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Dry Cracked Nose

Boxer Dog Dry, Cracked, Peeling Nose Issues


There are many owners of Boxer dogs who wonder if a dry nose indicates a problem and plenty of others who realize, of course, that dryness plus crusting points to a problem, but are not sure exactly what causes this. 

Normally, a dog's face can tell you quite a bit; the eyes, nose, and ears can all be visible clues in regard to a dog's level of health. It can be alarming when the skin on the nose, certainly a prominent feature on the Boxer, shows signs that something is wrong.
This section is going to discuss:
  • The issue of dry nose skin on the Boxer breed 
  • What it means if the nose is dry and cracked 
  • What it means if there is crusting or scales 
  • Peeling and fading 
Since a dog's nose can be used as an indicator of health and because dry, crusting, peeling or cracking can make cause quite a bit of discomfort that can worsen over time, let's learn more about this and dive right in.

Understanding the Nose of the Boxer Dog - You May be Surprised

Some people refer to a dog's nose (as well as paw pads and ear flaps) as leather. With ears, this is a commonly used term; however, in regard to the ears or nose this terminology is very misleading. While the definition of leather is animal skin that has been tanned and treated (along with hair removal) many people assume that the skin on the nose and paws are so thick that it is akin to leather… and for that reason they use the word.

However, despite its appearance - and its dark color has a lot to do with this - the skin of a Boxer dog's nose is NOT thicker than the rest of the body.

Technically, skin itself is made out of 3 layers. Inner layers contain connective tissues and fat. It is the outer most layer that we see and it is called the epidermis.

Areas on a dog's body have ranges of 3 to 5 layers of epidermis. The NOSE has only 3 layers. Of these 3 layers, the outermost layer - called the stratum cornuem - has small grooves in it that lends to its textured appearance. As a side annotation, it is interesting to note that each dog's pattern of texture on the nose is completely unique; with no two dogs having the exact same 'nose print'; it is the equivalent of human fingerprints.
With all of this in mind, a dog's nose is not as thick as the color and texture may lead you to believe. And in turn, any dryness and resulting cracking or crusting is going to be apparent very quickly.

What it Means if a Boxer Dog's Nose is Dry

Despite a long standing myth, a dog's nose does not need to be wet and cold in order for the dog to be considered healthy. The key element to take note of is that if the skin on the nose is dry WITHOUT any other signs or symptoms of a problem, this is nothing to be concerned about. 

Over the course of 1 day, there can be normal changes to a Boxer dog's nose… it may be moist, warm, cool, and dry…and all of that is fine as long as there are no other indications that something is wrong.

External factors such as exposure to sunlight, air temperature and humidity levels can all affect the moisture level and the level or warmth or coolness when you touch the area. Internal factors such as slight dehydration can cause a dog's nose to appear dry.

Problems can arise when a dry nose shows signs of:
  • Cracking
  • Bleeding from cracks in the skin
  • Peeling, flaking
  • Discoloration
  • Crusting
Let's take a look at what these symptoms may mean:

What it Means if a Boxer Dog's Nose is Dry & Cracked

Many times, if a Boxer dog licks at his nose, it causes the skin to dry out more and more until small cracks develop. Without treatment to protect the sensitive nasal skin, this often worsens with time since the irritated and dry nose causes the dog to lick even more.

The dryness that begins this whole cycle is often due to slight dehydration. While you leave water out for your Boxer, it is best to also encourage the consumption of water, especially when outside. When you bring your dog for walks or will be out with him for any time longer than 1 hour, be sure to bring fresh, filtered water in a proper canine travel bowl or container.

Other causes for this are dry air and/or cold temperatures; which means it's more common in the winter. You can help this heal and prevent further cracking by protecting your dog's nose with the proper balm (more ahead).

A Boxer Dog with a Crusty Nose

There are many skin disorders and disease that can cause a dog's nose to become scaled or crusty. The crust may become very thick, flake off leaving exposed pink areas, and even bleed a bit if the dog rubs at his nose and a piece falls off.

With this being said, let's first look at the most common reason for cracking or crusting: Nasodigital Hyperkeratosis

Nasodigital Hyperkeratosis is the fancy, medical term for an idiopathic (which means that the cause is not known) condition that is manifests itself by the formulation of crust on the nose and/or paw pads.

This is not uncommon with brachycephalic breeds and therefore the Boxer breed is prone to this. This affects older, senior dogs most often, though dogs of any age may develop this condition.

It should be noted that if you notice this type of issue on a young puppy that you are thinking of buying - the cause will most often be something more serious and it is recommended to refrain from purchase until you are able to obtain a legitimate clean bill of health from a reputable veterinarian.

The crusting on the nose may be light or thick, becomes worse without treatment and while crust may appear on any part of the nose such as around the nostrils, it most often will present as a thick crusting at the top ridge of the dog's nose.

Since the cause is not known this cannot be treated with any sort of prescribed medication such as antibiotics or the like.

However, in many cases when there is NOT an underlying health condition and the ONLY problem is unknown crusting, the proper nose balm will heal the Boxer's nose and restore it to its normal condition.
It is recommended to rule out underlying health conditions before assuming that your Boxer has the common dry and crusty nose issue of Nasodigital Hyperkeratosis.

