What Is Causing Your Dog's Crusty Nose and How You Can Relieve It?

What Is Causing Your Dog's Crusty Nose and How You Can Relieve It?

Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He works mostly with dogs and exotic animals.

The most important step in helping a dog with crusty sores on the nose is finding out what is wrong. If your dog has cancer, it will do no good getting him treatment for mange. If you get him treatment for an autoimmune disease, and he really has sunburn, the face is not going to get any better and may eventually look worse.

Many of the readers searching for this title are looking for an answer and want to know what they can do at home. The only thing you can do at home is to make him feel a little better until you find out for sure what is causing his problem.

To find that out, you need to take your dog to the veterinarian as soon as possible. Your vet might look at it, recognize a sunburn or a dry and cracked nose, and dispense some medications. If the vet cannot diagnose the crusty nose based on a physical exam and thorough history, he will probably scrape the skin and examine it under a microscope. If the answer is still unclear, the nose might need to be biopsied and a sample of the tissue would be sent to a laboratory.

What Can Cause Crusty Sores on the Face and Nose?

  • Infection (for example, demodectic mange, bacterial pyoderma, fungal, etc.)
  • Autoimmune disease (Cutaneous lupus, pemphigus types)
  • Trauma (secondary to scratching, burns, severe sunburns, and frostbite)
  • Nasal solar dermatitis
  • Drug reaction
  • Food allergy
  • Cancer (like lymphoma, squamous cell carcinoma)
  • Systemic disease (like calcinosis cutis, uremia secondary to kidney failure)

Do These Diseases Look Different?

A crusty nose can appear to be a simple problem, so without testing it is impossible to be sure.

A dog with a cracked nose may just have dry skin but she might also have the early stages of an autoimmune disease. Another dog with a pink or red nose that is prone to sunburn can develop pemphigus. A dog with a crusty lump on his nose may have a ringworm infection or the lump may be cancer. A Siberian Husky that appears after a big race might be diagnosed with frostbite but really be suffering from a food allergy.

If the bridge of the nose is also crusty and the dog has symptoms consistent with a demodex infection, the vet will still want to scrape the skin and look for mites. The only way to find out for sure which disease is affecting him is by an exam, response to therapy, and testing.

Will Your Dog Get Better?

That really depends on what is wrong.

  • Mange caused by demodex can be difficult to relieve but there are several new alternatives to try. Although this used to be a very serious problem and led to many dogs being put to sleep, most dogs now get better.
  • Autoimmune diseases can be treated with injections of steroids. (If you give steroids to a dog with demodectic mange, he will get worse.) Many dogs get better but some need to receive treatment for the rest of their lives.
  • If your dog´s nose has been traumatized and since become infected, there are several antibiotics that might help clear it up. (If you give antibiotics to a dog with an autoimmune disease, it will not help.) A dog with a mild trauma will get better and never need treatment again for this problem.
  • You can try putting your dog on an elimination diet if you and your vet suspect a food allergy and if you find the cause the sores will disappear. An elimination diet removes one protein source from the diet at a time, until you are able to find out what is causing your dog´s problem. It is not just “changing the food.”
  • Cancer can be treated traditionally or alternatively. It is important to know the cause and how aggressive the tumor is before choosing the best treatment. Some cases recover and the dog never has a relapse.

Dog Breeds Affected by Crusty Noses

  • Dogs with pink noses and pale skin are more prone to sunburn.
  • All sled dogs can develop frostbite when out working.
  • Boxers, Dobermans, and Shar Peis are more susceptible to demodectic mange. Some Pitbull lines are also very prone to develop this problem.
  • Collies and Shelties are more likely to develop pemphigus.
  • German Shepherds, Siberian Huskies, Collies, Australian Shepherds, and Brittanys are prone to cutaneous lupus.
  • Boxers are prone to some types of skin cancers.
  • Remember that although young dogs are more prone to infection and old dogs are more prone to autoimmune diseases and cancer, this is not true all of the time.
  • All dogs can be affected by something. If your dog has a sore nose and a crusty face have her seen as soon as possible, no matter what her age, her history, or her breeding.

