Dog Nose Hyperkeratosis (Causes and Treatment)

Filed in Dog Health by on September 3, 2021

Dog Nose Hyperkeratosis (Causes and Treatment)

If your dog’s nose is looking dull and cracked, your dog may be experiencing hyperkeratosis. Dogs with this condition develop a crusty layer of skin on their paw pads or nose.

Hyperkeratosis of the nose is frequently the result of a genetic issue, which isn’t a significant concern to your pet’s health. However, in some dogs, hyperkeratosis is a symptom of a more serious medical condition.

In this article, I will discuss what dog nose hyperkeratosis is and the most common causes. I will also cover some of the treatments for this condition and how to make your dog comfortable.

This is a vet-written article, but is meant for general information and not specific medical advice.

What is Hyperkeratosis?

Hyperkeratosis is a condition characterized by an overgrowth of skin cells. In dogs with hyperkeratosis, the body is producing an excess of a protein known as keratin.

Keratin is found in the skin’s outermost layer, known as the stratum corneum. This rough and fibrous protein also provides structure to your hair and nails and is a primary component in callus formation.

Hyperkeratosis in dogs can occur on several parts of the body, including the nose and paw pads.

Dogs with nasal hyperkeratosis will develop a rough, dull appearance to the nose. Cracks can appear on the nose and make the skin look flaky.

Initially, dog owners may overlook the signs of hyperkeratosis, believing it’s just a little dry skin. Unfortunately, dog nose hyperkeratosis is more complicated.

Dry skin can appear flaky and cracked because it’s often thin and fragile. If you take a closer look at the nose of dogs with hyperkeratosis, you will notice the skin is not just cracked in appearance.

Hyperkeratosis causes the skin to become thicker because of the build-up of keratin.

Hyperkeratosis itself is usually not a threat to your pet’s health, but it can be pretty uncomfortable. In some cases, deeper cracks in the nose can develop.

These cracks can bleed and become infected. The biggest concern for your pet’s health is what is causing the condition.

Causes of Hyperkeratosis

A genetic condition most commonly causes hyperkeratosis. Certain breeds are at greater risk of hyperkeratosis’s genetic form, including Golden Retrievers, Labradors, and several types of Terriers.

Hyperkeratosis in these dogs typically appears when the dogs are still puppies.

Some dogs develop hyperkeratosis later in life. In these dogs, hyperkeratosis of the nose is usually a symptom of an underlying medical condition.

Many medical conditions and diseases can cause hyperkeratosis, and some are more concerning than others. Some of these conditions include:

• Zinc Responsive Dermatosis

Zinc responsive dermatosis is a skin condition caused by zinc deficiency. Hyperkeratosis is one of the most common symptoms of this condition and can be seen on the nose or paw pads.

Zinc responsive dermatosis is classified into three distinct types based on the cause of the zinc deficiency. You can find more information on the individual types below:

• Type 1

Commonly seen in Alaskan Malamutes and Huskies, dogs with Type I have a genetic condition that causes a zinc deficiency.

Although these dogs may be consuming adequate amounts of zinc, the genetic disorder prevents their body from absorbing the zinc.

• Type II

This condition is commonly seen in younger large breed dogs. These dogs are often taking dietary supplements for the development of strong bones. In general, healthy dogs on complete and balanced diets do not need dietary supplements. This applies to puppies, adults, and seniors.

Some of the ingredients in growth supplements can bind zinc and cause a zinc deficiency. These ingredients include calcium, magnesium, and phytate.

• Type III

The final type of zinc responsive dermatosis is related to the diet. It’s commonly referred to as “generic dog food disease” because it most commonly occurs when a dog consumes a generic dog food brand.

Some of these diets are not properly formulated and have low levels of zinc. Typically, hyperkeratosis will develop approximately two weeks after starting the food.

• Discoid Lupus Erythematosus (DLE)

This is an autoimmune disease affecting a dog’s skin. It is the most common form of skin lupus in dogs. The disorder causes the active lesion to display hyperkeratosis.

• Pemphigus Foliaceous

examining dog skin

Vet examining dog skin

Pemphigus Foliaceous is an autoimmune disease that commonly affects the skin. Skin biopsies are required to properly diagnose it.

Although there is no cure for pemphigus, the condition is treatable with immune-suppressing drugs such as steroids.

• Canine Distemper

Canine distemper is a contagious virus seen in unvaccinated puppies and adult dogs. Hyperkeratosis is one of the many symptoms of this condition.

Canine distemper cases are rare because the virus is preventable with vaccines. There is no cure for canine distemper. In most cases, the virus is fatal.

• Leishmaniasis

Although uncommon in the United States, Leishmaniasis is a parasitic infection that can cause nasal hyperkeratosis. This infection is spread through sandfly bites and is more commonly found in the tropics and parts of southern Europe.

