Skip to Content

9 Weird Reasons Why Dogs Scratch Their Nose + 5 Tips

Why Do Dogs Scratch Their Nose

Dogs have amazing noses.

And that’s no exaggeration. 

They can smell 100,000 times better than us. 

But there are times that you see them pawing at their nose.

“Is this a symptom of something?”

“What does it mean?”

Read on and discover:

  • 5 easy tips to stop nose scratching.
  • 9 reasons why dogs scratch their nose. 
  • Why your pooch shouldn’t sniff caterpillars.
  • 7 proven cures for autoimmune diseases affecting the nose.
  • And many more…

Why do dogs scratch their nose?

Dogs scratch their nose because of allergies. It also happens because of skin problems, dry noses, or sunburn.  Irritating substances and autoimmune diseases can affect the nose. They’ll also scratch it because they can’t lick their nose or they smell something bad.

9 reasons why dogs scratch their nose

#1: Allergies

These are nasty things to go through. 

And it’s unfortunate that every dog has allergies to something. 

It can be:

  • Food-related.
  • Environmental. 
  • Skin sensitivities.

Allergies can happen at any time of the year. 

And CVH states that your doggo can react to any of these things:

  • Dust.
  • Food.
  • Fleas.
  • Grass.
  • Pollen.
  • Shampoos.
  • Cleaning products.

If your pooch is scratching their nose, look out for the other signs of allergies. 

Scratching and itching are common symptoms. Especially around the muzzle. 

Most dogs will try to do that by rubbing against furniture

Licking hot spots is also one sign. This results in hair loss and scaly skin. 

Some reactions are so severe. Dogs will need steroidal medications to control the effects. 

Read also: 9 Weird Reasons Why Dogs Scratch Their Eyes + 3 Tips

#2: Skin problems

I’ve talked about allergies. Now let’s touch on a direct result.

Skin reactions lead to skin problems if left untreated. 

What happens is that the skin barrier gets damaged. 

This paves the way for the skin flora and fauna to get aggressive. 

One example is mites. 

These are tiny organisms that live on your pooch’s epidermis. 

For the most part, they chill and go about their business. 

But when allergies strike, they turn into monsters.

There are two kinds of mites that cause skin problems.

Demodex mites 

These are the chill ones. 

They’re even found on human skin. 

They make their home on the hair follicles of your dog’s skin.

Although not contagious, littermates are often affected by it. This is why dogs with demodectic mange aren’t recommended for breeding.

Puppies may experience it with their weak immune systems. But it will pass as the immune system matures.

Older dogs also get affected because of medical conditions. Or sickness lowers their immune response.

“So, what are the common signs of demodectic mange?”

VCA tells us there is moderate itching. And hair loss especially around the eyes. 

Your dog might also lose hair in a few patches. Or the mange could spread to other areas resulting in generalized demodectic mange. 

Sarcoptes mites

These cause sarcoptic mange. Commonly known as scabies. 

And alas! They can jump from dogs to humans. 

You may be itching along with your dog. 

But you’re in luck. It only lasts for a few days until the mites die. 

Unlike Demodex mites, they will cause severe irritation to your dog’s skin.

Do you know why?

Because sarcoptic mites will burrow underneath your dog’s skin. 

And this results in:

  • Intense itching.
  • Huge hair loss.
  • Red, thickened skin.

Note: The only way to make sure what type of mite infestation is through skin scrapings. Your vet will do this and examine them under a microscope. 

Your veterinarian will recommend scheduled medicated baths or dips. 

Oral medications such as axfolaner-based tablets are effective at controlling infestations.

Reading tip: Help, My Dog Is Constantly Scratching And Biting Himself!

#3: Dry nose

Your Dog Scratches His Dry Nose

The nose is an important organ for your pooch. 

They use it to explore the world. And it keeps them aware of their surroundings. 

So our dogs have to maintain their “smellers” all the time. 

But did you know that their noses have issues too?

One of these is a dry nose.

Which means that their nose isn’t moist.

It has many causes. But it can be an indicator of the following:

  • Diseases.
  • Sunburns.
  • Your dog doesn’t lick their nose often.

And dogs with this condition will often scratch it.

So why do dogs get dry noses?

Keep reading to find out.

#4: They can’t lick their nose

Dogs will often lick their noses to keep it moist and hydrated. 

But there are a few of them who physically can’t do it often. 

Which is why they’ll scratch at it. 

Brachycephalic breeds have trouble with nose licking. 

The problem stems from their face shape.

PetMD lists breeds like Pugs and Bulldogs as those who are prone to dry noses. 

#5: Sunburn

Yes, dogs can get sunburn too. 

It’s another reason why dogs get dry noses.

But wait, doesn’t their coat protect them from sun damage?


“How can dogs get sunburnt?”

Allow me to explain. 

As with humans, long hours in the sun can damage your doggo’s skin. 

SFVH tells us that dogs with thin, light coats get sunburned easily. 

