Why do dogs have wet noses?
Returning home to your dog, whether you left them for 10 minutes or a couple of hours, means you’ll most likely be met with an extremely excited dog.
A dog that will be keen to flood you with cuddles and kisses. You may notice, whilst being inundated with affection by your furry friend, that their nose is cold and wet.
Universally, most people think that if a dog has a cold and wet nose that they are happy and healthy. Whereas if their nose is warm and dry, they must be sick.
This likely causes several trips to the vet that are completely unnecessary. So, why do dogs have wet noses and what can it tell you about your dog?
What causes dogs to have a wet nose?
Scent is a dog’s most powerful tool. Humans typically depend on sight, whereas dogs primarily depend on their smell. It's not just their noses that help your dog navigate the world, their whiskers come in handy too for spatial awareness! Read all about why dogs have whiskers here.
The dampness and temperature of your dog’s nose can vary throughout the day. Maybe you notice more of those sweet little nose marks pressed onto the glass at different times of the day. But why does a dog have a wet nose in the first place?
A dog’s nose produces mucus naturally. This creates a thin coating over their nose which absorbs and holds scent particles.
Think of it like how we salivate when we think of/see some appetising food. A similar thing happens to dogs but through their nose instead.
Essentially, dogs smell through both their nose and mouth. To enable this, dogs are equipped with an extra olfactory instrument called the Vomeronasal organ, or more informally, the Jacobson’s organ.
Located in the nose cavity and extending to the roof of the mouth, this organ enhances their smell to a point incredibly superior to our human scent. Somewhere between 1,000-100,000 times more powerful than our sense of smell!
Dogs lick their nose because it secretes mucus which holds the scent particles, allowing them to have an increased sense of smell through the use of the Jacobson’s organ.
Also, dogs lick their noses to clean off whatever they could have picked up whilst having their nose to the ground sniffing. Dogs are smarter than we give them credit for, and it is a dog’s instinct to keep their nose moist to allow their smelling ability to be at its optimum standard.
When they are outside, our dogs are here there and everywhere. They are constantly sticking their noses in grass, mud, plants, bushes, water and just about everything really.
As our pups use scent to guide them through the world, it is a given that if something can be sniffed, they will sniff it. Therefore, they can pick up moisture along the way, causing them to have a moist nose.
Unlike us humans, dogs do not have sweat glands all over their body due to their furry coats. Instead, they manage their temperature through panting in excessive heat and through the sweat glands in the pads of their feet and their nose. This creates moisture.
Despite a dog having a wet nose being generally a good thing, pay attention to if it is overly runny. Excessive nasal discharge can be an indicator of a further issue, for instance an upper respiratory infection. If you think this is the case, consult your vet.
Why do dogs get dry noses?
A dog’s nose does work better when it is cool and wet, due to the scent particles holding onto the nose, optimising scent. However, if your dog’s nose is warm and dry, do not panic as there are plenty of explanations.
After a nap
After your pooch has woken up from a long sleep, their nose will be increasingly warmer and drier than usual.
This is for the simple reason that dogs don’t lick and dampen their nose whilst they are sleeping. Also, if your dog is sleeping in a warm room, their nose will heat up and dry out quicker.
Physical exercise makes you thirsty. Thirst can be reflected in the dryness of a dog’s nose, so after exercise ensure they get a drink of water.
Older dogs tend to have a drier nose, as they don’t produce as much mucus as they once did as a youngster. As stated, dogs get a dry nose after sleep, and older dogs typically nap a lot more than the younger ones.
A dry, cracked nose could also be a result of weather conditions such as the sun and wind.
Should I be worried if my dog’s nose is dry?
Your dog solely having a dry, warm nose is likely not to be of any issue. However, it could be a side effect of some other medical conditions which may need your attention:
If your dog has been out in the sun for an extended time, look out for the signs of sunburn. A dry, red nose with flaky skin is a big indicator of sunburn.
Skin and allergies
Many dogs have sensitive skin or skin disorders which can cause the nose to become chapped and flaky. Also, just like us humans, dogs can get allergies too which cause their noses to dry out.
As previously mentioned, a dog’s nose can become dry when they are dehydrated. However, if your dog is severely dehydrated, you may notice other symptoms such as lack of skin elasticity, lethargy, and sunken eyes along with a dry nose.
It is more than likely that if your dog has a dry nose that it is nothing to worry about. Do not take the condition of your dog’s nose as the ultimate way to judge your dog’s health. Also, there is no truth to a cold, wet nose being an indicator of good health as this myth has been completely debunked.
Sometimes a dry nose can be a symptom of a larger problem, and this will likely be accompanied by other symptoms. If your dog is showing signs of illness, you should consult a vet.
Be aware of your dog's nose, however, if your dog seems otherwise normal there should be nothing to worry about.
- When the Nose Doesn’t Know: Canine Olfactory Function Associated with Health, Management, and Potential Links to Microbiota Frontiers in Veterinary Science, 5, March 2018, doi:10.3389/fvets.2018.00056
- Vomeronasal Organ Wikipedia
- The Canine Sense of Smell Whole Dog Journal