Cases have been reported in several areas of the United States, including Ohio, Oklahoma, and Texas. Humans can contract Leishmaniasis if infected sand flies bite them.

However, you can’t contract it directly from your dog. In the United States, dogs diagnosed with Leishmaniasis must be reported to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). The prognosis for this condition is guarded to grave, and most dogs don’t survive. It ends up being fatal once they enter kidney failure.

Medical care

Determining how to treat your dog will depend on what is causing the hyperkeratosis. It’s essential to consult with your veterinarian to determine the specific cause.

Your dog may require medications, a change in diet, or zinc supplementation to treat the underlying condition. Some of these medical conditions can be quite serious, so having your pet examined by your vet is crucial.

If the underlying medical condition can be appropriately controlled or treated, the hyperkeratosis will usually resolve.

Unfortunately, for dogs suffering from the genetic form of hyperkeratosis, there is no cure. Treatment is focused on moisturizing the skin and keeping your pet comfortable. Luckily, this is quite manageable, and your dog can live a normal life.

Moisturizers and balms can help soothe and soften the skin. Some moisturizers are specifically designed to help break down the excess keratin caused by hyperkeratosis and provide relief for your pet. The moisturizer would have to include some kind of keratolytic ingredient. Otherwise, moisturizers don’t break anything down. They just moisturize.

The ingredients that help break down keratin are known as keratolytic active ingredients. Some examples of keratolytic ingredients include salicylic acid and lactic acid.

The most important consideration when choosing a moisturizer is to make sure it’s dog safe. Check the label carefully before using any new product, and consult with your veterinarian if you have concerns.

Another technique that can help soften the skin and provide moisture is steam. Although you may not want to bring your dog into the sauna with you, letting them stand in a bathroom while you run a hot shower can do the trick.

These techniques for keeping your dog’s nose soft and moist can also be helpful for pets whose hyperkeratosis is caused by underlying medical conditions.

Although treating the underlying disease is essential, these techniques can provide some temporary relief.

Clinical Studies and Research

Veterinarians continue to look for ways to improve treatment for dogs with hyperkeratosis.

A clinical study conducted by several European veterinary dermatologists evaluated the effectiveness of a hyperkeratosis treatment known as Dermoscent Biobalm Skin Repairing Dog Balm.

The study contained 39 dogs diagnosed with nasal hyperkeratosis. These dogs were screened to make sure there was no underlying disease causing the hyperkeratosis. The dogs in this study had no complicating factors such as secondary skin infection.

Dogs in the study were randomly divided into two groups. One group of dogs received daily treatment with Dermoscent Biobalm for 60 days, while the other group was treated with a placebo product.

During the 60 day study, different factors were used to evaluate the dog’s nose. Some of these factors were how thick, supple, or dry the nose was.

After 60 days of treatment, the dogs receiving the Dermoscent Biobalm showed improvement in all categories.

Overall the Dermoscent Biobalm treatment group showed a 36.8% improvement. When compared to the placebo group, this improvement was determined to be statically significant.

Dermoscent Biobalm, as well as many other products, are available to pet owners. As more studies are done, additional products may become available to help dogs suffering from hyperkeratosis.

When to See the Vet

If you notice a build-up of rough or cracked skin on your dog’s nose, it’s best to go ahead and schedule an appointment with your veterinarian.

Hyperkeratosis can create severe cracks in the skin that can bleed and are at risk of secondary infections. In extreme cases, your veterinarian may even need to cut away excess skin.

The most important reason to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian is to determine the cause of the hyperkeratosis.

Diagnostic tests such as biopsies and blood work may be necessary. Determining the underlying cause is not only essential for getting control of the hyperkeratosis, it’s also critical to your pet’s long-term health.


Although hyperkeratosis of the nose is often mistaken for dry skin, the two conditions are not the same. Dog nose hyperkeratosis can be a medical condition that you should take seriously.

It’s critical to determine what is causing the hyperkeratosis to provide proper medical treatment. Moisturizers and other therapies can help soften the skin and provide some relief.

Schedule an appointment to have your pet evaluated and determine which treatment options are in your pet’s best interest.



Catarino, M., Combarros-Garcia, D., Mimouni, P., Pressanti, C. and Cadiergues, M.C. (2018), Control of canine idiopathic nasal hyperkeratosis with a natural skin restorative balm: a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled study. Vet Dermatol, 29: 134-e53.

Comments (2)

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  1. Thomas says:

    The study cited was funded by the product manufacturer and the managers of the experiment had conflicts of interest related to that product.

    Maybe the product is good, but this study should not be cited alone as evidence. Makes me wonder if this is a sponsored post.

    • Todd says:

      Hi thanks for the comment and additional info on the study. I can assure you the post is not sponsored and my site gets nothing from it.

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