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Your dog’s nose can give you signals as to your dog’s health and wellness. However, it’s perfectly normal for your dog’s nose wetness to change and occasionally even dry out. The myth that a dry dog nose equals a sick dog has been thoroughly debunked.
Let’s consider the reasons why your dog’s nose is usually wet, and warning signs to look out for if your dog’s nose is dry or too wet.
A wet dog nose on the cheek can be delightful or less than pleasant, depending on the person. (And time of day.) Either way, a wet nose is generally a good thing, serving a variety of purposes for the dog attached to it. For example, did you know dogs sweat through their noses (as well as their paws) to regulate their body temperature?
In addition to helping them sweat, the thin layer of mucus secreted by a dog’s nose aids in their sense of smell by trapping scent particles from the air. So even if you’re not a fan of wet dog noses, you can feel good knowing it’s helping keep your best bud cool and informed.
Sometimes, your dog uses her nose for investigation, from finding abandoned balls under the couch to checking out that questionable clump of weeds on your walk. This can be a messy business, and she’s just licking it to clean it off.
Or, when sniffing, the thin layer of mucus on your dog’s nose picks up a sampling of scent particles. These particles, when transferred to the mouth, can be further investigated by an olfactory organ on the roof of your dog’s mouth.
That’s right: dogs have scent glands in their mouths. Your dog’s sense of smell is at least 1,000 times more sensitive than yours, and that’s because they have a much more complex sensory system than humans.
There’s a gland that connects your dog’s nose and mouth called a Jacobson’s Organ. This organ can help your dog assess all kinds of information about another animal, including age, health, and much more.
Dogs have also been reported to detect Orcas in the ocean from a mile away or identify malignant cancers using their incredible sense of smell.
Your dog’s nose is also stereoscopic, which means they can use each nostril individually to identify and locate smells. Those slits on the sides of the nose are where they exhale, circulating air efficiently through their nostrils.
It’s safe to say dogs have a complex sense of smell, allowing them to collect all of the wonderful smells out in the world to explore. Well, the smells are wonderful to them. Your dog’s idea of what smells wonderful will often be very different than your idea of a good smell.
Having a wet nose helps dogs get the most out of their abilities, which is why a dry nose could be a sign of trouble.
A dry nose isn’t always a bad thing. However, consult your vet if your dog’s dry nose comes with changes in behavior or health, such as lethargy, vomiting, or diarrhea, or changes in appetite.
Also contact your vet if your dog’s nose has cracking or bleeding, or has bumps or other changes to its appearance.
When it’s normal for your dog to have a dry nose:
- A dry nose after sleeping is completely normal.
- Like in humans, allergies may cause your dog’s nose to dry out.
- Exposure to warm, dry conditions may cause some temporary dryness of your dog’s nose.
- Dehydration will cause a dry nose. Does your dog have available water? If he refuses to drink, be sure to consult your vet. Dry, tacky gums can be another sign of dehydration.
- Exercise can dry out your dog’s nose.
- Again, like you, sunburn can cause your dog to have a dry nose. If she’s been in the sun and her nose dries out, try doggie sunblock, available at many pet supply stores.
- Plastic toys or bowls can contribute to nose dryness. Try switching out these products to non-plastic options.
- Aging dogs can develop dry noses naturally.
With no behavior changes, all of the above conditions are normal. However, consult a vet if there are changes to your dog’s nose’s appearance or their behavior along with a dry nose. Does your dog have dry skin overall? Here’s our guide to dry skin in dogs, written by a vet.
An unusually runny nose in dogs could signal trouble. A persistent runny nose could be caused by allergies, while one runny nostril may mean there is a minor blockage in your dog’s nostril.
Any sort of unusual discharge (smelly, discolored, or cloudy) may be a sign of an infection, nostril shape issues, or an even more serious disease such as distemper.
If your dog has a bloody nose that persists for more than a few minutes, call your vet. It could be a sign of a serious illness.
Most of the time, yes! Your dog’s nose contains a complex system for detecting and interpreting the world through smell. Part of this system relies on the mucus on your dog’s nose. Your dog also relies on its nose to cool off through sweat.
A dry nose often comes from the same sources that dry out your nose, as listed above, including exercise, dry weather, and sleeping.
Keep an eye out for excessive dryness or wetness, and for any unusual discharge. Otherwise, let your dog’s incredible nose lead the way.