Why does my dog have a dry & crusty nose?

It’s a commonly held belief that a wet and shiny dog nose is a healthy dog nose. But what if your dog’s nose becomes dry and crusty – should you be concerned, and what can be done to treat it? 

Why are dog’s noses wet? 

Busy dogs get dirty noses, and dirty noses aren’t going to clean themselves. So, after exploring muddy fields or sticking their nose in anything that looks edible, dogs lick their noses to clean off anything that’s accumulated, which keeps them nice and moist.

Dogs’ noses secrete mucus which covers the nose in a thin layer and attracts scent particles, which stick more easily to a wet surface. This keeps the area moist, ensuring the nasal cavity is able to easily absorb scent particles. Frequent licking also allows dogs to get a big old mouthful of these scent-particle filled mucus, where olfactory glands on the roof of the mouth analyse the scent.

Finally, a wet nose acts to cool a dog down when they get hot. The moisture evaporates and provides a lovely cooling effect.

So, while it’s common for a dog’s nose to be wet, there can be various reasons why it might dry out, and it’s not always a cause for concern. 

Why do dogs get dry noses?

Dogs’ noses can get dry for a number of reasons, and it’s not necessarily the case that a dry nose means they’re poorly. Mild dryness is caused by all sorts of factors, including:

Weather – spending a lot of time out in the sun can cause redness or dryness.  Just as your skin might be affected by sun, wind or cold, so too might your dog’s nose!

Sleep – you might find your dog’s nose is driest when they wake up in the morning, after it’s not been licked for hours. If they’ve been asleep in front of a heat source, that can dry things out as well. 

Age – for some dogs, as they get older, their noses get drier. Older dogs are likely to sleep for longer too, resulting in a dry nose. 

Dehydration – if accompanied by symptoms like tacky gums or sunken eyes, a dry nose can be a sign of dehydration. If this is the cause, a nice bowl of water should return your pup’s nose to it’s usual wet and shiny self.

Breed – brachycephalic breeds (those with flat faces) can be predisposed to a dry nose as well. Pugs, Frenchies, bulldogs and the like have a nose that’s sunk into their face with a shorter, stubbier tongue. Because of this, their noses receive less moisture than in other breeds because they can’t lick their nose as frequently.

Allergies – just as in humans, allergies such as pollen and dust can cause a dry nose in dogs. 

So, does a dry nose mean a dog is sick?

This is a common myth, and it’s not necessarily true; dog’s noses can go back and forth between wet and dry. But while it’s the case that a dry nose might clear up quickly,  keep an eye out for other symptoms, such as: 

  • Excessive mucus
  • Fever symptoms
  • Lethargy
  • Coughing or sneezing
  • Change in appetite

If a dry or crusty nose is accompanied by any of these symptoms, get in touch with your vet as it may be something more serious.

How to treat a dog’s dry nose

If you’ve spoken to your veterinarian and more serious illnesses and allergies have been ruled out, it’s likely that your dog’s dry nose is down to one or a combination of the more harmless factors above. It’s worth trying to help alleviate a persistently dry and crusty nose, as this can be uncomfortable and impact their sense of smell. 

When is your dog’s nose dry?

By keeping track of when your pup starts getting a dry nose, you can start to work out what might be causing the problem: is it after a day of frolicking in the sun, or after a long nap in front of the fire? 

Rule out any allergens

The usual things humans are allergic to, like dust and pollen, can affect dogs. Plastic is also a common allergen, but one that’s relatively easy to remove: try replacing  plastic bowls and toys containing plastic, and see if your pup’s nose is still dry.

So, if there’s constant access to fresh water, serious conditions have been ruled out and you’re struggling to eliminate any potential allergens, an all-natural and pup-friendly dog nose balm would do the trick of keeping the nose nourished and locking in moisture. 

Can I put chapstick on my dog’s nose?

It’s best not to, as chapsticks can contain ingredients potentially harmful to dogs if ingested. For example, some chapsticks contain the sweetener xylitol, which can be toxic to dogs. Although unlikely to cause much harm if just a little bit is licked off, it’s not worth taking the risk. Instead, opt for a nose balm using all natural ingredients that won’t be harmful to your pup if ingested.

If you notice other symptoms in addition to a dry nose, do have a chat with your vet. If you notice that your pup’s paws are looking a bit dry and crusty too, take a look at our other blog on what causes dry and cracked dog paws, and what you can do to treat them.