Pet Care Blog

Why Is My Dog's Nose Dry and Cracked? (Explained by Vet)

Ricky Walther, DVM
Dr. Ricky Walther
Golden Retriever has dry nose

A dry nose doesn’t necessarily mean a bad thing - a dog's nose naturally changes from wet to dry several times a day. However, it can sometimes indicate a serious underlying health condition. So, when should you be concerned?

Read on to find out more about what your dog’s dry nose means, what you can do to help them, when is the right time to see a vet, and more.

Table of Contents:

Pro Tip: Like any other member of your family, your doggy is subject to illness. Fortunately, there’s a number of different pet insurance plans that can help protect you from the financial cost of a pet emergency and make sure that your furry baby gets the best care possible.

Why do dogs have wet noses?

There are two reasons dogs have naturally wet noses:

  1. The thin layer of mucus on a dog's nose helps them smell better by absorbing and holding scents. This is actually one of the reasons why many pups keep their noses wet by licking them.
  2. The nose also helps dogs regulate their body temperature. Unlike humans, pups don't have sweat glands and instead "sweat" through their paws and noses.

"Why is my dog’s nose dry?" - Reasons For Dry Nose in Healthy Dogs

As we mentioned earlier, a dry nose is not always a cause for concern. Here are several reasons why a healthy pup could have a dry nose:

After a nap

When dogs sleep, they aren’t licking their noses, so the surface can easily dry out. Your dog’s nose should go back to normal after about ten minutes but if it doesn’t, you can offer them some water to rehydrate them after the nap.

Dehydration after exercise

Your dog’s nose can also become dry after hard exercise due to not drinking water and not licking their nose. They can also get a dry nose when they are too excited about something.


The older your dog gets, the drier their nose will become. Older pups produce less mucus, which makes their nasal passages dry.

Change in weather

Exposure to wind and sun can result in a dry nose, as can extreme cold and heat. This should be temporary unless your canine companion has been exposed to the elements for a prolonged period of time.

Certain breeds

Brachycephalic breeds such as Pugs and Bulldogs that have shorter snouts also find it difficult to lick their noses. Other breeds such as Spaniels and Lhasa Apsos suffer from blocked tear ducts, which leaves their noses somewhat dry.

Dry dog nose

"Why is my dog’s nose dry?" - Possible Health Issues

A dry nose doesn’t always indicate something serious, but in some cases, it can be a sign of an illness. The different conditions that could cause a dog’s dry nose include:


Allergies in dogs can be caused by fleas, food, or the environment. A dog with allergies will likely experience itchiness and hives. They might also have watery eyes and sneeze frequently.

Autoimmune diseases

Autoimmune disorders that can result in a dry nose include pemphigus and DLE (discoid lupus erythematosus). Pets with pemphigus usually have lesions all over the body, whereas those with DLE typically have sores around the nose and changes in pigmentation. Their noses will also become completely smooth and might also bleed.


Canine distemper is a contagious and often fatal disease. Common symptoms include pus-like discharge from the eyes, fever, coughing, lethargy, lack of appetite, and vomiting. The good news is that this disease can be easily prevented by keeping your pet up to date on their distemper vaccination.

Blocked tear ducts or dry eye

The nasolacrimal system in dogs consists of narrow tubes that allow tears to drain from the eyes to the nose and mouth. If your pet has dry eyes (keratoconjunctivitis sicca or KCS), they might have thick discharge from the eyes, squint, and/or rub at their eyes frequently. If their tear ducts are blocked, the dog will have excessive watering of the eyes and tears will stain their face.


A fever can be caused by a number of diseases or infections. Dogs with fever are often lethargic and show other signs of illness, such as shivering, runny nose, panting, loss of appetite, etc.


Hyperkeratosis is a skin condition in which excess keratin is produced, especially in the nose and paw pads, causing the skin to thicken and harden, sometimes to the point of cracking. The condition can also cause a brittle hair coat and changes in pigmentation. Dogs with hyperkeratosis usually show symptoms of vomiting, lethargy, diarrhea, anorexia, soreness, and nose bleeds.

Hereditary nasal parakeratosis (HNPK)

HNPK is a genetic mutation that affects specialized cells of the nose, resulting in the formation of a crust with cracks over the nasal area. It typically affects Labrador Retrievers and occurs between six months and two years of age.

Severe dehydration

Dry nose, along with excessive panting, lethargy, lack of skin elasticity, and vomiting, can be a sign of severe dehydration. Be sure to keep your dog well hydrated and get in touch with your vet if you notice these symptoms.


If your pet’s nose is dry, warm, and red, they may be suffering from sunburn. Be sure to get them inside immediately. Severe cases should get immediate medical attention.

Pro Tip: Pet insurance can help provide your dog with the veterinary care they need if any illness or injuries occur.

Dog licking its dry nose

Dog dry nose treatment and prevention

In most cases, a dry nose resolves on its own. However, if your pup’s nose is chronically dry, you can help keep it moist.

Keep your pet hydrated. Check on their bowl several times throughout the day to make sure they always have enough fresh water to drink.

Use dog-safe nose balm to provide extra hydration. These products are available online, through your vet, or pet supply stores. You can also apply coconut oil. This oil is perfectly safe for dogs; in fact, some veterinarians recommend including it in your dog’s diet due to its anti-inflammatory benefits.

If your pet is having intermittent dry nose, you can use human OTC remedies for dry skin. Be sure to rub it in well, so that your dog can’t lick it off or ingest it. Also, be careful not to use products that contain titanium oxide or zinc. Zinc is toxic to dogs and can cause organ failure.

If your pup is light-colored, you can apply a dog sunscreen to their nose to protect them from sunburn.

If your dog suffers from allergies, try to remove any allergens from their living environment. More serious cases of allergies might require vet-prescribed medications.

For pets with hyperkeratosis, your vet can trim off the excess keratin and prescribe an antibiotic or steroid cream if your dog's nose is cracked.

When should you see the vet?

If your dog shows other symptoms besides a dry nose, be sure to take them to the vet as soon as possible. Such symptoms include excessive mucus coming from your pet’s nose, fever, discolored gums, excessive nose licking, excessive sneezing or coughing, and excessive scratching or rubbing on the face. Treatment will vary depending on which underlying disease is present.

Key Takeaways

  • If your dog’s nose is dry, don’t be immediately alarmed; in many cases, a dry nose is nothing serious to worry about.
  • However, symptoms like a flaky or cracked nose can indicate an underlying health condition or autoimmune disease. Allergies can also cause a dry nose.
  • Balms and oils are the best at-home remedy for a dry nose.
  • If your pup shows other symptoms besides a dry nose, take them to the vet as soon as possible.

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Ricky Walther, DVM

Dr. Ricky Walther

Ricky Walther, DVM, is a small animal general practitioner in the greater Sacramento, California area. Realizing the positive financial and medical impact that pet insurance can provide for pet parents and the profession, he lends support and advice to companies like Pawlicy Advisor "The Pet Insurance Marketplace") that simplify the process of connecting with veterinary financing resources.

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