As well as dogs with pale or pink features:

  • Ears.
  • Noses.
  • Eyelids.
  • Paw pads.

Warning: Dry, sunburnt noses can cause cracked skin. This can lead to wounds or lesions. And even secondary infections. So bring a dog sunscreen for those days at the beach.

Read further: 13 Reasons Why Dogs Lay In The Sun + 5 Dangers & 5 Tips

#6: Autoimmune diseases

These conditions come about when your dog’s immune system attacks their body. 

Its normal function is to defend against bacteria, viruses, and diseases. And keep the body healthy. 

But when dogs have an autoimmune disease, their immune system can’t tell friend from foe. 

There are two that affect dog noses:

Discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE) 

UMass describes DLE as a disease where the immune system kills a layer of skin cells. 

It’s a horrifying condition because there are also environmental and genetic factors. 

Such as UV light and cigarette smoke. Both can trigger DLE.

Certain breeds have greater chances of having DLE:

  • Chow Chows.
  • Brittany Spaniels.
  • Siberian Huskies.
  • German Shepherds. 
  • Alaskan Malamutes.

“How does DLE affect their nose?”

It’s the first casualty. 

The following will happen around the nose area:

  • Crusting.
  • Hair loss.
  • Scabbing.

The lesions are usually confined to the head and neck. But there are instances when it spreads to other parts. 

This study reveals that the first signs are coin-shaped reddened or discolored skin. This will develop into scales, and clogged pores. 

Without treatment, it can worsen into ulcers and lesions. These will destroy the nose itself. 

“It sounds really bad. How can I treat my dog?”

Dogs with this condition must avoid the sun. And have sun protection. 

But of course, they have to take medications to help with the healing process. 

There are 4 treatments that prove effective for DLE: 

DLE Treatment nameResults
Oral hydroxychloroquineComplete remission in 1 year
Topical tacrolimus ointment8/10 dogs improved in 8 weeks
Oral ciclosporin and glucocorticoidsLesions gone in 4 months
Tetracycline-niacinamide combination70% of 20 dogs improved


With this disease, the immune system dissolves the molecules that hold the skin together. 

In short, the dog’s skin will fall apart. And expose the tissue within. 

As a result, the following will appear:

  • Lesions.
  • Itchy skin.
  • Large pustules.
  • Superficial blisters.
  • Secondary bacterial infections.

“Is there a genetic factor to pemphigus?”

There are dog breeds that are predisposed to this disease.

The most common are the Akita and Chow Chow.

Other breeds include:

  • Collie.
  • Shar-Pei.
  • Doberman.
  • Dachshund.
  • Cocker Spaniel.

This study states that in most cases there are no known causes. But pemphigus may happen because of reactions to drugs. 

It also affects dogs with a history of skin problems. Such as canine atopic dermatitis and flea allergy dermatitis.

“How do vets diagnose this disease?”

The one effective way to determine is through cytology. Which is an examination of cells.

Vets will get a sample from the dog and look at it under the microscope. They’ll use body fluids.

Another is through a biopsy. The vet removes a tissue sample from filled pustules or crusty skin. 

“What are the treatment options if my dog has this?”

The common medications for pemphigus are immunosuppressants and corticosteroids. 

Together these suppress the immune system response. And give the skin a chance to heal.

But there is the danger of secondary bacterial infections. 

So a treatment plan also includes antibiotics. 

Treatments will go on until complete remission. 

And then the doses will get smaller every 2 to 4 weeks depending on the dog’s response. 

Ideally, vets give immunosuppressants and corticosteroids on alternate days for management. 

Note: It may be difficult for accurate diagnosis with these diseases. As the signs and symptoms often mirror other skin diseases. 

Going for skin scrapings, cytologies, and biopsies is the best bet. So your doggo won’t have to go through trial and error treatments.

#7: Some smells confuse their nose

Some Smells Confuse Their Nose

Our dogs have the most astounding noses. 

Their nose is so powerful. But it’s also sensitive. 

Strong odors can irritate their noses. 

And they’ll scratch at it as if to say,

“What da heck was dat smell, hooman?”

They might even sneeze when it gets to their nose. 

Take for example…

Hela’s story

My friend’s dog, Hela, is the most curious pooch ever. 

Whenever her hoomans are working on something, she wants to join in. 

This happened one day, as Hela’s mom got ready to go out. 

She was putting on makeup. Hela kept staring at every brush or palette that her mom held up. 

But her ears perked up when perfume time came. 

With a twitchy nose, Hela went closer. 

It was almost instant. When the perfume sprayed, Hela sneezed. 

She shook her head several times. And kept pawing at her nose. 

It wasn’t the best experience for her.

Now, Hela avoids perfume bottles.

But it hasn’t turned her off investigating new scents. 

And she definitely loves dead animal smell more than human perfumes.

