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Crusty Dog Nose? How To Treat Hyperkeratosis

Discover effective treatments and essential care tips for a crusty dog nose or hyperkeratosis, ensuring your furry friend's comfort and health.

Hyperkeratosis in dogs is a condition that often leaves pet parents worried and confused. Imagine noticing your dog’s nose becoming unusually hard and crusty. It’s not just a cosmetic issue. This condition can indicate a deeper health concern known as hyperkeratosis. 

Paying close attention to changes in our dog’s health and behavior is crucial, and this includes changes to their nose. What causes this condition, and what are the treatment options if you notice it? 

What Is Hyperkeratosis in Dogs?

Hyperkeratosis is a condition in dogs with excessive keratin growth, the protein that forms the outer layer of skin, nails, and hair. In dogs with hyperkeratosis, keratin accumulates abnormally, leading to thickened, dry, and often crusty skin. 

This condition primarily affects the nose (nasal hyperkeratosis) and the paws (footpad hyperkeratosis).

Why Does My Dog Have a Crusty Nose?

Discovering that your dog has a crusty nose can be a worrying observation for any pet parent. This change in the texture and appearance of your dog’s nose is often linked to hyperkeratosis. The causes of hyperkeratosis, and consequently a crusty nose, are varied and can range from genetic predispositions to environmental factors.

In some breeds, a crusty nose is a hereditary trait passed down through generations. This genetic link is particularly strong in certain breeds, making them more susceptible to developing this condition as they age. 

Dogs like Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Irish and Bedlington Terriers, Dogues de Bordeaux, and Cocker Spaniels are more likely to develop this condition.

Apart from genetics, age itself plays a significant role. Older dogs tend to develop a crusty nose as part of the aging process, where the body’s natural ability to regulate skin and keratin production diminishes.

Another contributing factor could be the dog’s living environment. Dogs exposed to harsh weather conditions (extreme cold or scorching heat) might develop a crusty nose as a protective response. Additionally, underlying health issues, such as autoimmune diseases or infections, can manifest as hyperkeratosis, altering the texture of the nose.

Understanding the underlying cause of your dog’s crusty nose is crucial for effective treatment. A visit to the vet can provide a definitive diagnosis and guide you in addressing not just the symptom, the crusty nose, but also any underlying health concerns that might be contributing to your dog’s discomfort.

Autoimmune diseases, viral infections, and certain cancers can trigger hyperkeratosis. It’s also associated with canine distemper, a serious viral disease.

Symptoms To Look Out For

Hyperkeratosis manifests in a few noticeable ways, such as:

  • Nasal Hyperkeratosis: The nose becomes dry, hard, and crusty. In severe cases, cracks and bleeding may occur.
  • Footpad Hyperkeratosis: The footpads thicken and can appear cracked, leading to discomfort and difficulty walking.

The appearance of these symptoms should prompt a consultation with a veterinarian. They will be able to diagnose the condition accurately and recommend appropriate treatment. 

It’s important to note that while hyperkeratosis itself isn’t life-threatening, it can significantly affect your dog’s quality of life if left untreated. Early detection and management are key to ensuring your dog remains comfortable and happy.

Can Hyperkeratosis Be Painful for My Dog? 

Hyperkeratosis, while often seen as a cosmetic issue, can be a source of discomfort or even pain for dogs. As the condition progresses, the thickened, crusty skin on the nose or paws can become quite hard and inflexible. 

This rigidity can lead to cracking of the skin, which not only causes pain but also makes your dog susceptible to infections. The discomfort can be particularly evident in footpad hyperkeratosis, where the thickened pads may challenge your dog’s ability to walk or run comfortably.

It’s important to monitor your dog for signs of pain or discomfort. These can include frequent paw licking, limping, or reluctance to engage in activities they usually enjoy. 

If your dog is showing any signs of distress, it’s essential to seek veterinary advice. Early intervention can help manage the symptoms of hyperkeratosis, alleviating discomfort and improving your furry friend’s quality of life.

How Is Hyperkeratosis Diagnosed? 

Diagnosing hyperkeratosis in dogs typically begins with a thorough examination by a veterinarian. The vet will inspect the affected areas, such as the nose and footpads, for the characteristic signs of hyperkeratosis.

