9 Causes of Crusty Dog Nose & When to Call the Vet

Diving into the wild world of crusty dog noses can help you spot any sneaky health hiccups your furry friend might be hiding.

Updated October 24, 2023
Young girl holding head of a Beautiful Border Collie dog

Every dog owner knows the joy of wet-nosed nudges from their furry family member. But what happens when that usually moist snout starts to feel rough or crusty? While some dogs might get a crusty nose from playful digging or rubbing against rough surfaces, persistent crustiness could be a warning that something more serious is brewing. 

Environmental Factors

A bulldog with a crusty nose resting in the sun

A dog's nose can become dry and crusty if they're exposed to too much warm, dry air. Dogs that love snoozing in front of your space heater or home heater vents may be at risk of a drier nose. Dogs can also develop a dry nose from licking themselves while they're sleeping. This dryness usually goes away soon after they wake up.

For dogs that develop dry noses from the air in their home environment, just keep their noses moist with some balm.

What it looks like: Your dog's nose may appear dry and somewhat scaly. Unless it's extremely irritated, it shouldn't be swollen. 

Solution: In this situation, dogs can benefit from a balm or salve. Ask your veterinarian about natural, pet-safe products. Your pup will probably lick the product from their nose, so it's important it's specifically designed for dogs. 

Need to Know

Crusty noses from warm, dry air is more common in the winter when we're running the furnace or fireplace to keep the house warm.

Allergies and Skin Reactions

Some dogs have a reaction to certain substances, like plastics in their bowls or their toys, and rubbing their noses against them each day can lead to dry and cracking skin. If you have a dog with this sensitivity, make sure you use other types of bowls made from stainless steel or ceramic, and avoid toys with plastic and latex. Dust can also be a concern.

If your dog's crusty nose is being caused by an allergic reaction, reach out to your veterinarian to see what needs to be done to avoid it. It's helpful if you know what the allergen is, but if you don't, the veterinarian should help you find it. While awaiting your appointment, observe your dog closely to see what triggers make it worse. 

What it looks like: Your dog's nose might appear redder than usual, and there may be visible swelling. The surface of the nose might become rough or thickened, leading to crust if they scratch it continuously. Sometimes, sores, bumps, or blisters might develop on or around their nose.

Solution: Remove the suspected trigger to avoid allergic reactions. If that doesn't work or you aren't sure what it is, ask your veterinarian. 


Just like we can get a sunburn after a day at the beach, prolonged sun exposure can make your pup's nose dry and crusty. Dogs with pale-colored or pink noses and white or light-colored coats are at higher risk than others. If you take your dog out regularly in the sun and notice their nose is dry, cracking, and irritated, they could have sunburn.

What it looks like: Much like sunburn in humans, a sunburnt dog's nose will often turn redder than its usual color. After the initial redness, the skin on the nose might become dry and peel or flake off.

Solution: To prevent and soothe sunburn in dogs, ensure they have plenty of shade during peak sun hours and apply a pet-safe sunscreen to their sensitive areas like their nose and ears.

Dry brachycephalic dog nose

Underlying Illness or Infection

When the above has been ruled out, your veterinarian will probably work with you to identify whether a deeper issue is going on. 


Some dogs can develop a fungal infection on their nose, like ringworm, if their nose comes close to anything carrying the fungus. Aspergillosis is a type of fungal infection that affects a dog's sinuses and nasal cavities. If your dog has this type of fungi, symptoms can include bleeding from the nose, nasal swelling and discharge.

What it looks like: Fungal infections often cause the skin to become rough, leading to crusty, flaky, or scaly patches on the nose. The affected area of the nose might become swollen and you may notice unusual discharge or oozing from the affected area.

Solution: Fungal infections are most commonly treated with anti-fungal drugs. Talk to your veterinarian if you're concerned about a fungal infection

Quick Tip

Aside from causing a crusty nose, fungal infections may lead to other symptoms such as nasal discharge, sneezing, pain or swelling around the nose.

Discoid Lupus Erythematosus

Discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE) is an inflammatory skin disease that causes pigment loss and ulcerated sores on the bridge of a dog's nose, as well as their lips, ears, and eyes. Your dog's genitals are sometimes also affected. They have not identified yet the exact cause of the disease, but researchers believe it’s a less serious, non-systemic type of lupus. Increased exposure to UV light may also trigger the condition.

What it looks like: One of the initial signs is often color change. The nose, which might normally be black or brown, can turn pink or even white in areas. The affected areas often then develop crusty, scaly, or ulcerated lesions. Over time, if the condition progresses without treatment, the skin on their nose may scar.

Solution: Your veterinarian may suggest corticosteroids and immunosuppressive drugs to treat the condition. When UV light may have played a significant role, it's a good idea to keep your dog in the shade and put on a veterinarian-approved sunscreen to shield their nose.

Need to Know

Dogs with DLE may be more susceptible to developing squamous cell carcinoma, a type of oral cancer

Distemper and Hard Pad Disease

Distemper is a highly contagious viral disease that mainly affects puppies and dogs that aren’t up to date on their vaccinations. Dogs that contract this disease and survive it often have some lasting effects, like hard pad disease. Hard pad doesn’t just affect the pads of a dog’s paws, it can also affect a dog’s nose. It causes the tissue to become thick, hard and prone to crusting. If your dog has had distemper, you may want to consider this condition.

