By Lindsay Lowe
You probably know the feeling of a dogâ€™s cold, wet nose pressing against your skin. And if youâ€™re a pup parent, you have no doubt cleaned countless nose prints from every glass surface in your house. But have you ever wondered why your dogâ€™s nose is wet?
The wetness of a dogâ€™s nose comes from a mixture of saliva and mucus, says Dr. Anita Guo, a veterinarian at the Beaumont Sainsbury Animal Hospital in London. A dogâ€™s nose secretes its own, thin layer of mucus, and dogs add even more mucus and saliva by licking their noses frequently.
The details may be a little icky, but having a wet nose serves a few vital functions for dogs. First, keeping their noses moist helps dogs regulate their body temperature, says Guo. Dogs donâ€™t have sweat glands all over their bodies like we do, so they rely on sweat glands in their noses and the pads of their feet to help maintain a safe internal temperature.
â€śThe moisture of the nose helps them evaporate heat and helps them cool down their body,â€ť she says.
Dogsâ€™ wet noses also contribute to their incredible sense of smell. When dogs inhale, tiny scent particles floating in the air get trapped in their nose mucus. This â€śhelps them to break down and interpret odors,â€ť Guo explains.
Licking their noses helps dogs â€śsmellâ€ť even more deeply. When a dog licks his nose, his tongue picks up some of the scent particles trapped in his noseâ€™s mucus. He then touches his tongue to an olfactory gland called the Jacobsonâ€™s organ on the roof of his mouth, says Guo, which gives him an even more nuanced reading of the chemical compounds that make up odors.
â€śTheir sense of smell is obviously much, much better than humansâ€™ and we think this is the reason why,â€ť she says.
My Dogâ€™s Nose Is?Dry. What Does It Mean?
Many pet parents worry if their dog has a dry nose, but this isnâ€™t automatically cause for alarm.
â€śIt is normal for a dog to have a wet nose, but just because they have a dry nose doesnâ€™t mean theyâ€™re sick,â€ť says Dr. Kathryn Primm, the owner and chief veterinarian at Applebrook Animal Hospital in Ooltewah, Tennessee. In fact, she says it is simply an â€śold wivesâ€™ tale that if a dog has a dry nose, itâ€™s abnormal.â€ť
Dogsâ€™ noses could be dry at times for a number of reasons, says Guo. Their noses may be less moist when they wake up from a long sleep, simply because they havenâ€™t been licking them for several hours. Sleeping in a warm room with low humidity levels could also make a dogâ€™s nose especially dry, she adds. Before you run to the vet, Guo recommends waiting to see if the dogâ€™s nose becomes moist again as the day goes on.
Certain breeds may also just have naturally drier noses, Guo explains.
â€śIn my experience, most brachycephalics [dogs with short snouts like Bulldogs and Pugs] have slightly drier noses,â€ť she says. â€śI think thatâ€™s just because theyâ€™re less able to lick their noses.â€ť
Also, some older dogs may lose nose moisture as they age because theyâ€™re producing less mucus. This could â€śmake their noses a bit drier than we would [see] with a puppy,â€ť Guo says.
When to Worry About a Dogâ€™s Dry Nose
While pet parents shouldnâ€™t panic just because their dog has a dry nose, there are some other nose conditions that should prompt a trip to the vet.
â€śIf there are any changes in the color of the nose, or if thereâ€™s any bleeding, cracking, scaling, if there are any lumps and bumps around the muzzle or face or nose, these things are much more concerning,â€ť Guo says. â€śIf the dogâ€™s having a nosebleed, we definitely want to see the dog, especially if it happens quite often.â€ť
Also, if your dog not only has a dry nose, but is also acting sick or otherwise behaving unusually, that could be a sign of a more serious problem, Primm says.
Bottom line, if you notice any changes in the noseâ€™s appearance, or changes in your dogâ€™s behavior accompanied by a dry nose, you should always err on the side of caution and get your dog checked out.
However, if your dog wakes up one day with a dry nose but otherwise seems normal and healthy, thereâ€™s no need to drop everything and run to the vet.
â€śObviously, the usual, wet-nosed dog is good, but if they do have a dry nose, itâ€™s not the end of the world,â€ť Guo says. â€śI donâ€™t want owners to worry if the nose is dry, unless there are other signs.â€ť
Read more: 5 Dog Nose Facts You Probably Didn't Know