They will consider your dog’s breed, age, and medical history to rule out other conditions that might mimic the symptoms of hyperkeratosis. In some cases, additional tests, such as a biopsy of the affected skin, might be needed to confirm the diagnosis and to rule out other possible causes like infections or autoimmune diseases. 

By understanding the specific nature of your dog’s condition, the veterinarian can create an appropriate treatment plan tailored to your dog’s needs.

How Can You Treat Your Dog’s Crusty Nose?

The initial approach to treating hyperkeratosis involves managing the symptoms to improve your dog’s comfort. This usually includes softening and moisturizing the crusty skin on the nose. 

Specialized balms or ointments designed for dogs can be applied to the affected area. These products are formulated to penetrate the thick skin and provide much-needed moisture. Regularly applying these moisturizers can help soften the crusty skin, making it less prone to cracking and bleeding.

Can Dietary Changes Help?

While dietary changes alone won’t cure hyperkeratosis, they can support your dog’s overall skin health. Including omega-3 fatty acids in your dog’s diet, either through supplements or omega-rich foods, can improve skin hydration and elasticity. 

Can Sunscreen Protect My Dog’s Nose?

Dry heat can also contribute to hyperkeratosis in dogs, particularly on their noses. Fortunately, sunscreen can be a helpful tool in protecting your dog’s nose from the harsh effects of the sun and preventing or managing hyperkeratosis. Like humans, dogs can benefit from sunscreen specifically formulated for their sensitive skin.

A dog-friendly sunscreen with a high SPF can help shield their noses from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. Look for a product safe for dogs and consult your veterinarian for recommendations.

In addition to sunscreen, providing ample shade and keeping your dog well-hydrated is important during dry heat. Regularly moisturizing their nose with approved balms or ointments can also help with dryness and promote healing.

Remember, prevention and proper care are crucial when managing hyperkeratosis in dry heat. With the right precautions, including the use of sunscreen, you can help protect your dog’s nose and keep them comfortable and healthy during hot weather.

How Can I Prevent Infection?

Keeping the affected area clean is crucial in preventing infections, especially if the skin cracks. Gently cleansing the nose with a mild, dog-safe cleanser can help remove dirt and bacteria. Avoid harsh chemicals or alcohol-based products, as these can further dry out and irritate the skin.

Are There Any Long-Term Management Strategies?

For many dogs, hyperkeratosis is a chronic condition requiring ongoing care. Regular application of moisturizers, routine check-ups with your vet, and attentive observation for any signs of worsening are essential. 

In severe cases, your veterinarian might suggest more aggressive treatments, such as prescription medications or, in rare instances, surgical intervention to remove excessively thickened skin. Keeping a vigilant eye on your dog’s nose health and responding promptly to changes can help manage this condition effectively over the long term.

When Should I See a Vet? 

It’s advisable to consult a veterinarian when you first notice signs of hyperkeratosis, such as a crusty or abnormally thickened nose or paw pads. Early veterinary intervention is crucial, especially since hyperkeratosis can sometimes be a symptom of an underlying health issue. 

Additionally, it’s important to seek professional advice if there are any changes in your dog’s behavior, such as reluctance to walk due to paw discomfort or frequent paw licking. 

If the condition of the nose or paws worsens, showing signs of cracking, bleeding, or infection, immediate veterinary care is necessary. These symptoms can indicate complications that require more than just at-home care. 

A veterinarian can provide a comprehensive treatment plan, including specific products or medication recommendations, to ensure your dog’s comfort and health.

Wrapping Up

Understanding and managing hyperkeratosis in dogs ensures their comfort and well-being, whether due to harsh weather or genetics. Recognizing the signs of a crusty nose or thickened paw pads and knowing when to seek veterinary advice are key steps in caring for a dog with this condition. 

While specific products, including moisturizers, sunscreens, and dietary supplements, can aid in managing symptoms, it’s important to consult a veterinarian for a tailored treatment plan. Remember, hyperkeratosis is a manageable condition with the right care and attention, allowing your furry friend to lead a comfortable and happy life.

For more information about all things pet health and behavior, check out the ElleVet blog. We strive to offer resources and tools for all pet parents looking to support their pets’ health and wellness. 


Canine distemper | American Veterinary Medical Association

Control of canine idiopathic nasal hyperkeratosis with a natural skin restorative balm: a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled study | NIH

Omega-3 Fatty Acids & the Important Role They Play | Cleveland Clinic