What it looks like: The skin on your dog's nose can become notably thickened, almost resembling the texture of a paw pad. The normal texture of the nose might be replaced by a hard, rough texture.

Solution: There is no cure for distemper and its resulting hard pad disease, so it's extremely important to make sure all puppies receive their initial vaccinations and boosters throughout their lives as recommended by your veterinarian. Although there’s no cure, we can reduce discomfort by gently washing the affected area and applying an antibiotic salve to provide moisture and help avoid infections.

Zinc-Responsive Dermatosis

Zinc-responsive dermatosis happens when a dog’s intestines aren’t able to process zinc efficiently. Among other processes, we need zinc to maintain healthy skin and promote healing. A zinc deficiency can cause your dog to develop thick crusty lesions and scaling around the eyes and mouth, but the nasal plane and foot pads can also be affected.

What it looks like: Crusted and scaling lesions are some of the major signs of Zinc-Responsive Dermatosis. These often look like rough, dry patches that resemble scabs or scales. The lesions and cracks can get infected, leading to pus, increased redness, and pain.

Solution: It's difficult to measure zinc serum levels, so your veterinarian will be looking at the physical symptoms. The treatment for zinc-responsive dermatosis could involve changing your dog's diet. Your veterinarian may also decide to supplement an affected dog's zinc intake intravenously.

Shot of an adorable dog wearing a collar while out for a walk at the park

Pemphigus Foliaceous

Pemphigus foliaceous is an autoimmune disease of the skin that causes pustules and crusty skin lesions. The condition usually appears on the bridge of the nose first, where skin lesions lead to crusting and scaling. They usually diagnose this condition by taking a skin biopsy.

What it looks like: Your dog’s nose will develop small, fluid-filled bubbles on their nose at the beginning of this condition. The crust that forms on the nose following this stage might appear yellowish to brown and can sometimes cover sizeable areas of the nose.

Solution: Your veterinarian may choose to treat this autoimmune condition with a combination of immunosuppressive drugs and special shampoo to help remove the crusting. An affected dog will need to be monitored and receive treatment for the rest of their life, but the medication could help keep infections under control. 

Dog nose close-up

Idiopathic Nasodigital Hyperkeratosis

Nasodigital hyperkeratosis could also cause a crusty nose. Veterinarians have not found yet the root of this condition, but it leads to an overproduction of keratin on the top of the nose, and it can also affect the foot pads, much like the lasting effects of distemper.

What it looks like: Your dog's nose might look layered if they have this condition. The layers may look like they will flake off and parts of the nose might appear darker or discolored due to the thickened keratin.

Solution: A veterinarian will only diagnose idiopathic nasodigital hyperkeratosis once they rule out conditions that produce similar symptoms. There is no cure for this condition, but washing the affected nose tissue to remove some excess crust, then applying a moisturizing ointment like bag balm can provide some relief.

Home Remedies for Dry and Crusty Dog Noses

If your veterinarian determines your dog's dry, crusty nose isn't caused by an underlying illnes, there are a few home remedies you can try. Make sure to run these by your veterinarian first.

Coconut Oil

A natural moisturizer, it can be gently applied to your dog's nose to keep it soft. Always ensure you're using virgin coconut oil, as it's free from harmful additives.

Shea Butter

Pure shea butter can be dabbed on the nose. It's a great natural moisturizer and safe for dogs even if they lick it.

Vitamin E Oil

This can be applied to your dog's nose to help heal and moisturize it. It's also great for skin health in general.

Quick Tip

You may find more success with the products containing these ingredients. The formulated products are made to stay on a dog's nose longer and won't be licked off or drip off as quickly as the ingredients in their natural form. Just make sure to use one specifically made for dogs.

What to Avoid

You should never apply any lotions designed for people to your dog's skin without the recommendation of a veterinarian. These lotions often contain toxic ingredients like zinc oxide, diclofenac, calcipotriene, hydrocortisone, or lidocaine. Contrary to popular belief, you should also avoid Vaseline. Vaseline can make your dog very ill if they lick too much of it off of their nose.

Is My Dog's Dry Nose Serious?

It's always a safe bet to take your dog to the veterinarian when you notice anything out of the ordinary — whether it's physical or behavioral. If you're not sure about whether to bring your dog in for a dry and crusty nose, take note of any differences that could be causing it. For example, if you notice your dog's nose becomes dry and crusty during weather changes, it's likely it's a reaction to the environment.

You should definitely contact a veterinarian if you observe any of the following scenarios:

No Change

If you apply a nose balm to your dog's nose a few times a day and you see no improvement after a few days.

Other Signs

If you see other symptoms of concern along with a dry nose, such as lack of appetite, diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy or anything else unusual.

Color or Sores

If the nose becomes so dry and crusty it cracks, it changes color, or develops sores and scabs.


If you see bleeding or any discharge that is not clear and moist coming from the nose.

Only Your Veterinarian Can Make a Diagnosis

The information here can help you discusss posibilities with your veterinarian, but it can't replace a professional veterinary diagnosis. If your dog's nose looks unusual and appears hardened or crusty, contact your veterinarian for an appointment right away. Your veterinarian will do their best to reach an accurate diagnosis and recommend treatment, including how to care for the skin itself to keep your dog more comfortable and prevent a secondary infection.

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9 Causes of Crusty Dog Nose & When to Call the Vet