Kennel Nose Treatment, Causes, and Prevention

The dog’s nose is an indicator of its overall health. All nose-related changes require attention and proper management. So, what happens when dogs get kennel noses? What can pet owners do to help their dogs overcome the problem?

So, what is the kennel nose treatment? Luckily, the solution is relatively simple, especially if the condition is caught early. All pet owners need to do is make sure the nose is clean and apply antibacterial ointments. And, of course, keep their dogs busy until the ointment is well absorbed into the nose’s delicate skin. 

In this article, we will talk about kennel noses in dogs. We will cover the main causes and some popular at-home treatment options. We will also discuss potential complications and consequences and give prevention tips. Let’s dive into the topic. 

What Causes Kennel Nose?

Before we go in-depth into the reasons kennel nose in dogs occurs, we should emphasize the difference between kennel nose and kennel cough. Do not get confused by the similar medical terminology as these are completely different issues. 

While kennel nose is generally due to mechanical irritation, kennel cough is a viral disease. Plus, the kennel nose is much simpler to manage than the pathogen-triggered and highly contagious kennel cough. 

So, let’s go through the potential causes of kennel nose in dogs. 

Cause number 1: Separation anxiety 

The most common cause of kennel nose is separation anxiety and occurs in dogs left at kennels and boarding facilities hence the medical terminology. Namely, dogs with separation anxiety find comfort in repetitive behaviors, and scratching the nose is one of them. Plus, while boarding, dogs with separation anxiety are likely to try to escape – dig in yards and use their muzzle for scratching the doors and fences. These mechanical factors often result in small sores on the nose, also known as kennel nose. 

Cause number 2: Skin issues and itching 

Instead of separation anxiety, a behavioral issue, some dogs may resort to scratching their noses because of a skin condition. For example, one of the most common causes of itchiness in dogs is allergy. Dogs are prone to a variety of skin allergy forms – from atopic dermatitis to food to environmental allergies. Skin allergies cause generalized itchiness. If the dog is prone to excessively scratching its face and nose, it may self-inflict sores which are popularly called kennel nose. 

Cause number 3: Behavioral instincts

This reason is also directly linked to boarding behavior in dogs. Namely, when dogs live with their human families, they are less likely to exhibit natural behaviors and inclinations. However, while boarding, the instincts kick in (a dog’s version of the fight or flight response). For example, dogs hate to eat while other dogs are present – it simply makes them nervous. In such cases, the dog may try to dig holes for food hiding. The repetitive digging attempts can result in nose sores or kennel nose. 

Cause number 4: Dietary changes

Instead of diving right into their food, some dogs prefer playing with it. This usually occurs when the dog is bored of its food, overfed, or simply not in the mood to eat. A dog that constantly rubs its nose off the dry kibble is likely to develop tiny sores on the nose. Since the skin on the nose is extra delicate, the sores quickly progress, leading to a case of kennel nose. 

Cause number 5: Poor facial hygiene

It is no secret that when it comes to personal hygiene, dogs are not very good at keeping clean. If a dog gets something on its face like dirt or food, it will try to clean it by rubbing its muzzle off the floor or carpet. The friction between the nose’s skin and the rough ground often causes sores. Poor facial hygiene is often the cause of kennel nose in flat-faced dogs like Pugs, French Bulldogs, and Boston Terriers. 

Cause number 6: Pain and discomfort 

Dogs tend to poke their noses everywhere and can easily get an object inside. For example, foxtails often find their way into dogs’ nostrils. In such cases, the foxtail causes irritation, and in an attempt to get rid of it, the dog will paw at its nose or even rub the nose. Such efforts rarely yield any resolution. In fact, it is quite the opposite – they can make the situation worse by creating open sores on the dog’s nose or triggering a case of kennel nose.

How Do You Treat Kennel Nose?

Treating non-complicated cases of kennel nose at home is possible and quite simple. The treatment includes four simple steps, which you need to repeat several times per day. 

Step number 1: Cleaning the nose

First things first, you need to make sure the nose is clean and disinfected. Bacteria and microorganisms like living and multiplying on the dog’s nose. This is why cleaning is a must. To clean the dog’s nose, you can use lukewarm water and a mild (and dog-friendly) antibacterial soap. 

