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My dog has a cold, wet nose… Why?

Posted 03.25.16 by Emily Lindsey

When it comes to pets, it seems there are many mysteries about their bodies and why they were made a certain way. One thing that makes their humans curious is the fact that their noses are often both cold and wet. 

It is often believed that a dry, warm nose equals a sick dog and a visit to the vet while a cold, wet nose equals a healthy dog or puppy. It could also be recurrent allergies, some say. That belief is not always true.  We’ve all felt our dog’s cold, wet nose greet us as we arrive home from work. Or after playing outside, our dog’s nose sometimes becomes warm and dry. The per se “normal” dog nose varies from dog to dog just as the weather changes from day to day. The temperature and moistness of a dog’s nose is not a good indicator of the dog’s overall health. Dogs noses are often wet for a few reasons.wet nose

  • Staying clean: A dog’s nose is its main tool for everything. For instance, shoveling through the dirt to find the bone they hid in the yard last week or rummaging through the trash to find Thanksgiving Day’s leftovers. Instead of a hand shake, dogs use their noses to greet the rears of one another. We know, their manners are interesting. In order to keep these well used tools clean, dogs lick their noses them…A LOT, which in turn leaves them with a cool and wet nose.
  • Scent detection: Some people believe that a dog’s sense of smell is approximately one thousand to even millions of times keener than that of humans.  This could be due to an adaptation. A dog’s nose secretes a thin layer of mucous that is used to help trap scent particles from the environment better than the nose of a human. Research has indicated it is quite likely that these wet dog noses can pick up the scents of fear, anxiety, and even sadness.
  • Keeping cool: Dogs are covered in hair and cannot sweat through their skin like people do. Instead, dogs dissipate heat through panting and by evaporation of moisture through their noses & paws. They have special glands inside the nose that secrete a watery fluid to keep the inside of the nose moist and to help keep the dog cool.

When to become concerned?

A warm nose does not always indicate a fever. The body temperature of your dog can only be determined with an actual thermometer. A warm and dry nose is common in healthy dogs after sleeping. Dry, chapped noses are common in older dogs and in some breeds like Bulldogs or Pugs.  Playing outside or sitting near a heat source can also cause a warm, dry nose.  Your dog’s mucous should always be clear and thin. Thickened, discolored or foul smelling mucous and nasal discharge, lethargy, a poor appetite, difficulty breathing, or redness, flaking, and/or sores around the nose are all indicators to contact your local veterinarian immediately.

 The bottom line is to know your dog’s normal nose.

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