveness of our formula and each ingredient. Stay tuned for more developments!

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