What Is Causing Your Dog's Crusty Nose and How You Can Relieve It?

Updated on July 24, 2019
DrMark1961 profile image

Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He works mostly with dogs and exotic animals.

Lupus is an autoimmune disease of dogs that can sometimes attack the face.
Lupus is an autoimmune disease of dogs that can sometimes attack the face. | Source

The most important step in helping a dog with crusty sores on the nose is finding out what is wrong. If your dog has cancer, it will do no good getting him treatment for mange. If you get him treatment for an autoimmune disease, and he really has sunburn, the face is not going to get any better and may eventually look worse.

Many of the readers searching for this title are looking for an answer and want to know what they can do at home. The only thing you can do at home is to make him feel a little better until you find out for sure what is causing his problem.

To find that out, you need to take your dog to the veterinarian as soon as possible. Your vet might look at it, recognize a sunburn or a dry and cracked nose, and dispense some medications. If the vet cannot diagnose the crusty nose based on a physical exam and thorough history, he will probably scrape the skin and examine it under a microscope. If the answer is still unclear, the nose might need to be biopsied and a sample of the tissue would be sent to a laboratory.

What Can Cause Crusty Sores on the Face and Nose?

  • Infection (for example, demodectic mange, bacterial pyoderma, fungal, etc.)
  • Autoimmune disease (Cutaneous lupus, pemphigus types)
  • Trauma (secondary to scratching, burns, severe sunburns, and frostbite)
  • Nasal solar dermatitis
  • Drug reaction
  • Food allergy
  • Cancer (like lymphoma, squamous cell carcinoma)
  • Systemic disease (like calcinosis cutis, uremia secondary to kidney failure)

Do These Diseases Look Different?

A crusty nose can appear to be a simple problem, so without testing it is impossible to be sure.

A dog with a cracked nose may just have dry skin but she might also have the early stages of an autoimmune disease. Another dog with a pink or red nose that is prone to sunburn can develop pemphigus. A dog with a crusty lump on his nose may have a ringworm infection or the lump may be cancer. A Siberian Husky that appears after a big race might be diagnosed with frostbite but really be suffering from a food allergy.

If the bridge of the nose is also crusty and the dog has symptoms consistent with a demodex infection, the vet will still want to scrape the skin and look for mites. The only way to find out for sure which disease is affecting him is by an exam, response to therapy, and testing.

Mange can attack any part of the body but sometimes affects the face.
Mange can attack any part of the body but sometimes affects the face. | Source

Will Your Dog Get Better?

That really depends on what is wrong.

  • Mange caused by demodex can be difficult to relieve but there are several new alternatives to try. Although this used to be a very serious problem and led to many dogs being put to sleep, most dogs now get better.
  • Autoimmune diseases can be treated with injections of steroids. (If you give steroids to a dog with demodectic mange, he will get worse.) Many dogs get better but some need to receive treatment for the rest of their lives.
  • If your dog´s nose has been traumatized and since become infected, there are several antibiotics that might help clear it up. (If you give antibiotics to a dog with an autoimmune disease, it will not help.) A dog with a mild trauma will get better and never need treatment again for this problem.
  • You can try putting your dog on an elimination diet if you and your vet suspect a food allergy and if you find the cause the sores will disappear. An elimination diet removes one protein source from the diet at a time, until you are able to find out what is causing your dog´s problem. It is not just “changing the food.”
  • Cancer can be treated traditionally or alternatively. It is important to know the cause and how aggressive the tumor is before choosing the best treatment. Some cases recover and the dog never has a relapse.

Pemphigus is one cause of a crusty face and nose on a dog.
Pemphigus is one cause of a crusty face and nose on a dog. | Source

Dog Breeds Affected by Crusty Noses

  • Dogs with pink noses and pale skin are more prone to sunburn.
  • All sled dogs can develop frostbite when out working.
  • Boxers, Dobermans, and Shar Peis are more susceptible to demodectic mange. Some Pitbull lines are also very prone to develop this problem.
  • Collies and Shelties are more likely to develop pemphigus.
  • German Shepherds, Siberian Huskies, Collies, Australian Shepherds, and Brittanys are prone to cutaneous lupus.
  • Boxers are prone to some types of skin cancers.
  • Remember that although young dogs are more prone to infection and old dogs are more prone to autoimmune diseases and cancer, this is not true all of the time.
  • All dogs can be affected by something. If your dog has a sore nose and a crusty face have her seen as soon as possible, no matter what her age, her history, or her breeding.

A normal nose can be a little crusty but has no ulcerations. Check it every week during the DIY physical exam.
A normal nose can be a little crusty but has no ulcerations. Check it every week during the DIY physical exam. | Source

What Can I Do at Home?

