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Dry Nose

Shih Tzu Dry Nose Issues

Overview

While most dogs will have a moist, cool nose most of the time, a dog can have a dry and/or warm nose at times and be perfectly healthy. However, if a Shih Tzu's nose is unusually dry this is something that owners take note of rather quickly. In this section we are going to discuss the top 6 reasons why a Shih Tzu has a dry nose and exactly how to resolve it. Unless there is moderate to severe cracking or other symptoms of illness, this can often be treated at home.

Top 6 Top Reasons a Shih Tzu May Have a Dry Nose

1) If the puppy or dog just woke up. It's not uncommon for a Shih Tzu to have a dry nose when first waking up in the morning but then it goes away within 30 minutes. This can happen to deep sleepers that don't wake up a lot during the night. During the day, that nose gets licked a lot. Over the course of 8, 9 hours or more, if the Tzu is sleeping, there is much less licking which means that the nose is not being stimulated.

A lot of sources are off on this issue; as they will state that a dog's nose dries out at night because the licking is what wets it and they leave it as that. 

However, this is not completely accurate. Licking very temporarily wets it but in many cases, over licking will dry it out and chap it.  
The reason a nose is wet during the day is that the licking stimulates a small layer of mucus that secretes from the pores on the nose. The mucus is very thin and transparent (which is what makes a dog's nose moist) and that mucus serves to help a dog with his sense of smell by absorbing scent chemicals in the air. It also aids in helping to keep a dog cool.

At night when a Shih Tzu is sleeping deeply, he is not licking his nose because he's not awake to have the canine instinct to lick the nose and trigger higher scent detection.  

If your Shih Tzu has a dry nose only in the morning and goes back to normal soon after waking, barring any other health issues, this is nothing to be concerned about.

2) Lying near a heat source. This is common in the winter as many dogs will curl up close to a radiator or other heat source in the home. Dry heat such as this can suck moisture out of the nose to a point that it cannot be quickly replaced without aides. Since this sort of heat can cause other issues such as dry skin, it's recommended to move the puppy or dog to a new location. This can be just a little bit further away from the heating element or to another warm area of the house. For proper body support to prevent sore joints and muscles and to offer a good night's sleep a quality canine bed is recommended. Offering a baby blanket (or two) can give a Shih Tzu a sense of security along with extra warmth when needed.

3) Not drinking enough water. Many owners assume that their Shih Tzu will drink exactly as much water as they need; after all, it's left out all day and night and the puppy or dog has constant access. However there are many reasons why a dog may not drink as much as needed and this sort of dehydration often manifests first as a dry nose.

Reasons for not drinking enough include more exercise than normal, hotter temperatures and/or reluctance to drink warm water.

You'll first want to gauge if the dehydration is only affecting the nose (minor case) or if it is causing other symptoms of a more serious nature. Signs of moderate to severe dehydration include sunken eyes, weakness, loss of appetite, depressed mood and a dry mouth. If these or any other troubling signs are present, it is reason to bring the Shih Tzu to the vet for a complete checkup to find the cause of the dehydration.

You'll also want to check your Shih Tzu's mouth for any sores, blisters, obvious tooth issues or any other problem in the mouth that may cause a puppy or dog to be reluctant to drink due to discomfort.

If a dry nose is the only sign and you do suspect that it is due to not drinking enough water, you'll want to encourage your Shih Tzu to drink more often. This can be done by:

1- Wash the water bowl every day with warm water and dish soap.  

2- Change the water often or use a canine water fountain so that the water is always cool and fresh. As an important side note, please never give your Shih Tzu straight, unfiltered tap water. It contains a slew of nasty chemicals that have been proven to cause a wide range of health issues with long-term consumption.

3- If your Tzu is left home alone, a water fountain or dispenser is the best option as it can't be tipped over. A non-skid bowl would be the next best choice; though very hyper dogs can flip these if they become restless.

