Why Is My Dog's Nose Dry & Cracked?

Too much sniffing around in the winter air and the wetness of your pup's nose goes poof.
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Just as turtles have hard shells, dogs are supposed to have cold, wet noses -- that's just the way it is. But sometimes your pup's world turns upside down and he's left with one of those weird dry and cracked noses. Many things cause nose problems, but most are fixable.


As your pup dives into his food, eagerly swallows his kibbles and then licks the bowl clean, he may be exacerbating his nose problem due to allergies. Your little guy might be allergic to his food or even his own bowl, especially if it's plastic. He might also be allergic to other things, like pollen and grass. Allergic reactions usually manifest themselves as itchy skin, loose stool and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea. While your pup's hind end or paws are usually most affected, his poor nose can also become dry and cracked, especially along the edges and inside his nostrils.

But not to fear, special food and allergy tests are here. An allergy test will tell you if he's allergic to something in the environment, like pollen. You and your vet can decide how to reduce his exposure to those allergens and if any medications are needed. A switch to hypoallergenic food will keep the nasty food allergens away, like chicken protein and wheat.

Winter Nose

Winter doesn't come alone; it brings a dry air that turns your pup's nose from cool and wet to dry and possibly even cracked. A wintry dry nose is often accompanied by itchy, flaky skin, which looks a bit too similar to allergies, so a checkup with your vet is always a good idea to know what you're dealing with. If your pup's dry nose is caused by the winter weather, a pea-sized amount of petroleum jelly will do wonders. Make sure you rub it in really good, because your little guy will be throwing that big tongue up to his nose to try and lick everything off. If his nose doesn't improve in about two or three days, stop using the petroleum jelly and call your vet.


If your pup's immune system isn't a fan of his skin because it thinks it's an intruder, it's going to attack it. You then have skin that becomes cracked, peeling, reddened and infected. Lesions may also appear. An autoimmune disease usually will cause more severe symptoms than just a cracked nose -- his entire skin will be affected, and the nose will worsen as time goes on. Lupus is usually the culprit. Taking those awful autoimmune disorders out to the trash is something that usually calls for a boatload of medicine, especially to start out. But his nose will eventually get back to the wet, cold snout he's always been known for.


Nasty bacteria and fungi have long been awaiting a chance to make your pup miserable, and with any type of open wound, they've found the perfect opportunity. Dogs can't use their hands to feel, so they're forced to investigate canine matters with their noses. Sometimes they cut themselves or get bit by something. And then to make the whole situation worse, they lick their wound incessantly. The moist, open wound is basically an invitation to bacteria.

With an infection, the outside of your dog's nose and along his nostrils may be cracked, dry and smelly and you'll often see nasal discharge. Anytime your pup gets a minor cut, dab a tiny bit of triple antibiotic on the wound -- you can use a human ointment. If it worsens, or if the aforementioned symptoms start to rear their ugly heads, it's time for a vet visit for some oral dog antibiotics. Deep cuts warrant a trip to the vet right away, because a bit of triple antibiotic often isn't enough.


Skin cancer is also a possibility, but that's something that requires a biopsy. Cancer will usually cause a list of other symptoms, like blisters and tumors. Your vet will probably do a medical trial for other conditions before even hinting at the possibility of cancer, unless the symptoms are obvious. It's not that cancer is extremely rare, but something like a dry nose from winter or a cracked nose due to allergies is more common.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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