What could be causing my dog’s cracked nose and how do I treat it?

Original Question: My friend's +/-5 year old St. Bernard has had a split nose for several years now. It's an open wound that our local vet hasn't had luck fixing. Thoughts? What would be the cause and treatment? Thank you so much! - Stephanie

What could be causing my dog’s cracked nose and how do I treat it? Mar 5, 2018

Hi Stephanie,

Thanks for the question. You are a good friend!

The tough part about this question is knowing exactly what you mean by a ‘split nose’, but I believe I know what you mean. There is a common condition that dogs get called hyperkeratosis of the nose, otherwise known as the nasal planum. It can occur for certain reasons but it can also occur for unknown reasons.

The most common reason is idiopathic, meaning that there is no known cause. With dogs that have this problem, it is very easy to treat. You can just apply a little bit of Vaseline to the nose and it will soften the build-up of epithelium and prevent it from cracking. Applying a small amount 2 to 3 times a day will really soften the area. It’s okay if they lick and ingest a little bit of the Vaseline as it won’t harm them in small amounts so be sure to spread a thin layer on the nose.

In some dogs this will also occur on the pads of the toes in which case you can use the same treatment to soften them. You can also use boots to protect their pads when they are out on walks. There are some useful tips in the article “Cold Weather Safety Tips For Your Pets” that I recommend you to take a look for further information.

Some professionals think that this condition can be caused by hypothyroidism. This is a common condition in dogs and you can easily check for it with a blood test. If the thyroid hormone level is low then it can be supplemented with medication and the condition may go away.

There is one last cause for this condition and it’s called zinc responsive dermatoses. If this were the cause then you would typically see the hyperkeratosis occurring on the pads as well. In order to confirm the diagnosis, you would have to perform a biopsy of the tissue, which is expensive and invasive. The treatment is simply adding a zinc supplement to the diet. Since that treatment is not harmful at all, you could go ahead and supplement the diet without confirming the condition.

I hope this helps.

Dr. Clayton Greenway

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