It’s a general understanding between dog owners around the world that a wet nose means a happy dog, right? But why are dogs’ noses wet in the first place and what does it truly mean?
The canine sense of smell is a very important part of a dog’s biology and helps them to communicate and navigate safely in the big wide world - it’s something that also would have determined their survival way back before they were domesticated.
Understanding why dogs’ noses are wet and what it means when they’re dry is super important and can help you to understand your dog and their needs even more. To help you become a top pet parent, we’ve created this guide to answer the most common questions, including:
Why are dog noses wet?
How do noses get wet?
Why is my dog’s nose dry?
Why is my dog’s nose so wet it drips?
When awake and walking around, dogs tend to have cool and wet noses. This is because the tip of the nose, the rhinarium, is filled with lots of nerves. These nerves can even sense heat from a distance.
In the same way that we can detect temperature through the thermoreceptors in our skin, dog noses are even more sensitive and strong. When dogs were not yet domesticated, this ability would have helped them to recognise warm-blooded prey.
A dog’s sense of smell is basically a canine superpower compared to humans’ meaning their noses are crucial in how they navigate the world. Inside the nasal cavity is the vomeronasal organ, also known as Jacobson’s organ.
The Jacobson’s organ helps dogs to find information through smell and scent particles that are quite frankly undetectable to us. Noticed that your dog wants to sniff everything on their walk? This isn’t because they’re trying to hold you up but because they’re fulfilling their sensory needs - often resulting in a happy, wet nose.
A dog’s nose is so powerful that sniffing stimulates their brain in the same way that exercise does!
A drier nose, on the other hand, doesn’t necessarily always mean trouble but it can be an indicator that your dog is dehydrated. It can also be a symptom of other illnesses such as dry eye or a respiratory problem. If your dog has a dry nose and other symptoms such as diarrhoea, vomiting, and lethargy, we recommend speaking to your vet immediately.
All Waggel members get access to 24/7 online vet care for free through the Joii app. Here you can book consultations with vets through the click of a button as well as buy treatment to be delivered straight to your door.
Dog noses get wet because they secrete mucus, something you’ve probably felt if you’ve got up close to hug or pet your pooch and had a wet face afterwards (don’t worry, we’ve all been there). Special glands in the nose help to produce this mucus and keep the nasal canal moist.
This mucus helps dogs to follow smells in the air and keeps the nose wet because it rests on top and in the nasal canal. Dogs are also unable to sweat the way we do, so their noses essentially act as a cooling mechanism by evaporating fluid from the nose to cool down the rest of the body.
Dogs can also lick their noses which keeps them extra lubricated. Whether they just feel like it or are doing so to clean their nose, this is another reason why your dog's nose may be wet and cool.
There are many reasons why a dog’s nose can be dry, let’s take a look at the possible reasons.
Exposure to the elements can cause a dog’s nose to become chapped and dry. Whether this is due to sitting next to a cool vent or an open fire, high and low temperatures can cause a dry nose.
During sleep, dogs don’t tend to lick their noses meaning they’re likely to wake up with a drier nose than usual. After a drink and a lick, you’ll likely find their nose is moist again.
Most dogs develop dry noses through age just like we get wrinkles and grey hair. It’s typically not something to worry about though you can purchase dog-safe balm to keep it moisturised - we’re sure they’d do the same for you if they could.
Dehydration is one of the main reasons why dogs have dry noses. Dehydration can be very dangerous and is often accompanied by sunken eyes, lethargy, excessive panting, and vomiting. If you’ve noticed these signs in your dog and monitored their daily water intake, it’s best to speak to your vet.
To prevent a dry nose, always ensure your dog has enough water and stays away from extreme temperatures. This means allowing them to have a cool place to relax when it’s hot and a warm place to relax when temperatures drop.
You can also purchase balms to rehydrate a chapped or dry nose though you may already have one ingredient at home already: coconut oil. Coconut oil helps to restore moisture and includes lots of vitamins and minerals. If you are going to use coconut oil on your dog’s nose make sure it is 100% natural and unprocessed.
Some brachycephalic breeds are more likely to suffer from dry noses such as French Bulldogs and Pugs as they’re unable to lick and rehydrate their nose when needed.
In addition to this, if you are worried about your dog’s dry nose or if they display other symptoms such as lethargy, vomiting, and not drinking, we recommend speaking directly to your vet as soon as possible.
On a final note, always remember to leave plenty of water out for your dog and if you’re in need of more dog advice, continue to check out our blog. The Waggel blog contains everything you need to know including up-to-date information on buying a dog, puppy issues (such as biting) and how to deal with pesky parasites such as mites and ticks.
So a wet or moist nose means a healthy dog, but what about if it’s dripping wet? Well, in this case, it’s likely an otherwise healthy pup is struggling with allergies or an infection.
Drier noses that drip typically indicate an allergy to pollen, mould, or dander, or even sensitivity to chemical irritants such as candles, perfume, and cleaning solutions. It's crucial to limit your dog's exposure to these irritants, and if symptoms don't improve, visit your local vet for a clear diagnosis and treatment. If your dog has excessive nasal discharge, it's best to get it checked immediately.
A dripping nose could also mean that your dog drank water too quickly or prefers to submerge their snout in the water bowl (to each their own).
And there you have it – wet noses are a vital part of a dog's anatomy. Their amazing sense of smell, which is many times larger than human noses, essentially serves as a superpower that helps dogs become mentally stimulated and navigate the world around them.
A moist nose can also be seen by owners as a sign of a happy and healthy dog. However, remember that if your dog's nose is overly wet and dripping with any sort of nasal discharge, this could be an indication of a more serious issue, such as respiratory infections or perhaps another infectious disease.
On the other hand, dry dog noses can signify dehydration. Don't panic if your dog wakes up from a nap with a dry nose – this is just because they've been asleep and couldn't lick it. If your dog's nose continues to stay dry, it's worth reaching out to a vet who can provide a formal diagnosis. Brachycephalic dogs, like Frenchies, are unable to lick their noses and often struggle with dry noses. If you are an owner of a brachycephalic dog, it's essential to frequently moisturise their nose with dog-friendly nose balms.
Keep an eye on the moisture level and body temperature of your dog, as these can provide valuable insights into their health. Be aware of warning signs such as a cold nose, warm nose, or signs of illness related to the nasal passages.
Additionally, be mindful of the effects of hot weather on your dog's overall health status and how this affects their scent receptors.
It’s also important to be aware of the potential autoimmune diseases and skin diseases that could impact your dog's sensitive noses and the layer of mucus that helps them detect scent chemicals.
If you have any concerns about this, It's worth speaking to your vet or booking a free consultation with Joii if you are a Waggel member.
Need more help? You're in luck if you're a Waggel Pet Insurance member. Along with our excellent coverage, we offer access to a 24/7 online vet to answer all your sticky questions, especially if you need grooming assistance.
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