The nose of any dog is vulnerable to all sorts of issues; and one reason for this is that it has no natural protection. It is simply 'there' and due to many external factors and some internal ones, issues can develop.
While we like to think of a dog's nose and paws being somewhat 'indestructible' leather, these areas of the body are actually quite sensitive to conditions; the fact that the Beagle is a hound dog with a background of hunting does not change this.
This section will go over the details of:
The most common nose issue that the Beagle breed experiences: Dry noses.
Wet vs dry & warm vs cool
Peeling (flaking) and cracking
Prevention and treatment
Violet, 17 weeks old
Photo courtesy of Laurie Riegel
Should a Beagle's Nose Be Cool and Moist?
The element of a dog needing to have a cold, moist nose in order to signal well-being in his health status, while quite popular and repeated often by many sources, is not entirely true.
In general, if the nose is cool to the touch and slightly moist (without visible water droplets or runny discharge), this is indeed a good sign. However, there are circumstances in which a Beagle's nose can feel somewhat warm or even dry to the touch that does not necessarily represent a problem.
The fact is that all throughout the day, both the temperature of a dog's nose and its moisture level will fluctuate.
Some things that can cause a Beagle's nose to be temporarily warm include: Time outdoors in the sun, sitting or resting too close to a heat source, having his face buried in warm blankets, etc.
Elements that can cause the nose to feel rather dry to the touch include outdoor exposure to the sun, wind or both. Also, a Beagle's nose may appear to be very dry when he first wakes up… this is often due to the fact that he is not licking his nose when he sleeps and for that reason, it may be dry for the first hour or so in the morning.
The important element to keep in mind is that while small variations in temperature or moisture level of the nose are normal, they may be precursors to larger issues. Either a dry or a warm nose should be checked often to make sure that it is not a chronic issue and that no signs of a larger condition are developing (more ahead).
Dry Nose Issues with the Beagle
There are 3 basic stages to this:
Drying - Unless owners did not take note, a Beagle's nose will not appear to be suddenly be peeling or cracking overnight. The nose being very dried out is the first stage to those sorts of issues. So, noticing this and taking steps at this point is important.
A Beagle's nose (and that of any other breed) has only 3 layers of skin; whilst the body has 5 layers. This is a good example of why people severely overestimate the toughness of a dog's leather. You'll want to treat a dry nose in which only the first layer is involved before it affects the other two layers of skin.
Peeling- When you look closely at a Beagle's nose, you will notice that there are groves in the skin. This outer layer of textured skin is called the 'stratum corneum'. It is thin and once that is affected by a drying that turns into peeling, the next layer will be exposed. As the top skin on the nose flakes or peels off, the pink skin of the 2nd layer will be visible.
Cracking- If treatment for both a dry nose and then a peeling nose is not given, the next step is a deeper issue involving a cracking of the skin. The nose becomes very raw, there is not enough moisture and it can be quite painful for dogs. At this point, the skin is open and vulnerable to infection. Any sun or wind exposure (without the nose being protected) will rapidly make things worse.
Reasons for Drying, Peeling or Cracking
With Beagles, chronic dry nose is a common issue due to both the nature of that part of the body and environmental conditions.
Owners may not notice the first stage of dryness, and therefore by the time it becomes very apparent that something is wrong, some peeling is already taking place. Without proper treatment, cracking may soon develop as well. The most common causes of chronic dryness include:
1) Sun exposure- Beagles love to be outside and making sure that your Beagle puppy or dog gets lots of outdoor exerciseand playtime is vital to both his physical health and mental well-being. However, despite his wonderful background of being a hunting dog, today's Beagle is an inside dog, as most pets are.
The sun, over time, can have very negative effects on a dog's nose. There is no fur to shield it and while one or even ten trips outside will not have an effect, over time the constant exposure to the sun can cause low level sun damage that leads to a dry nose.
Archie, photo courtesy of Stephanie
2) Arid air- The humidity level in a dog's living environment can have a huge impact on his skin, both on his entire body and on his nose. A comfortable humidity range for both dogs and humans is between 20 to 50% relative humidity. In the winter, humidity tends to be much lower.
Cold air holds much less moisture than warm air. When you heat your home, you are adding heat to the cold air that seeps inside the home, yet is it is just as dry. Within just a few weeks and certainly over the course of months, this constant exposure to dry air can affect a Beagle's nose leather.
3) Combination of outdoor elements- Cold winds can do a number on a dog's nose. Just like it can chap your lips, it can chap a Beagle's nose. As the dog licks at his nose, it just makes it worse. If a dog has weeks or months of sun, cold dry air and winds, over time this can make a Beagle's nose dry, and as we mentioned, then peeling and cracking can become big problems. In addition, If a Beagle buries his nose into grass, shrubbery and other outdoor elements, this also lends to some contact friction and even small cuts.
4) Internal hydration- Aside from outside factors, the amount of water that a Beagle ingests has a direct impact on his entire body, including how well his nose retains a healthy level of moisture.
Making sure that a Beagle meets his water requirementscan be tricky; after all, healthy dogs do drink throughout the day and most owners do not measure what is being lapped up. However just a slight 5% dehydration will not cause a dog to show signs such as lethargy, yet it can cause his nose to become chronically dry.
