Just as ‘a dog’s nose should always be cold and wet’ is a bit of a myth, cats’ noses can be a bit variable too. It makes sense that a cat who has been snoozing in a warm, sunny spot for hours has a warm nose that is slightly drier than a cat who is out on a cool winter’s evening.
Contrary to popular belief, a cat’s nose should not necessarily be cool and wet at all times. Cat’s noses can vary slightly throughout the day depending on the cat’s hydration, body temperature and what they have been doing.
The state of a cat’s nose can be one sign of overall cat health that cat owners should be aware of. Major or ongoing changes can be a sign of various different health conditions.
Pet parents should consider the overall health picture and behavior of their cat to determine the possible causes of a dry nose or a cracked nose, and seek appropriate treatment.
However, as with most things pet parenting, knowing what is normal for your feline family member is key, as is spotting significant changes to their normal. As a general rule of thumb, a cat should never have a cracked nose, or one that is crusty or has scabs on it. A nose that looks sore probably is.
Once you’ve spotted a problem with your kitty’s nose, your next concern is probably ‘what could it be?’. Ultimately, your veterinarian is best placed to make an accurate diagnosis, however here are a few possible causes and health issues that may be at play:
Like all of us, cats’ hydration status naturally varies throughout the day and the dryness of their nose reflects this. However, an extremely dry nose that stays that way could be a sign there is more going on, especially if you’re noticing other signs as well. If your cat is experiencing a loss of appetite or thirst, is more lethargic and less active than usual, they may well be dehydrated.
Common causes of dehydration include:
- Fever/high body temperature
- Kidney disease
- Having been denied access to water eg. accidentally been locked in a shed
Treatment of Dehydration
This really depends on the cause. A veterinarian will perform a full clinical examination including checking the cat’s body temperature, assessing for wounds, pain and other signs of ill health.
Blood and urine tests can also help to get to the bottom of what is causing the dehydration. Depending on the cause, a dehydrated cat may be able to go home on medication to recover or may need hospitalization to receive fluids through a drip.
2. Skin Diseases
A cat’s dry nose may be an extension of a wider skin problem, especially if the cat’s skin is dry, scurfy or scabby in other places too. Dermatitis (inflammation or irritation of the skin) can be caused by an array of medical conditions, including:
- Allergies – to food, the environment or parasites
- Bacterial infections
- Fungal infections
- Auto-immune diseases
There are certain things we, as pet parents, can do to try and prevent or avoid skin problems in our pets. Vigilant parasite control, feeding a high quality premium cat food and avoiding human shampoos and skin products are all good steps to healthy skin and coat.
Pemphigus foliaceus is one example of an autoimmune disease which causes itchy dermatitis. It produces characteristic crusty lesions typically on the face, nose and paw pads. It is caused by a malfunction with the cat’s immune system that causes it to make proteins called antibodies that attack cells in the outer layer of skin.
Treatment of Skin Diseases
Treatment can vary widely depending on the cause. Some conditions, like flea allergy dermatitis can be diagnosed and treated in a simple consultation with your veterinarian whereas others, such as pemphigus foliaceus, may require further testing such as skin biopsies.
Unless your cat is an indoor cat or is confined to a secure ‘‘catio’’, then accidents and injuries are always going to be a risk. Probably the most common health conditions seen in outdoor cats are those resulting from fights with other cats.
Whilst wounds from scratches or bites can occur anywhere on the cat’s body, lesions are most common on the face, head, and scruff or on the tail and bottom. If your cat’s nose is newly cracked and bleeding, there’s a fair chance another cat is to blame.
Treatment of Wounds
Anyone who has been scratched or bitten by a cat knows the wounds caused are sore! Cat’s teeth and claws are sharp little needles and are often covered in bacteria. If your cat has an injury or wound, it is recommended that they see a veterinarian. Anti-inflammatory pain relief and antibiotics are often indicated and, depending on the extent of the wounds, your cat may also need sedating to tend to the wounds.
4. Sun Damage/Sunburn
It is not just people that need to take care in the sun; your feline friend may be susceptible to sunburn, too. An inflamed, dry crusty nose may be the result of sunburn, especially if your cat is white or pale in pigment. The amount of UV radiation is also a factor so sunburn is more common in areas with high sunshine hours and outdoor cats.
If your cat has access to the outdoors, it is a good idea to invest in a cat-safe sunscreen for the bridge of their nose and the tips of their ears, particularly if these areas are white or pink. Sunburn can predispose to certain skin cancers, so prevention is the best bet.
Treatment of Sun Damage/Sunburn
If your cat has a crusty nose, it is best to get it checked out by a veterinarian, even if you think it is caused by sunburn. They can check for signs of other health issues, determine whether there are any lesions or growths that need removing, and advise how best to protect your kitty in the future.
5. Chronic Nasal Discharge
Just as we may feel like our nose is sore and damaged after a nasty or prolonged cold or flu, cats with chronic sneezing and runny nose can also get a damaged nose. A cat’s nose that is constantly discharging and runny can be prone to getting chapped, sore, and developing cracks or fissures.
Whilst all healthy cats sneeze occasionally, a persistent runny nose is a sign of a health issue such as:
Treatment of Chronic Nasal Discharge
Some causes can be cured with a course of medication or surgery. Others, such as chronic cat flu, may need to be managed lifelong to minimize the clinical signs your cat suffers from. Vaccinating our cats at an early age and preventing mixing with unvaccinated cats gives your feline family member the best chance at respiratory good health.
Your cat’s nose is one of many useful indicators of pet health. Any changes, sudden or otherwise, should be taken seriously and assessed by a veterinarian. Many medical conditions are best prevented rather than cured so paying attention to vaccination, diet, parasite control, and sun safety can go a long way to heading off potential problems.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should I be worried if my cat’s nose is dry?
If your cat’s nose has spells during the day where it is drier than others, it is probably nothing to worry about, especially if your cat is otherwise happy, well and there are no cracks or lesions. If your cat’s nose is constantly dry and has cracks, scabs, or crusty lesions then it is best to get them examined by a veterinarian.
Why does my cat’s nose look crusty?
A crusty nose could be a sign that your cat has a skin problem or other medical condition. Your pet’s nose should be smooth and soft and crustiness may be a sign of infection, sunburn, or damage.
What can I put on my cat’s dry cracked nose?
The best cure for a dry cracked nose is to treat the underlying medical condition that is causing it. If your cat is suffering from sunburn, using a specially formulated cat-safe sunscreen is advised. A small amount of coconut oil is also considered safe to ease some of the discomforts of a sore nose.