  • Wear latex gloves before treating your dog´s face. Some of the diseases are zoonotic (spread from animal to man) and might infect any scratches or other open wounds on your hands.
  • Gently wash the face with warm water.
  • Take some betadine from your first aid kit and dab it on the crusty facial lesions with a cotton ball. Do not scrub it since that might cause bleeding and might mess up the biopsy that will help diagnose the skin problem.
  • If you need to, dab the skin dry with a clean paper towel.
  • Coconut oil is a great moisturizer and natural antibiotic so it will moisten a dry nose and make your dog feel better until you can have him examined. After you have cleaned and dried the nose, apply a little oil with your fingertip. If the nose has open sores this might be painful for your dog and you might need to put him on systemic antibiotcs.
  • Do not try to treat the sores on his nose with topical antibiotics. He will just lick them off and they might cause him to have diarrhea.
  • Take the dog in to see his veterinarian as soon as possible.

If you cannot afford to take your dog in for an exam and diagnostic testing, some vets will treat the dog based on what it MIGHT be. Sometimes this will work, but at other times your dog will suffer and it will end up costing you more in repeated visits and additional medication. Try to do the best you can for your companion.

Get his crusty and sore nose diagnosed right away.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Questions & Answers

  • We have a mixed border collie. He is about three-years-old. He has a very crusty nose, but I think his licking is causing it. Is there any way to stop a dog from licking his nose?

    You can make sure the dog has plenty of exercise; since a lot of dogs from herding and hunting breeds develop OCD if they are confined in an apartment or suburb. (Shelties chasing their tail, ACDs licking their legs until they develop open wounds, etc.) If your dog is already active all day, gets plenty of exercise, and still has this problem, it is probably medical. Have the skin scraped and perhaps biopsied to find out what is wrong.

© 2014 Dr Mark


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    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      2 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Peihau, which disease? There is a section above titled "Will my dog get better?"

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      Is this disease curable??

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      3 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Tia, if this were just hair loss I would not be in a hurry, but since you mentioned breathing problems you should have your dog checked by your local vet as soon as possible. An autoimmune disease like systemic lupus is a much more likely culprit.

    • profile image

      Tia mccandless 

      3 years ago

      I changed my dogs foodand water bowl to metal so its not a allergic reaction. And it sounds like for her hair loss that she has hydrothyroidism what can i do for my dog with both these problems also she is having these breathing problems when she breathes her whole body seema like it is tensing up what do i do?

    • Solaras profile image

      Barbara Fitzgerald 

      6 years ago from Georgia

      Seems my reply went away - I private messaged you to send you a picture. She did have a yellow crust on her nose. They biopsied her nose and lips and sent it to UGA. They said it was an extreme allergy; we guessed the water bowl, and after the treatment and no more plastic her nose has returned to normal. Maybe border collies are special lol.

    • Solaras profile image

      Barbara Fitzgerald 

      6 years ago from Georgia

      She had a yellow crust on the top of her nose near where the hair meets it. They took biopsies from the nose and lips and sent them to UGA for testing. They said it was an extreme allergic reaction. I have a crummy photo I took with my cell phone. I'll try to send it to you.

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      6 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Plastic bowl allergy does not cause any sores or crusts (at least according to my experience), just pigment loss to the nose, which is why I did not include it on the list. Did she have any sores or was it just color change? Let me know, please.

      Glad switching the bowl worked out for you. That is usually enough, so I wonder if the steroids were given for something else?

      Some of these dogs are just a mystery, as you well know!!

    • Solaras profile image

      Barbara Fitzgerald 

      6 years ago from Georgia

      My girl Ruby had a crusty nose that lost pigment. We did all the diagnostics and they came back that she had an allergy (to the plastic water bowl). Switching to a stainless steel bowl, antibiotics and steroids fixed her nose. Kelp helped bring the pigment back.

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      6 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Thanks again for reading, Diana. I appreciate your support!

    • Diana Lee profile image

      Diana L Pierce 

      6 years ago from Potter County, Pa.

      This is another very informative hub. Voted up and interesting.

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      6 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      I´ve felt kind of bad since I did not have any pictures. "I know you are upset about your dog´s cancer, but can you stop crying and let me take his picture?"

      I guess I need to be more hard-hearted. All I have is a bunch of booger shots.

    • profile image

      Bob Bamberg 

      6 years ago

      A new and interesting topic, to me, anyway. Who knew there could be so many conditions to compromise the nose leather! Well presented, as expected...voted up, useful and interesting. BTW, you forgot one condition...boogers. The treatment is a wet paper towel. Don't thank me, I'm glad to help :)

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      6 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      mylifetips ---fresh air and food without salt do not cure diseases like mange, pemphigus, or lupus. Thanks for the suggestion.

    • mylifetips profile image

      Ireedui Gantogtokh 

      6 years ago from Mongolia

      Maybe your dog need a fresh air and do not feed food with a salt. That`s all if it`s not affect go to animal hospital


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