As a rule, I expect my dog’s nose to be wet, right? Most of us know that a wet nose is a sign that our dogs are healthy even if we don’t know why. But what if it’s not wet? Why is my dog’s nose dry if it’s healthy? Or does a dry nose mean my dog is unwell?
In today’s post I’m going to look at the possible reasons why a dog’s nose might be dry and whether or not it’s something to be worried about.
I’ll be taking a look at the following areas:
Table of Contents
- Why Are Dog’s Noses Normally Wet?
- Why is My Dog’s Nose Dry?
- So… Should I See a Veterinarian if My Dog’s Nose is Dry?
- Related Posts
Why Are Dog’s Noses Normally Wet?
Most dog owners expect their dog’s nose to be cold and wet. However most of us don’t understand the reasons why.
We know that dogs’ noses are a biological miracle! As a result of evolutionary finesse, dogs have up to 300 million sensory receptors in their noses, which is around 50 times greater than the number we humans have!
Not only this, but Dogs have a special “tool” in their noses called the Jacobsen’s Organ. This sophisticated organ is located in the nasal cavity but has a direct route into the mouth, which helps dogs to “taste” smells.
Furthermore, dogs’ brains have evolved to process smells in a far more effective way than we can.
All of this means a dog can detect the equivalent of a single drop of liquid in 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools! And yet, despite this evolutionary sophistication, dogs’ noses work most effectively when they’re wet.
Firstly, like us, dogs rely on odorants to pick up scents. Odorants are microscopic scent particles that float around in the air… and they stick to wet things better than dry things. Dogs then lick their noses, which helps to keep them wet and more importantly transfers odorants into the mouth where they can be processed by the Jacobsen’s organ.
Secondly, a wet nose helps to determine the direction of the air current that’s carrying an odorant, meaning you can tell where a smell is coming from.
Pretty amazing, right?
Why is My Dog’s Nose Dry?
We know then that a healthy dog’s nose should normally be wet. If a dog’s nose is dry, in most cases there’s no reason to be alarmed, however a dry nose can indicate a medical problem.
The following are some of the reasons why your dog’s nose might be dry.
Since they don’t tend to lick their noses when they’re asleep, it’s natural that your dog’s nose will be dry when it wakes up.
Hence, you may find your dog’s nose is particularly dry when it’s had its regular sleep at night. However, even after a little cat nap (dog nap!) in the daytime, your dog’s nose might be more dry than you’d expect.
As a rule, when dog’s wake up, normal service is resumed and they start licking their noses, making them wet again.
Although it’s not a definitive reason, your dog’s nose may be dry if it’s been exercising. It may be that your dog’s nose has become dry from running around and it may need some water to drink.
This isn’t dehydration in the sense of the more serious medical condition, it’s just that your dog might need refreshment.
However, a dry nose can be one of the signs of dehydration in dogs (though not in all cases), so you should double check for other symptoms that your dog is truly dehydrated (see below).
Weather and Temperatures
Hot sun, strong wind and dry winter days can all cause your dog’s nose to dry up. Does your dog like to lie next to your log fire in the winter or perhaps near a radiator.
Warm and dry conditions both indoors and outdoors can make your dog’s nose less wet than normal.
This definitely doesn’t indicate a medical emergency… though the sun can cause damage that may need to be treated (see below).
Just like us bipeds, a dog’s bodily functions can slow up as the years advance. Dogs tend to sleep more as they age, and as I’ve outlined above, sleeping can make your dog’s nose dry.
However, if your dog is getting older it’s worth keeping an eye on a dry nose as it can be a sign of Hyperkeratosis.
Hyperkeratosis sounds very alarming, but it’s not as bad as it sounds (see below).
Sadly, some dog breeds are more likely to experience a dry nose than others.
Firstly, certain breeds are genetically predisposed to conditions such as Hyperkeratosis, which causes a dry nose. Other dogs, specifically brachycephalic breeds with short snouts (Boxers, Pugs, etc.), struggle to lick their noses as their longer snouted cousins.
Just as we humans suffer from allergic reactions leading to dry skin, dogs too can suffer from allergies that dry their noses.
If your dog has a dry nose and other allergic symptoms (sore skin, coughing / wheezing, weepy eyes), you may need to visit a veterinary surgery for assessment and treatment.
Most of us love hot sunny days and if we’re planning to be outside for long periods we might slap on some sunscreen to protect us from skin damage.
Not only does the sun dry out our skin but it can also cause sunburn. The same goes for your dog’s nose.
Since most dog’s noses are quite dark, they generally don’t sunburn. However, your dpg’s nose can still be damaged through being exposed to the sun for long periods.
If your dog’s nose gets sunburned it will dry out and possibly even crack and become sore, in which case you might need another trip to see a veterinary professional.