4- Bringing water with you when you take your Shih Tzu out for a walk or leave the house for any period of time over 20 minutes should become habit. Using a canine travel container in which the lid serves as the bowl can cut down on the items you'll need to carry with you. This way, you can take a break halfway through the walk or while out running errands with your Shih Tzu to offer water. It can help to drop an ice cube into the container to keep it cool.
4) Plastic bowls. There are many reasons why the use of plastic bowls is discouraged. Dogs can have an allergic reaction to the material itself and this is a common cause of chronic dry nose. As the Shih Tzu dips his nose into the bowl over and over for days, weeks and months, this contact allergy can cause the nose to become exceedingly dry. Even if you use a product to heal the nose, you're fighting a losing battle since the Tzu is being exposed to the trigger continually.  

Other reasons to avoid plastic are that the heavy dyes used for coloring it can slowly leak out and lead to straining of facial hairs, it scratches easily which can lead to bacteria finding a nice little home to grow and they are normally very lightweight which makes them slide around too much.

For these reasons, a stainless steel (first choice) or ceramic (second choice) bowl is recommended for both food and water.

5) Sun exposure. Hopefully you are taking your Shih Tzu for a daily walk, if not two. One thing to keep in mind is that each season brings its own elements that a dog needs a bit of protection from. In the summer, daily exposure to strong sun can cause a slight case of sunburn on a Shih Tzu's nose which then leads to drying issues. A strong case of sunburn would lead to actual peeling or cracking problems. If a nose is dry due to the sun and treatment is not provided, more sun damage will occur on the existing problem and as the days goes on, that dry nose can develop into a cracked and/or peeling.

The best treatment for this type of dry nose is to use a quality nose balm or butter. Many owners will first try to use a bit of petroleum jelly, see that it does not work well and then graduate to a proper nose balm. Petroleum jelly can be licked off much too easily and is not formulated to protect and heal a dry nose.

For minor dry nose issues, you'll want to use a daily canine nose chapstick; for moderate to severe dry nose problems that include some peeling and/or cracking a thicker product that soothes, moisturizes and heals will be needed. A good snout product will penetrate in order to regenerate the nose leather. 

6) Chapping due to dry, cold air. A Shih Tzu's nose is so exposed in the winter. When you follow winter care tips, you'll be protecting the paws and offering a layer of warmth for the body, but this also should include protecting the nose from the very damaging effects of cold, dry winter air.

We always suggest keeping up with your normal walking routine unless there is a severe weather event; however you'll want to take a few easy steps to prevent that arctic air from causing issues ranging from a chapped nose to full body dry skin.

When dogs are outside in the cold, they tend to lick their nose even more than usual. Then, a cold breeze or wind will very quickly chap the nose. Owners may not notice at first, however a nose will at first have a more sandpaper texture. This often leads to slight cracking. Still without protection or healing, that will develop into a much more serious cracking issues often with crusting (and the nose tries to heal) and/or peeling (as damaged layers of the nose flake off and expose sensitive pink skin underneath).

To prevent these issues, make it a habit to use a daily nose protection balm. Since you'll want to protect against sun exposure in the summer as mentioned above and also from dry cold air in the winter as discussed here, falling into a daily routine of dabbing a Shih Tzu's nose with a quality nose stick or light balm will prevent these issues from occurring.

If damage has already occurred and there is more of a cracking, crusting or peeling issue, a thicker more penetrating product should be used. Chapsticks offer a layer of protection on the nose from sun, wind and cold. But healing butters and balms actually penetrate the nose leather to add moisture and heal.

Dry Nose Red flags

While many case of dry nose on a Shih Tzu can be treated at home by avoiding the trigger or using the right product, there will be times of a more serious issue that should be professionally treated by a reputable veterinarian. It is suggested to have your Tzu looked at if:
  • A dry nose does not heal or becomes worse despite removing triggers and using quality balms and butters.
  • There is severe peeling that exposes a lot of pink skin from under the dark outer layer.
  • Any discharge, puss or fluid is secreting from the leather itself or from the nasal passages.
  • There are any other clinical signs including but not limited to decreased appetite, fever, chills, eye discharge, mood changes, weakness, restlessness, itching, vomiting, dry heaving and/or changes to the stools.
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Related:

Dry Skin Issues - This breed can suffer from dry skin issues either all over the body or primarily on the paws. This can lead to itching and flaking and in some cases, skin infection. 
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