What Can I Do at Home?

  • Wear latex gloves before treating your dog´s face. Some of the diseases are zoonotic (spread from animal to man) and might infect any scratches or other open wounds on your hands.
  • Gently wash the face with warm water.
  • Take some betadine from your first aid kit and dab it on the crusty facial lesions with a cotton ball. Do not scrub it since that might cause bleeding and might mess up the biopsy that will help diagnose the skin problem.
  • If you need to, dab the skin dry with a clean paper towel.
  • Coconut oil is a great moisturizer and natural antibiotic so it will moisten a dry nose and make your dog feel better until you can have him examined. After you have cleaned and dried the nose, apply a little oil with your fingertip. If the nose has open sores this might be painful for your dog and you might need to put him on systemic antibiotcs.
  • Do not try to treat the sores on his nose with topical antibiotics. He will just lick them off and they might cause him to have diarrhea.
  • Take the dog in to see his veterinarian as soon as possible.

If you cannot afford to take your dog in for an exam and diagnostic testing, some vets will treat the dog based on what it MIGHT be. Sometimes this will work, but at other times your dog will suffer and it will end up costing you more in repeated visits and additional medication. Try to do the best you can for your companion.

Get his crusty and sore nose diagnosed right away.

Questions & Answers

Question: We have a mixed border collie. He is about three-years-old. He has a very crusty nose, but I think his licking is causing it. Is there any way to stop a dog from licking his nose?

Answer: You can make sure the dog has plenty of exercise; since a lot of dogs from herding and hunting breeds develop OCD if they are confined in an apartment or suburb. (Shelties chasing their tail, ACDs licking their legs until they develop open wounds, etc.) If your dog is already active all day, gets plenty of exercise, and still has this problem, it is probably medical. Have the skin scraped and perhaps biopsied to find out what is wrong.

© 2014 Dr Mark

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on September 04, 2020:

It depends on the breed. In some dogs there is a condition called snow nose.

Did your vet recommend the nose be checked again after the medications? That is a better option than an antibiotic ointment. It may need to be biopsied to be sure it is not a condition like pemphigus.

LizDeBella on September 03, 2020:

My dog has a crusty nose at the top where his skin is lighter than the rest of his nose. I took him to the vet and he put him on Prednisone for a month it looked like it was getting better but its not I put antibiotic ointment on it but it only happens in the summer. What can I do for him.

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on June 02, 2018:

Peihau, which disease? There is a section above titled "Will my dog get better?"

Peihau on June 01, 2018:

Is this disease curable??

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on March 31, 2017:

Tia, if this were just hair loss I would not be in a hurry, but since you mentioned breathing problems you should have your dog checked by your local vet as soon as possible. An autoimmune disease like systemic lupus is a much more likely culprit.

Tia mccandless on March 31, 2017:

I changed my dogs foodand water bowl to metal so its not a allergic reaction. And it sounds like for her hair loss that she has hydrothyroidism what can i do for my dog with both these problems also she is having these breathing problems when she breathes her whole body seema like it is tensing up what do i do?

Barbara Fitzgerald from Georgia on March 19, 2014:

Seems my reply went away - I private messaged you to send you a picture. She did have a yellow crust on her nose. They biopsied her nose and lips and sent it to UGA. They said it was an extreme allergy; we guessed the water bowl, and after the treatment and no more plastic her nose has returned to normal. Maybe border collies are special lol.

Barbara Fitzgerald from Georgia on March 19, 2014:

She had a yellow crust on the top of her nose near where the hair meets it. They took biopsies from the nose and lips and sent them to UGA for testing. They said it was an extreme allergic reaction. I have a crummy photo I took with my cell phone. I'll try to send it to you.