Once you know that your Boxer is healthy aside from the crusting issue, use a quality product to heal up issues as fast as possible, before they worsen.

Be careful to obtain one that is scent-free, as even the slightest of scents can be very off-putting for a Boxer puppy or dog which will lead to a resistance when you are applying it. You'll also want to make sure that the nose balm is safe for ingestion since many Boxer's will lick their nose throughout the day.

The application should be done 3 to 4 times per day, preferably after each meal so that it is not wiped off while ingesting food. A good application in the morning and one at night is best, with 1 to 2 times during the day as well.

If there's any crusting, a good balm can soften it, so that it can naturally fall off without bleeding. Once the nose is restored back to normal, it is a good idea to apply it to your Boxer's nose 1 to 2 times per week, to ward off any future problems with dryness.

Recommended Nose Balm

One of the absolute best products to heal a dry nose, peeling, and/or cracking is Natural Dog Company's Snout Soother. This is applied 2 to 3 times per day to heal these sorts of issues. For maintenance, apply 1 to 2 times per week. It has no fragrance, so it won't bother your Boxer. But, since dogs tend to lick their noses a lot, be sure that one of the applications is at night, right before your dog is about to conk out. 

Cleaning/ Picking Off Scales

Sometimes it's tempting to want to scrub off the crusty scales and this may or may not be a good idea. Before you apply the balm (see above), you can take a soft wash cloth and wet it down good with clean, warm water. Then, carefully wipe the nose. 

This will clean off any small food particles that may be there and clean off any debris. When you do this, be sure to swipe gently and any loose crusty pieces will come off if they are ready.

Aside that from that, it is best to allow crust to fall by itself. If you rub too hard or if you pick at the scales to remove them, this can rip off pieces before they are ready to shed. Ripping off pieces (even tiny ones) will tear at the sensitive tissue, may cause bleeding and leave raw, exposed skin - which may then be vulnerable to bacteria and possible infection.

Plastic Bowls - Did you Know?

Using plastic dog bowls for food and/or water can cause many problems including dry, crusting or flaking skin on the nose. It is also very common for plastic bowls and fading of the nose to be connected. 

This is not just due to possible dyes or BPA issues; it is most often due to a contact reaction to the plastic itself. 

For this reason, owners are always encouraged to only use appropriate ceramic or stainless steel bowlsIn addition, since the Boxer breed is prone to bloat, if your guy or gal eats really fast, choose a slow feeder or make use of portion pacer balls.

Serious Health Issues that Cause Crusting

Pemphigus Foliaceous - This is a skin disease that presents as boils and crusty skin lesions, usually across the bridge of a dog's nose. This is one of the first conditions suspected if the use of a quality salve does not repair damage. 

It is diagnosed with a skin biopsy and treated with the use of medicated liquids that cleanse the area along with immunosuppressive oral medications.

Nasal Infection - If sinuses are infected (bacterial or viral), a dog's nose may dry out or crust over. There are usually other signs such as a runny nose, discharge, sneezing, irritation of the nasal passages and/or trouble breathing.
Discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE)- This is an inflammatory skin disease that causes sores on the nose. In most cases there is also a fading of color (pigmentation loss) and other areas on the face (lips, eye lids, ears) will be affected as well.

Distemper - This is a highly contagious viral disease that mainly affects young puppies. It is the leading cause of infectious disease in canines; however in the U.S., UK and Australia it is not that common and generally will only affect puppies that are not vaccinated.

Early signs of fever and weakness can be very faint and go unnoticed. Later stages will present with moderate to severe weakness, fever, loss of appetite, eye discharge and nasal discharge which can lead to crusting issues.

Zinc-Responsive Dermatosis- This is a condition in which a dog's intestines are unable to process zinc, an element that works to maintain healthy skin. This can cause crusting and scaling on the nose as well as mouth.

Summary of Crusting Issues

Since there are many health issues that can cause crusting, if you suspect that your Boxer dog is suffering from anything other than 'normal' dry nose crusting issues OR if your Boxer does not respond to the home treatment of using a balm or salve, do not hesitate to bring your puppy or dog to the veterinarian for a full and compete checkup.

Remember that early detection is vital for successful treatment of most medical problems.

Sunburn on the Nose

In some cases, a slight peeling to the nose may be due to sunburn and of course, if a Boxer has just spent the day out in strong sunlight, this tends to be the case. 

If you know that your Boxer puppy or dog will be spending a day outside with you and he/she has a tendency to receive sunburn on the nose, be sure to apply a protect layer of sunscreen 15 to 20 minutes before heading out and reapply every 2 to 3 hours. NOTE: Many sunscreens made for humans contain zinc, and this is toxic to canines. 

Therefore, a good one to use is Epi-Pet Sun Protector Spray for Pets; this is the only FDA compliant sunscreen for dogs (and cats), and is pretty effective. This is a spray, so spray some in your hands, and then rub it onto your Boxer's nose. 

If sunburn has already occurred and is causing a thin, dry flaking or peeling, try to limit your dog's exposure to the sun until it has healed and apply nose balm so that the skin will be able to quickly heal and rejuvenate.
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