5) Other, more serious issues- While the above are the most common reasons, with chronic nose issues that include excessive peeling and or deep cracks that do not respond to treatment, this may be due to:
Allergies - While allergies in general can make a Beagle itch all over and this certainly means that the nose can become dry and itchy as well, if just the nose is red and otherwise irritated this can be due to an allergic reaction to the water and/or food bowl.This is most common with cheap, plastic bowls.
5 Beagle newborns (2 weeks old)
Photo courtesy of: Kelly Griffieth
If this is suspected, using a stainless steel dish for both solids and liquids is recommended. In rare cases, a Beagle can have a contactallergyto certain chemicals found in inexpensive foods such as red food coloring, artificial flavorings and so forth. This is often treated with corticosteroid medication and/or antihistamines.
Cancer - Though rare, this is a possibility. A biopsy would be done if this were suspected.
Skin infection - In some cases, a Beagle may receive a small cut on his nose (often while sniffing around outside) which then becomes infected. In other cases, a dry nose with cracking can leave the nose open and vulnerable to infection that settles deep into the skin. Signs of this are pussy discharge and/or a bad odor from the area. This would need to be treated with antibiotics, often both topical and oral.
Prevention & Treatment for Drying, Peeling and Cracking
Here are thetop 3ways to prevent and treat these issues:
1) Reduce dry air issues- In the winter or during any other times when the air is dry and the relative humidity in the house is low, use humidifiers to increase the moisture level of the air.
This can also help Beagles that have dry coughs, snoringand other issues that are related breathing in an arid environment. Some dogs even experience dry, red eyes and irritated sinuses that can be resolved by upping the humidity. If you can't cover the entire house, at least set one up close to his sleeping quarters.
Other (though less effective) methods include leaving doors open when showering, adding houseplants to your rooms and leaving containers of water out near heating sources.
2) Have your Beagle meet water intake requirements- While dogs will drink as they get thirsty, especially in the summer and any time during the year after a bout of exercise, a Beagle may lose water more rapidly than he is able to replace it.
Bringing water along with you when you head out with your dog (use a canine water travel container; the lid serves as a bowl which makes it easy to bring along & to use) and encouraging him to drink both before leaving and more often throughout the day will help keep him hydrated.
When a day is hectic, water bowls are often overlooked; however dogs are apt to drink less water if it is not clean and cool, so do keep up with cleaning the bowl and refilling with cold water.
For Beagles that need even more encouragement, a canine water fountain like PetSafe's Drinkwell Dog Water Fountain can really help, since the movement of the water makes a dog curious and he's inclined to drink more often.
Harold, 2 years old
Photo courtesy of Lisa V.
3) Protect and treat the nose with a quality balm.The best thing that you can do is to take steps to keep your Beagle's nose in good shape, so that there is no domino effect from dry, to peeling to cracked and possibly infected. While it is recommended to protect the nose all year round, this is most applicable during hot summer months and cold winter months.
A quality, effective nose balm (or butter) will do several things:
Protect the leather from the damaging effects of the sun
Act as a shield against chapping winds and cold
Provide a barrier to stop too much moisture from escaping into arid air
Nourish the skin of the nose to leave it healthy
Some products will protect as well as heal. In cases of severe cracking, you may need a stronger healing balm to remedy the issues of dryness, peeling and/or cracking. For simple maintenance and protection, dab some on your Beagle's nose each night before he is ready for bed. For issues that have already developed, you will want to do 2 to 3 applications each day, preferably after the Beagle has eaten his food.
*Please note:If your Beagle's nose is dry and you do not have any nose butter or balm on hand, you can use a dab of petroleum jelly until you obtain a good product. However, you will not want to use this on a regular basis; this is because dogs often lick the nose and petroleum jelly comes off easily; it also does not get absorbed to help with any deep moisturizing…
You'll want to use a good product that not only gets absorbed into the nose to treat the problem but is also resistant to being licked off & is intended for canine use so that some gets ingested, it will not cause any issues.
Severe Peeling and Cracking Issues
While most minor to moderate dry nose problems and even some minor peeling and cracking can be treated at home, you will want to keep an eye out for the following:
Bleeding - If cracks in the nose are bleeding, this usually means that all 3 layers of the skin on the nose are affected.
Puss - Discharge of any color.
Odor - Any sort of odd odor with or without discharge
Swelling - If the tissue looks puffy, with or without a color change
Lack of improvement - If healing balms or butter do not work. With most, you should see signs of improvement within 5 days.
These are signs of infection and are reasons to bring your Beagle to the veterinarian for thorough testing and proper treatment.
A Final Word
Most Beagles are remarkable at playing and going about their day with minor issues, not giving any clues that anything is wrong. However, an overly dry nose can either be chronic or develop into more serious issues seemingly overnight.
Please do inspect your Beagle's nose on a regular basis to check for minor issues with dryness so that you can start to protect and treat this before it worsens. If you notice peeling or cracking and your Beagle does not show signs of improvement after 5 to 7 days, do please bring your puppy or dog to the veterinarian.