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on March 19, 2014:

Plastic bowl allergy does not cause any sores or crusts (at least according to my experience), just pigment loss to the nose, which is why I did not include it on the list. Did she have any sores or was it just color change? Let me know, please.

Glad switching the bowl worked out for you. That is usually enough, so I wonder if the steroids were given for something else?

Some of these dogs are just a mystery, as you well know!!

Barbara Fitzgerald from Georgia on March 19, 2014:

My girl Ruby had a crusty nose that lost pigment. We did all the diagnostics and they came back that she had an allergy (to the plastic water bowl). Switching to a stainless steel bowl, antibiotics and steroids fixed her nose. Kelp helped bring the pigment back.

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on March 17, 2014:

Thanks again for reading, Diana. I appreciate your support!

Diana L Pierce from Potter County, Pa. on March 17, 2014:

This is another very informative hub. Voted up and interesting.

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on March 17, 2014:

I´ve felt kind of bad since I did not have any pictures. "I know you are upset about your dog´s cancer, but can you stop crying and let me take his picture?"

I guess I need to be more hard-hearted. All I have is a bunch of booger shots.

Bob Bamberg on March 17, 2014:

A new and interesting topic, to me, anyway. Who knew there could be so many conditions to compromise the nose leather! Well presented, as expected...voted up, useful and interesting. BTW, you forgot one condition...boogers. The treatment is a wet paper towel. Don't thank me, I'm glad to help :)

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on March 16, 2014:

mylifetips ---fresh air and food without salt do not cure diseases like mange, pemphigus, or lupus. Thanks for the suggestion.

Ireedui Gantogtokh from Mongolia on March 16, 2014:

Maybe your dog need a fresh air and do not feed food with a salt. That`s all if it`s not affect go to animal hospital

Dog Noses – facts and myths – Pet tip 115

Whether it’s big, round, and the palest pink or small, pointy and glossy black – you can’t miss it, it’s right there in the middle of your dog’s face: its nose. You’ve probably heard all sorts of stories about the nose, from the amazing feats of scent detection it can perform, to its use as an indicator of general dog health. Here are a few common questions and myths.

Does a dry nose mean a dog is sick?
This is a common misconception. An active, sniffing dog will often have a cool, wet nose, but a dry nose does not necessarily mean the dog is unwell. A feverish, lethargic dog might have a hot, dry, nose, but so might a perfectly healthy dog. A sick dog will usually have other symptoms. For example, a dog with a respiratory illness might have a very wet nose, but it might be runnier than usual, with thick or crusty discharge.

Why do dogs have wet noses?
The moisture on dogs’ noses has two good uses: to help keep the dog cool, and to help the dog smell. Although dogs only sweat through the pads of their feet, they can also shed heat through evaporation from their mouth (panting) and from their nose. The thin, clear moisture produced by a dog’s nose is actually mucus, rather than sweat. The mucus also provides a good surface for dissolving chemicals from the air and absorbing them into the skin, where the cells that detect smell are located. Often, a dog that is actively sniffing and alert will have a wetter nose than one who is relaxed or asleep. Additionally, dogs will lick their nose to sample the chemicals that are stuck there and present them to another olfactory sense organ on the roof of their mouth. Together with the extensive, sensitive folds of tissue within the dog’s long nose (called with nasal turbinae) and an enlarged olfaction area in the brain, these adaptations give dogs the excellent sense of smell for which they are renowned.

Does sneezing mean a dog is sick?
Many breeds sneeze when happy or excited, and this is perfectly normal. Whining can also trigger a sneezing fit, as it seems to tickle the nose. In general, sneezing is a good way to get just about any irritant out of the nose. Dogs will sneeze when they smell something dusty or unpleasant. Excess mucus from a respiratory or sinus infection will causes sneezing, usually with obvious thick or crusty discharge. A dog that sneezes constantly without apparent cause should be taken to the vet in case he has something stuck in his nose – those big nostrils can hide any number of small items, including warts and tumours. Never try to remove something from your dog’s nose without a vet’s help – the skin in the nose is very sensitive and tends to bleed heavily if nicked.