#8: Contact with irritating foreign substances

Does your dog like to sniff around on your walks

Or do you let your pooch off-leash on their daily exercise? 

Then there might be a possibility of this happening. 

Let me introduce you to oak moth caterpillars. These are larvae of the oak processionary moth. 

And they are very dangerous for your pooch. 

Blue Cross says that these caterpillars have long hairs that contain thaumetopoein. This substance can irritate your pooch. 

They live on oak trees. So watch out for those on your walks. Or in your backyard. 

Contact through touch or licking can cause the following:

  • Drooling.
  • Vomiting.
  • Gagging.
  • Conjuntivitis.
  • Swollen tongue.
  • Inflamed mouth.
  • Difficulty breathing.

Warning: There is no topical ointment or vaccine shot to counteract the effects. Check for these caterpillars when on walks. And if your pet should come in contact, call your vet for help.

In fact, ASPCA advises dog parents to avoid caterpillars of all kinds. 

Because they have two kinds of hair.

Urticating hairs cause itchiness or irritation on the skin. But they’re not venomous.

But, the stinging hairs live up to their name. They produce poison at the base of the follicle. 

The poison travels through the hollow stinging hairs. And can enter your dog’s skin. 

This can lead to:

  • Itching.
  • Pawing.
  • Rashes.
  • Drooling.
  • Gastritis.
  • Headshaking.
  • Lip and oral irritation.

“How do I treat this?”

Vets will recommend treatments according to the symptoms that appear. 

It ranges from:

  • Eye flushing.
  • Mouth rinsing.
  • Pain relievers.
  • Antihistamines.
  • Cold compress.
  • Corticosteroids.

#9: It feels good

We know that a dog’s nose is sensitive. 

Certain touches on it are also soothing for your pooch. 

So they might scratch at their nose because it feels good. 

They could do it in times of stress as a self-rewarding behavior. 

This releases calming hormones such as endorphin and oxytocin into your dog’s system.

It takes their mind away from the anxiety. And soothes them. 

Warning: If nose scratching becomes a repetitive behavior, contact your vet. There’s a possibility your dog has developed canine compulsive disorder. 

This is the dog equivalent of human OCD. 

It involves normal dog behaviors. That become so repetitive that it can cause harm to the dog.

Here are a few besides, pawing at their nose:

What can I do for my dog’s itchy nose? 5 tips

Most itchy noses are because of allergies. But contact your vet if you ever see abnormal signs such as dryness or pustules. 

#1: Use anti-allergy medications

Most anti-allergy medications for dogs aren’t the same as human antihistamines. 

These are steroidal-based. And they suppress the reaction of the immune system. 

#2: Apply dog prescription nose balm/sunscreen

Dry or sunburnt noses are a no-no for our pooches. 

Get the advice of your veterinarian on the best nose balms for your pooch. 

Prepare for moist noses when they nudge you from now on. 

And dogs might love playing at the beach. But they are in danger of getting sunburns. 

Don’t put sunscreen just on the nose. Put it on other areas with exposed skin. Such as their ears or belly.

#3: Avoid your dog’s allergy triggers

When on your walks, observe what your pooch comes in contact with. 

Look at the ingredients in their food. 

Bring all this information to your vet, so that they can help you figure out your dog’s allergens. 

You can also do an allergy test.

PATT Vet Hospital tells us that there are 3 types of allergy tests:

Blood testing

This is the most common test. It involves taking a blood sample from the dog. And bringing it to a laboratory for analysis. 

The lab will test its reaction to various allergens like pollen or dust.

This test isn’t really reliable as there is a possibility for false positives

Dietary manipulation

Vets use this method for determining food allergies. Because they can be difficult to detect with other tests.

It involves changing a dog’s diet to the most simple. And using hypoallergenic foods for 8 to 12 weeks.

Intradermal skin testing

This requires sedation for your pooch. The vet will also shave the hair on a small area. 

The procedure’s invasive. The vet will inject small amounts of allergens into the skin. The reaction determines if there’s an allergen. 

It’s up to 75% accurate. But that can drop lower if the dog took steroids or antihistamines 1 month before testing.

Once you know the allergy triggers for your dog, you can avoid them. 

But if you don’t know their allergens yet, watch this video for vet tips on how to relieve allergic reactions:

#4: Keep them away from strong scents

Dogs can smell everything. 

So this means that the perfume or soap that you use can potentially irritate them.

According to Long Trail Vet Center, strong scents can make them paw their nose.

Such as:

  • Citrus.
  • Alcohol.
  • Vinegar.
  • Nail polish.
  • Chili pepper.
  • Chlorine and cleaning products.

#5: Give your pooch a bath

Scratching their nose might mean they had contact with a foreign substance. 

You can give them a bath with hypoallergenic shampoos such as Burt’s Bees or TropiClean

This will wash away what’s bothering your dog. 

Note: If your dog still shows signs of irritation, take them to the vet. There may be some residual effects that a bath can’t get rid of.