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What Is Wrong With My Dog's Nose?

Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He has been working with dogs for more than 40 years.


Why Does My Dog's Nose Seem Burned and Cracked?

"My 3-year-old Shar-Pei has been having problems with her skin, and I really hope that you can help. I've been to two vets so far, but no luck.

Everything started one year ago when my dog's nose started developing cracks, redness, and burns. I initially thought that this was happening because of the sun (being summer). She had a pink nose and I thought that she was more sensitive to the sun. But when winter came, the problems didn't disappear.

Slowly, black spots started to appear on her head from the nose up. That winter, I went to the vet and he told me to try putting marigold cream on her nose, but it didn't help. After that, I tried aloe vera and noticed a very small improvement.

This year, in spring, I started putting dog sunscreen on her nose because it was getting worse if she was in the sun for a long time. This summer I went to another vet and he gave me Prednicortone for 3 weeks and he told me to put honey on her nose (I think that's helped because the cracks have gone, but still her nose doesn't look the same as before). He also told me that the hyperpigmentation is from the sun.

Unfortunately, her nose still has these issues. I tried to do research online to find a way to help my dog. That's how I've found you and your "Treat Your Dog's Yeast Infection at Home Without Going to the Vet" article. Please take a look at the pics attached. Does it look like a yeast infection? I really don't know what to do to help my dog with this thing. Please help me! Thanks for your time!" —Adrian

Discoid Lupus Erythematosus (DLE)

Great photos! You are fortunate to have such an excellent model. Based on your photos and lab tests, it looks like your dog has cutaneous lupus (discoid lupus erythematosus, or DLE). Lupus is an autoimmune disease and only one of the diseases that cause a crusty nose, but most of them do not cause the loss of the "cobblestone" pattern of the nose. DLE will do that.

A Biopsy Is the Next Step

The only way to be sure that this diagnosis is correct is by doing a biopsy (removing a wedge of tissue and sending it to the pathologist). She will need to be under general anesthesia for the biopsy.

This dog's diagnosis was confirmed by biopsy.

Treatment for DLE in Dogs

Treatment of DLE is fairly easy, and there are several different options depending on what your dog responds to.

Topical Corticosteroid Cream

A lot of dogs with this disease do well with just a topical corticosteroid cream. You will have to distract her for a few minutes so she does not just lick it off, but it is not painful or even as hard as giving a pill. You will have to do this for months before the nose looks normal again.

Oral Steroids or Immune Suppressants

Some dogs will need a pill, though. If she is not clearing up with the cream she will need to be on oral steroids or other immune suppressants like cyclosporine.

Keep Using Sunscreen

The reason she is doing better is that she has been on prednisone and you are using sunscreen. Even though this is an autoimmune disease, the sun aggravates it, and she will need to use sunscreen for the rest of her life. Keep her inside during mid-day when the sun is highest.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma and DLE

This is a very treatable disease, but it is not something that is going to go away. Your regular veterinarian will need to see her again if this flares up again after treatment, since some dogs develop squamous cell carcinoma in the nose after DLE.

If you do not already have a regular veterinarian, find a veterinary dermatologist at a specialty practice. If there is not a specialty practice in your area, call several practices and ask if they have a veterinarian who deals with dermatology.

Your dog has a lot of years ahead of her, so this is something you will need to keep an eye on.

Systemic Lupus

Some dogs with DLE—about 28%—can develop systemic lupus. (1) This is a very serious disease and needs more aggressive treatment. Hopefully this will never happen, though, so just take care of this and keep an eye on her.


(1) Chong BF, Song J, Olsen NJ. Determining risk factors for developing systemic lupus erythematosus in patients with discoid lupus erythematosus. Br J Dermatol. 2012 Jan;166(1):29-35.

This article is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from your veterinarian. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2022 Mark dos Anjos DVM