Most dog owners are familiar with the mantra that a cold, wet nose on their pup is good, and a warm, dry nose is bad. But is it really that simple?
The short answer is no. In fact, it’s one of the most popular “old wives tales” when it comes to dog health. This myth likely originated from a time when canine distemper virus was rampant, one of its symptoms being a hardened nose and footpads. While vaccines have made this disease much less common, the rule of thumb (or nose) continued to spread among pet owners. However, it’s possible that a perfectly healthy dog could have a warm, dry nose, or that he could have a cold, wet nose and still feel under the weather.
While it may not be a tell-all to your pup’s overall health, it’s still helpful to understand the factors that play into the feel and appearance of Fido’s nose.
Why is my dog’s nose wet?
Your pup’s nose could be wet for a few different reasons:
- Dogs heavily rely on their sense of smell, and a moist nose makes it easier for scent particles to stick.
- Dogs also regularly lick their noses. They do this to keep their snout clean after all their sniffing, and because taste and smell are the ultimate duo in dogs. (In fact, dogs have something called the Jacobson’s organ, which allows them to smell and taste at the same time.)
- Similar to panting, a cool, wet nose keeps your canine cool on a hot day.
If your dog is experiencing symptoms of a runny nose, though, it may be time to call the vet.
Why is my dog’s nose dry?
Contrary to the common misconception, a dry nose doesn’t necessarily mean Fido is sick. There are several factors at play when your dog’s nose is dry:
- He just woke up from a long nap, which means he hasn’t been licking his nose like he would when he’s awake.
- Dehydration can lead to a dry nose. If your pooch has been involved in some strenuous playtime, make sure he’s still drinking plenty of water.
- Your dog’s nose could be sunburnt or chapped from exposure to sun, wind, cold, or heat (such as lying next to a heat vent or fireplace).
- As your pup grows older, his nose will produce less mucus meaning that his nose will become drier with age.
If your furry friend’s nose is consistently dry, it may be a symptom of a more serious health problem; it may even be a skin allergy. PetHonesty’s Allergy SkinHealth Chews can help support the immune system and soothe allergy-related skin issues.
When should I worry about my dog’s nose?
It’s very possible that your pup’s nose can fluctuate daily—or even hourly—depending on the environment and activities taking place. According to Steven Marks, DVM at North Carolina State University's College of Veterinary Medicine, the moistness of a dog’s nose is not a good indicator of health. According to the professor of critical care and internal medicine, “dogs can have moist noses because they’re healthy, and they can have moist noses when they have a nasal disease. It’s just not a reliable sign.”
Crusting or scabbing, or changes to the color and shape of Fido’s nose could be symptoms of a deeper health issue —in this case, it’s best to contact your vet to discuss treatment options.
To assess your dog’s health more accurately, pay attention to his eating and drinking patterns, or any other abnormal behavior. Changes in personality, unexplained weight loss, respiratory issues such as sneezing and coughing, or diarrhea are all signs that your pal may not be feeling his best.