It’s possible for dogs to have a dry nose when they have a high temperature brought about by a fever. That said, dogs’ noses can also remain wet when they have a fever, so it’s not a cut and dry symptom.
Of course the cause of a fever in dogs can be numerous, but in many cases a fever will occur alongside other symptoms such as listlessness, loss of appetite and trembling.
If you believe your dog has a fever, the best action is to visit your veterinary centre as soon as possible.
Dogs can have a number of skin disorders that affect the nose, some of which will cause dryness, sores and scabs.
Additionally, some cancers (like nasal adenocarcinoma, a cancer) can also cause your dog’s nose to become dry, cracked and swollen.
Skin disorders can be extremely distressing for dogs and should be looked at by a veterinary professional at the earliest possible opportunity.
I touched on the subject of dehydration earlier in this article, regarding exercise. What I’m referencing here is severe dehydration, which can be a far more serious condition than being thirsty after a run around.
A dog’s nose can be dry if it becomes seriously dehydrated. Other symptoms of dehydration to look for if your dog has a dry nose are:
- Dry gums
- Excessive panting
You should always make fresh water available to your dog. However, if your dog has a problem that prevents it from drinking or you become aware it’s displaying symptoms of dehydration, contact a veterinary professional.
Blocked Tear Ducts or Dry Eye
Blocked tear ducts can lead to your dog having a dry nose. There are a series of small tubes in your dog’s head connecting its eyes, mouth and nose. These tubes, called tear ducts, enable tears to drain from the eyes to the mouth and nose.
If the tear ducts become blocked as a consequence of conditions like “dry eye“, tears will not be able to pass through to the nose. Normally, tears move through the tear ducts and help to keep the nose lubricated.
If your dog’s eyes are dry and have discharge, or are watery with tears draining down its face as well as a dry nose, it may have blocked tear ducts because of a medical condition.
As with some of the other dry nose causing problems I’ve mentioned, symptoms like these should be treated at your veterinary centre.
Canine distemper is an extremely serious and highly contagious virus that can be fatal in dogs. Distemper has a number of symptoms including:
Dogs can catch distemper by coming into contact with the virus through an infected animal either through airborne exposure or sharing food and water.
It’s a serious virus as it affects the nervous, respiratory and gastrointestinal systems and it can affect unvaccinated dogs of any age.
Early symptoms of distemper are commonly:
- Eye discharge (usually green in colour)
- Nasal discharge
- Difficulty swallowing
- Loss of appetite
As distemper progresses, the symptoms become more serious:
- Cracked, dry nose
- Severe gastrointestinal upset
Although distemper is highly contagious and the effects are devastating, it’s a disease that’s preventable through vaccination at a veterinary centre.
Hereditary Nasal Parakeratosis
Hereditary nasal parakeratosis (HNPK) is a genetic condition that affects young dogs. It’s effectively a mutation of nasal cells resulting in and excess of keratin the dog’s nose becoming dry, inflamed, cracked and crusty.
Although any dog breed can be affected by the mutation, certain breeds tend to be affected more than others. Hence, Labrador Retrievers and Labrador crossed “designer dog breeds” (Labradoodles, Whipadors, etc.) experience HNPK more than most other breeds.
The name hereditary nasal parakeratosis sounds serious, dogs affected by HNPK are actually otherwise healthy. The condition cannot be cured as it’s hereditary, however it can be managed to reduce pain and the likelihood of infection.
So… Should I See a Veterinarian if My Dog’s Nose is Dry?
Really the answer is, it depends. As I’ve mentioned, if your dog’s dry nose appears as a consequence of sleep, the weather, exercise, breed or age then perhaps not. The problem is how do you know if your dog’s dry nose doesn’t indicate something more worrying?
A dry nose in itself is not necessarily cause for concern. However, if it’s accompanied by one or more of the following then you should see a veterinarian about it:
- Your dog’s nose seems to be painful
- Excessive scratching of the nose
- Swelling and cracks
- Fever / high temperature
- Pale discoloured gums
- Excessive coughing / sneezing
- Overproduction of mucous
- Loss of appetite
Assuming you don’t find other symptoms accompanying your dog’s dry nose, the best course of action is to keep an eye on things until it returns to normal.
Of course you know what’s best for your dog and so if you are in ANY doubt about why your dog’s nose is dry, speak to a veterinary professional at the earliest convenience.
Summary: Why Is My Dog’s Nose Dry?
I realise some of the reasons I’ve listed as to why your dog’s nose might be dry could be quite concerning. However, a dry nose alone doesn’t necessarily indicate a major problem.
Check for other symptoms, especially flaking, soreness and crustiness, and seek veterinary attention if there’s any indication your dog is suffering from something that needs medical treatment.
After all, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Does your dog get a dry nose? Has it ever indicated a problem? Or perhaps I’ve missed something in this article? Please share your experiences / thoughts in the comment section at the bottom of the page.
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