Why Is My Dog’s Nose So Dry? When To Be Concerned

One of the most common misconceptions about dogs is that, if the nose is dry, they clearly don’t feel well. At least, that’s an almost daily comment that I hear from my clients in my practice. Sometimes that’s true but most of the time it isn’t.

Why is your dog’s nose dry? Because they haven’t licked it in a while. It’s as simple as that.

Is It A Bad Thing When My Dog’s Nose Is Dry?

In a younger dog that suddenly has a really dry nose, there is almost always other symptoms to explain why the dog isn’t licking their nose. Are they licking the air a lot or trying to eat grass? Could be an upset stomach. Do they have a fever? It might be time to call the vet!

Why Is My Dog’s Nose So Crusty?

There are two types of crusts that you may see on a dog’s nose:

  • Gooey crusts that are yellow or red-tinged in appearance. This is likely due to discharge coming from within the nose (such as from an upper respiratory infection) or from a wound on the surface of the nose.
  • Dry, layered keratin – this looks like a buildup of bumpy, irregular tissue usually the same color as the nose itself. This is called nasal keratosis and is a buildup of the cells that normally cover the nose.

Is Nasal Keratosis An Issue?

It’s more cosmetic than anything else. It signals that the dog is no longer licking the nose as a regular part of its day. This naturally to most dogs as they age.

You can treat this with over-the-counter items like vaseline or A&D ointment to moisturize the area. If you do it daily, you’ll find that the layers begin to recede. The nose can go back to its normal look but you’d likely have to moisturize it every day.

Worried about the fact that your dog will likely lick the ointment off? Don’t be. They will lick at it but it shouldn’t harm them as it’s a very small amount of ointment. If you think they’ll just lick the ointment off, then great!! The nose still gets moisturized which is what we want.

Keratosis Can Also Affect The Feet

If your dog’s nose has excessive keratin, chances are the footpads may have it as well. Look at the sides of the pads as normal walking will wear down the contact points but the sides of the pads will grow abnormally. Treatment is the same – moisturization.

Can Dogs Get Mites In Their Nose?

Absolutely!! It’s more common in areas that see mites frequently (such as the southern United States). A dog that is sneezing a lot, gets a lot of nasal discharge, and has recently come from the south should have nasal mites as a potential rule-out (a rule-out is something that a veterinary has to consider as a reason for why something is happening).

You won’t see the mites and typically they’ll go away pretty quickly with the first injection of an anti-mite medication like ivermectin.

When To Worry About Your Dog’s Nose

There are a few conditions that you need to be aware of with a dog’s nose.

  • Bleeding From Inside The Nose
  • Ulcerations or Loss Of Pigmentation On The Nose Itself

Bleeding From The Nose

Anytime you spot more than a few drops of blood coming from your dog’s nose, you should investigate. If there is an active nose bleed, apply pressure to that side of the nose and keep your dog calm. If the nose continues to bleed after 5 minutes of pressure then you should call your vet (you should call your vet when it’s over anyway unless you see a small scratch or wound responsible for the bleeding).

There are a few reasons why dogs get nosebleeds. These include:

  • Ulceration over a tiny blood vessel just inside the nostril. I’ve had a few cases where I could literally see the fissure in the nose where the blood was streaming out. Some of these dogs can get better by simply cauterizing the affected area but other dogs may need more diagnostics done to determine if this is the first sign of a much bigger issue.
  • Inhalation of a foreign body – Inhaling something mildly sharp (like a piece of a plant or eve a seed) can cause a nosebleed that shouldn’t be too big of a bleeding problem. Rather, you may see the dog snorting and pawing at its nose as if it’s trying to get something out.
  • Inflammation/Auto-immune Disorder inside the nose – Rhinitis is the fancy word for nasal inflammation. Sometimes that inflammation is caused by an infection or even the body’s over-response to something it has detected in the nose. If the inflammation gets better with medicine but keeps coming back, auto-immune issues could be the source.
  • Cancer – this is the one that people don’t want to hear but is usually the case when an elderly dog starts having a random nosebleed out of one nostril that keeps happening and gets progressively worse. What color is the stool? If it’s black, then one cause could be the swallowing of blood going down the back of the nasal area into the gastrointestinal tract. These type of nose bleeds are the worst because they can be very difficult to stop as the tumor is usually deep within the nasal cavity.

Ulcerations or Loss Of Pigmentation On The Nose Itself

A dog that had a black nose that suddenly is turning white or pink isn’t by itself a concern. If the only change is that the tissue turns a light color then it’s something to watch. It’s also something to consider putting a little sunscreen on when your dog goes outside.

A dog that loses the pigmentation on the top of the nose and then develops mild ulcerations on the front nostrils or on top of the nose is a concern. Most commonly this is caused by an auto-immune disease called Discoid Lupus Erythematosus (DLE).

DLE by itself can range from mild crusting of the nose all the way to the nasal tissue being eaten away. I’ve seen a few untreated cases of DLE where the dog literally had no nose. This was incredibly sad and very preventable.

There are a wide variety of treatments available for DLE. Some of these treatments are topical and some are systemic treatments. The severity of the disease dictates the drugs used.