Why Is My Dog’s Nose Dry and Cracked

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Does your dog have a dry, cracked nose? Learn if this is normal, the remedies, and when it’s serious enough to see a vet.

close up of a brown dog's nose and muzzle

Before we talk about why your pooch’s nose is dry, let’s chat about why they are normally wet. 

A healthy pup usually has a wet nose which helps them with scents. This is because those particles stick better on a moist surface, versus a dry one.

Canines have special cells known as olfactory receptors in their noses that are responsible for producing mucus. They can have over 200 million more than humans do, which makes them extremely sensitive to scents.

So when a dog licks their own nose, they aren’t just cleaning them. They are adding moisture back…for you guessed it! To be able to smell better.

Smells can be processed through taste as well by the Jacobsen organ

You know how humans sweat? A dog’s wet nose also helps to keep them cool.

 Why Is Your Dog’s Nose Dry?

It is normal and harmless for your dog’s nose to be dry. This simply implies that there is less moisture than usual. Your dog’s nose may feel warmer than expected due to a lack of moisture. You only need to be concerned about his nose being dry if he has other symptoms such as; cracks on his nose, lesions, change in the texture of his nose, and abnormal behavior or other signs of illness.

Reasons Your Pooch’s Nose is Dry and Cracking


Wind and Sun can both dry out a dog’s nose, just like it dries our skin and lips. Extreme cold and heat can have similar effects on them. Also, if they lay near a vent in the wintertime, they can end up with a dry nose.  While it’s usually short-term and not a big deal,  an overlong exposure to extreme temperatures or wind can have harmful effects.


Dogs don’t lick their noses when they are asleep. This can result in a dry snout. It is just the same as when our mouths get dehydrated if we sleep with our mouths open.

Lots of Activity

Your dog’s nose may become dry if he is really excited about something or if he has been exercising (which could also lead to mild dehydration). This is a combination of not having anything to drink, no licking, and drying from the air. 


Fair-toned dogs are more vulnerable to sunburn, and yes this is a thing for canines! Your puppy’s snout and surrounding area will peel or turn red if this is the case.

close up of a dog's nose that is dry and cracked from sunburn

Medical Reasons That May Explain Your Dog’s Dry, Cracked Nose

Even though a pup’s dry nose is probably due to normal factors, there are more severe health problems that can result in a dry nose. Most of these issues can be identified with the help of your vet and through the presence of other symptoms.


Breeds such as the pug or bulldog (also considered a brachycephalic breed) may be unable to lick as often as others, so they could be prone to a drier nose in general. 


Dehydration occurs when dogs lack water in their bodies. It can occur independently or as a complication of another health problem. If they are slightly dehydrated you may notice is skin is not as elastic as usual. 

On a normal day, if you gently pinched your dog the skin pretty much falls back immediately. If they are suffering from dehydration, you will notice that it’s almost going back in slow motion, or stay tented.

More serious symptoms of dehydration include eyes that are sunken in, tacky gums, and general body weakness and fatigue.


Fevers can result from various illnesses and infections, just like in humans. Dogs with fever will show other signs of disease. In a canine, a fever is considered over 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit.

white dog that has eye discharge

Dry Eye or Blocked Tear Ducts

If your pooch has keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS or dry eye) or has blocked tear ducts, the moisture is blocked. Their tear ducts drain through their nasal passages, keeping their noses wet on an average day. You may also notice eye discharge that runs down and they rub them frequently. 


If the dry nose problem is allergy-related, most likely you will notice other spots on their bodies and that they are scratching more often. Occasionally dogs may sneeze or have watery eyes.

Canine Distemper

Canine Distemper is a highly contagious and often deadly viral disease. Symptoms vary, but affected dogs get incredibly sick. Keeping puppies or dogs up to date on their distemper vaccination can help prevent Canine Distemper.

Hereditary Nasal Parakeratosis

Hereditary nasal parakeratosis is a genetic condition that causes cracks and crusting on a dog’s nose. This condition primarily affects Labrador retrievers and occurs when they are between 6 months and 2 years old. Breeders can genetically test the pups to avoid this condition.

Idiopathic Nasodigital Hyperkeratosis

This condition is the overgrowth of keratin on a dog’s nose. It mainly occurs in brachycephalic breeds and older dogs, but cocker spaniels may also be more likely to have it. Their nose will look rough and maybe even pointy in some places. This disease doesn’t really cause more issues other than possible discomfort. Dogs with this condition may also have more keratin on their paw pads.

Autoimmune Disorders

Pemphigus and discoid lupus erythematosus are the most common autoimmune diseases that can cause a dry nose. A dog that presents with discoid lupus erythematosus will have sores around his nose and color changes. You may also realize that their nose is really smooth, and/or have a tendency to bleed. One with pemphigus will often have places all over its body.


Biting sand flies that are infected with a parasite can transmit this disease. There is also the cutaneous form that can cause hardening, thickening, or overgrowth of keratin on their paw pads and noses. Other signs may include brittle coats, color changes, and general illness symptoms including nose bleeds.

Tips for Preventing Dry and Cracking Canine Noses

  • Keep them hydrated with clean fresh water daily. 
  • If your dog has a light coat, apply sunscreen that is safe for them to protect from the UV rays. 
  • For more hydration, apply a nose balm. 
doodle dog next to an open coconut and a bottle of oil

How to Treat Crusty and Scabby Dog Noses 

If your dog’s snout is dry and cracked from a systemic condition, your vet can trim the keratin and dispense prescription medications or creams to help them heal. 

You can also wet a washcloth with warm water and add a little petroleum jelly to help boost a dry nose back to normal if there’s nothing serious going on.

Canine nose balms are great to help the healing process and are usually made with natural ingredients. 

When To Visit the Vet

If you notice other signs and symptoms that your dog may actually be sick, you will want to check with the vet. It’s always better to get a professional opinion so you can treat whatever the condition may be before it gets bad. 

As mentioned, if a dry nose is caused by other health problems, you’ll want to skip the DIY options and go ahead and schedule an appointment.

Common FAQs 

Can I put Vaseline on my dog’s nose?

Sure can. That’s what petroleum jelly is and it’s totally safe for dogs. 

Is olive oil good for a dog’s dry nose?

Yes! You can apply a teaspoon of olive oil, almond oil, or coconut oil to your dog’s nose to help with dryness and cracking.

Final Thoughts

Chances are your pup’s dry and cracked nose is normal and can be treated at home by using the methods we mentioned. However, your veterinarian will always be able to provide the best advice, as they have your dog’s medical records. 

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