Step number 2: Drying the nose 

Once the nose is well-washed and clean, you need to dry it well with a clean cloth. You should be extra careful when drying – do not rub the surface of the nose as this will affect the healing and re-irritate the skin. 

Step number 3: Applying antimicrobial ointment 

The next step includes the application of antibacterial ointment. If you are not sure which cream is best, do not hesitate to talk to your vet. Keep in mind that the cream must not contain corticosteroids as these meds delay healing. 

Step number 4: Keeping the dog busy 

Finally, after the cream is applied, you should keep the dog entertained until the active ingredient from the ointment is absorbed. If you do not keep the dog occupied, it will lick the cream off – usually, this is not harmful to the dog, but it decreases the efficacy of the cream. 

How Long Does It Take Kennel Nose to Heal?

There is no rule regarding how long the kennel nose needs to heal – it all depends on the severity of the sores, the promptness and adequacy of the treatment, and of course, whether the underlying trigger is resolved. There is no point in managing the kennel nose if the underlying cause is left untreated – the dog will continue with the rubbing defeating the purpose of the treatment in the first place. 

Will My Dog’s Nose Turn Black Again After Kennel Nose?

Yes, in most cases, the nose will get its normal pigmentation and black color after resolving the problem. However, sometimes, if the sores were too deep and the dog’s nose skin sustained severe damage, there might be a permanent discoloration. The good news is that the discoloration is a purely aesthetic issue – it does not impair the overall function of the nose (it just looks funky). 

How Do I Keep My Dog from Getting Kennel Nose?

The old saying “better safe than sorry” is totally applicable when it comes to kennel nose in dogs. Preventing kennel nose is more straightforward than treating the slowly-healing nose sores. 

Here are some tips on how to prevent your dog from getting kennel cough based on the mentioned causes:

  • Separation anxiety: dogs with separation anxiety require a multimodal approach – from proper behavior modification to anti-anxiety medications (mainstream or holistic). Also, you need to avoid triggers. If your dog has separation anxiety, do not make things worse by leaving it in boarding facilities. If you need to be absent, find someone who will take care of your dog in a familiar setting or travel together. 
  • Skin issues: for the kennel nose to develop due to skin issues, they would need to be quite advanced – do not let this happen. If your dog is itchier than normal, make a trip to the vet’s office and determine the culprit before it causes more severe problems. 
  • Behavioral instincts: this is not something you can control. Therefore, if your dog is prone to exhibiting such behavioral instincts, try not to have it boarded. You can always ask a friend to watch over your dog while you are away. Alternatively, you can hire a pet sitter. 
  • Diet changes: do not make sudden changes to your dog’s diet. This can wreak havoc on its digestive system and result in troublesome issues. Make the switches gradually while carefully monitoring your dog’s reactions to the new food. Also, try not to overfeed your dog (do not overdo it when it comes to treats and give portion sizes that are in accordance with the instructions on the food). 
  • Poor facial hygiene: be more attentive to your dog’s personal hygiene. Bathing is an important part of grooming, but between baths, you need to make sure your dog’s skin wrinkles stay clean. This is particularly true if your dog is flat-faced. Always keep dog-friendly wet wipes on hand, clean your dog’s face after meals, and take walks outside. 
  • Pain and discomfort: always check your dog after spending time outside. Foreign objects like the mentioned foxtails can get trapped into the dog’s skin and then end up in hard-to-get places. After each walk, give your dog a brisk examination while paying more attention to delicate places – the nose, ears, eyes, paws, and between the pads. 

In Summary

Do not be confused by the fancy name – kennel nose is a relatively simple condition. It is caused by everyday mechanical irritation, and luckily, its solution is simple too. Kennel nose complications are rare, but the healing can be lengthy, considering how gentle the nose’s skin is. 

Suppose your dog’s kennel nose seems like it’s progressing despite your at-home treatment efforts. It is best advised to contact your vet and seek professional help in that case. Although infrequent, infections of the sores are possible, and you need a vet to prescribe oral antibiotics. 


  • Brad

    Hi I'm Brad, the founder of Having been a vet of 6 years I work alongside our team to provide valuable insight into your dog's health. I have a frenchie myself named Senzu who is my pride and joy!

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