Medically Reviewed by Taylor Froiland, PharmD, RPh
Written by Adam McCown, PharmD
It’s an age old question, why are our dogs’ noses wet? If you’re a pet parent, then I’ll bet that you’ve had that cold, wet nose in your face or pressing against you at one point or another. Most likely, you’ve felt it more times than you can count. And then there’s all the nose marks on your nice clean windows that the sunlight makes impossible not to see. Don’t you love cleaning those off just to see them there back on the window the next day? Yeah, we do to.
Why Is Your Dog’s Nose Wet?
But have you ever wondered why a dog’s nose is wet and cold? The wetness itself is created through a mixture of saliva and mucus secreted from their nose itself, and it’s supplemented by the mucus and saliva that dogs add to it by constantly licking and re-licking it. Okay, that’s why dogs’ noses are physically wet, but what purpose does that wetness serve?
Well, there are two primary reasons as far as dog medical experts can tell. First, their wet noses help dogs regulate their body temperature. Dogs don’t have the luxury of having sweat glands all over their bodies like humans do in order to remove excess body heat and keep their internal temperature where it should be. They do, however, have sweat glands in their noses and in the pad on their feet. This, along with panting, is the primary way that dogs can maintain a safe internal body temperature.
Second, wet noses aid your dog’s unmatched sense of smell. Canines have extremely powerful noses, with most experts claiming that their smelling power is anywhere between 10,000 and 100,000 times more powerful than that of humans. They have roughly 50 smell receptors in their noses to humans’ one. The mucus and saliva helps their nose to be more effective.
When a dog licks his or her nose, the tongue picks up some of the particles that are caught in their nose mucus. They then touch their tongue to an olfactory gland called the Jacobson’s organ on the roof of his mouth which gives them an even more nuanced reading of the chemical compounds that make up odors.
What If My Dog’s Nose Is Dry?
“Common sense” when it comes to determining whether or not your dog is sick is checking to see if their nose is dry. Many people believe that if their nose is dry then something is wrong. As is often the case, what’s considered common sense in this case is, actually, incorrect. Just because your dog has a dry nose does not necessarily mean they are sick.
In fact, a normal, healthy dog’s nose will go back and forth between being wet and dry several times throughout a normal day. Furthermore, all dogs, like all humans, are different in many ways and their bodies behave differently. This means that some dogs naturally have drier and wetter noses than other individuals do.
In addition to common causes like just waking up from a nap or being a little dehydrated, here are several common reasons why your dog’s nose might be a bit dry (or very dry):
- Skin Disorder – If your dog consistently has a dry nose, especially if it is severe with cracking, scabbing, and sores, they might be suffering from some type of skin disorder. If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s a good idea to contact your vet as soon as possible, have your dog examined, and determine what is causing the cracking and scabbing. Then your vet can recommend the proper course of action and treatment.
- Sunburn – You usually don’t have to worry about your dog getting sunburn because the majority of their bodies is covered in fur. However, any exposed skin on your dog is susceptible to sunburn, much like humans are. Their nose is one of these areas. If your dog has a dry or peeling nose, it could be because they got too much sun. Dogs with pale or pink noses are especially vulnerable to sunburn. If this becomes a common occurrence, talk to your vet about finding a type sunscreen or lotion that can help.
- Severe Dehydration – A dry nose can sometimes indicate that your dog is suffering from severe dehydration. Other symptoms of dehydration in dogs are sunken eyes, weakness, lethargy, and lack of skin elasticity. If you notice any of these symptoms, encourage them to drink water as soon as you can.
- Allergies – If your dog’s nose is very dry then it could be the result of an allergic reaction. It’s possible that they could be allergic to their dog food or chemicals found in your home or in their bedding, like the laundry detergent your use.
If your dog’s nose is dry, you should give them water and then wait and see if it moistens throughout the day before bringing them in to see the vet. If your dog’s nose does not stay wet, then consider making an appointment to see what the issue might be. However, if you notice a change in the color or appearance of your dog’s nose, bleeding, cracking, scaling, or bumps around the muzzle or face or nose, then this could indicate a deeper, more serious health problem. You definitely want to bring them to the veterinarian’s office quickly if you notice any of those things.
Your Dog’s Nose Should Be Wet, Generally
Although it is normal for it to be dry at times, most dogs’ noses should, generally, be wet most of the time. If your furry friend’s nose is dry all the time or for what seems like most of the time, something might be up. If you notice it’s chapped at all, it can help if you gently clean it and apply a thin layer of hypoallergenic lubricant, like petroleum jelly.
If the dryness persists, then contact your vet to learn which steps to take next. If they prescribe any type of medication, remember that you can fulfill all your pets’ drug needs conveniently online through ExpressVet Pharmacy.