Do dogs get colds?
Dogs do get upper respiratory infections, coughs, sinus infections, runny noses, and all the things we associate with “colds” in people. However, while the common cold in a human doesn’t usually warrant treatment (other than rest and chicken noodle soup), most respiratory infections in dogs are more severe. Distemper is a serious illness in dogs that can cause a runny nose and neurological symptoms, but vaccination prevents infection in most dogs. Kennel cough is a milder and more common disease in dogs in group situations – social or travelling dogs are often vaccinated for this as well. Other respiratory illnesses, such as fungal infections picked up by hunting dogs in the woods, are hard to prevent and can become very serious if left untreated. Any dog with unusual discharge from the nose (anything that is not thin and clear), or with a persistent cough or sneeze, should take a trip to the vet.

Do dogs get sunburn?
Just like people, dogs tend overdo it on the first good day in the spring or summer, and spend a bit more time under the sun than is wise. Any time a dog spends more time in the sun than he’s used to, especially dogs with pink or light-coloured noses, he’s liable to get a sunburn. Some dogs with short or pale hair can get it everywhere! Repeated exposure over the years can also result in skin cancer. Make sure your dog has access to shade if he’s outside all day, and consider keeping him inside in the middle of the day at the beginning of the sunburn season. Sunscreen works just as well for dogs as it does for people, but most dogs will lick it off their noses. The same goes for post-exposure ointments or lotions. If your dog has a very bad burn that blisters or bleeds, you should call your vet for advice.

What makes a dog’s nose change colour?
A variety of things can cause colour change in your dog’s nose. Obviously, the sunburn mentioned above can cause redness in a normally light-coloured nose. Dogs with pale or sensitive noses will often have some minor colour change with the change in the seasons – just as with people who tan. Another common cause of colour change occurs in dogs that eat out of plastic dishes. This is called contact sensitivity, and can be avoided by using glass, ceramic, or stainless steel food and water bowls. These materials are also less likely to harbour bacteria.

What Natural Remedy Can I Give My Dog For Anxiety?

Veterinarians can prescribe medication for anxious dogs, but many pet owners prefer to start with a natural treatment for dog anxiety. Studies have found Omega 3 supplements can help relieve anxiety in dogs without the unpleasant side-effects of pharmaceutical treatments. Other pet owners find a useful way to calm dogs suffering from separation anxiety. Other pet owners find CBD oil a useful way to calm dogs suffering from separation anxiety. Many people give anxious dogs essentials oils, which are especially soothing to animals with such a finely honed sense of smell. We love Dog Whisperer® Essential Oil, which calms anxiety in dogs and also helps our anxious pets sleep better at night.

Photo: The Animal Rescue Site

Crusty Dog Nose

Any dog can get a bit of a crusty nose at times. Sometimes it's caused by something as simple as digging and nosing the ground or rubbing against a kennel fence. However, a crusty nose that never seems to heal could be a sign of a more serious underlying condition. Get info on various diseases and disorders that can affect the skin on a dog's nose.

Symptoms of respiratory congestion

According to VetInfo:

"Dogs suffering respiratory congestion will have trouble breathing, especially when they try to inhale. Breathing may be labored, rapid and shallow."

  • Fever, if the congestion is caused by an infection (normal body temperature should be around 101 to 102 degrees F)
  • Congestion caused by allergies, irritants or underlying problems like congestive heart failure should keep temperature around normal
  • A deep, wracking cough that gets worse at night, and sneezing
  • A wet sounding cough may indicate pneumonia
  • Lethargy and loss of appetite

A complete physical exam will be performed and perhaps some blood tests. If your vet suspects pneumonia or congestive heart failure, they may also want to do a chest x-ray.

Watch the video: Can saline irrigation help nasal allergies?