A cold, wet nose is a feature we have all come to expect in a healthy dog. So, when our four-legged friend has a dry nose it can lead to concern that they are unwell and that we need to do something about it. But are we reading too much into this single indicator of poor health? Is the whole ‘wet nose’ issue no more than an urban myth?
Let’s look at what a dry nose is really telling you about your pooch’s health and at how you can decide if you need to get them some help.
How Does a Dog Use Their Nose?
A dog’s nose is a vitally important part of their body. Obviously, they use it for breathing but it also connects to tear ducts in the eye and drains excessive moisture. The sweat glands in the nose help them to cool down on hot days.
It acts as a collection point for all sorts of information from the environment. Messages in the form of chemicals get trapped in the moisture on the dog’s noses. When they flick their tongues over their nose they transfer the chemicals to olfactory glands in the roof of the mouth and the glands interpret what is going on in the outside world. This is why you see the classic ‘sniff, sniff, lick’ routine that your pooch loves so much when you are out for a walk. It also explains how dogs have such a fantastic sense of smell because licking helps them to smell very deeply.
Why is a Dog’s Nose Wet?
The moisture is a thin layer of mucus mixed with saliva. The mucus is secreted by the nose itself and the saliva is introduced by frequent licking. This may sound a bit gross but it fulfils a vital function! As the moisture evaporates, it helps dogs to cool down in the same way as sweat works on the human body. The moisture is also very helpful for their sense of smell.
Owners often get very worried when they discover that their dog’s nose is dry but the clear message from pet health experts is that there is rarely need for panic. If your dog has no other symptoms, the sensible approach is to wait for 24 hours to see if their nose becomes moist again.
5 Causes of Dry Noses in Dogs
There are several reasons why a perfectly healthy dog could have a dry nose.
1. Nose moisture varies by breed
Some breeds naturally have drier noses. The brachycephalics (which includes Bulldogs and Pugs) often have dry noses and this may be because the shape of their face makes it more difficult for them to lick their nose. Less licking equals a drier nose!
2. Older dogs have drier noses
Puppies have very wet noses! You probably noticed all the little ‘nose prints’ on glass surfaces around your house when your new pup arrived. As a dog gets older, their nose gets drier but this is just a natural change and does not necessarily indicate that they are ill.
3. Sleeping and warm air
A sleeping dog does not lick their nose and this explains why it can dry out. After a long sleep in a warm dry room, their nose can be very dry. Within half an hour, things should be back to normal.
Just like humans, dogs can get sunburnt on exposed areas of skin and the tip of the nose is very vulnerable. Dogs with pink skin are most likely to get a sunburnt nose which will feel dry and may peel and crack.
Dogs can be allergic to pollen, moulds and even some foods. The allergic reaction causes nose redness and swelling. This is usually accompanied by rubbing and scratching of the nose area. Some dogs also react badly to plastic feeding and water bowls, so you could try swapping them for ceramic or stainless steels. Rubber toys will suit them better than the plastic versions. Canine allergies can be treated with antihistamines or steroids prescribed by a vet.
Does Your Dog Need Veterinary Treatment?
If you have ruled out all of the above less serious causes of a dry nose, it may be time to seek professional advice. When your pet has other symptoms, it is always best to play safe and get them checked over by a vet.
Dehydration is serious in all animals and causes a dry nose in dogs. If your dog is not drinking it could be a sign of something serious and it is best to seek advice from a vet straight away. Some auto-immune disorders, such as lupus or pemphigus, cause a dry nose as well as cracking and bleeding. Your vet can make a diagnosis using a combination of blood and urine testing and a biopsy of some tissue on the nose.
Lumps, bumps, changes of colour and bleeding of the nose is always a concern and needs to be checked out quickly.
Treatment for a Dry Nose
Once your vet has ruled out serious health issues, you can help out your pooch with some dry nose remedies. They can be prescribed a moisturising lotion which will hydrate and nourish the skin on the nose and ease discomfort.
As a note of caution, never use your own (human) moisturiser or products that are sold over the counter. They may not be safe for dogs to ingest and constant licking means that your dog will swallow them. Only ever use products supplied or recommended by your vet.
So, there is a quick guide to what is going on with your dog’s nose. The main message is not to panic if a dry nose is the only symptom and to look into potential causes that you can rectify yourself. However, if the dry nose has no obvious cause or is accompanied by other symptoms it is definitely time to get some professional advice.