A healthy dog’s nose ought to be wet and cold, right? But, just because it usually is, it doesn’t automatically mean your dog is sick when their nose is dry or warm.
A dog’s nose usually feels cold. Because it’s wet; evaporation cools. The wetness and coldness go hand in hand.
If the nose is cold because it’s wet, why is it wet? It is wet from being licked. Licking moistens it with saliva and helps distribute mucus that helps to keep it moist. You can experimentally check how wet or cold your dog’s nose is when they are sleeping and, therefore, not licking it. See what you find.
Dogs lick their nose because a wet nose improves their abilities to smell by being able to better capture scent particles. A wet nose also serves as part of their internal climate control.
When and why is a dog’s nose not wet and cold?
As mentioned above, their nose will get dry and warm when they’re sleeping for a while. Did you test that? I recommend you do. Lounging in the sun or around a radiator, dry air, or dehydration [such as after exercise] can all contribute to your dog’s nose being dry.
As your dog ages, they might sleep more, their body might produce less mucus … all of which can lead to a dryer, warmer nose as well.
Should you ever worry about your dog’s dry nose?
Everything is about the bigger picture. So while the notion that a warm, dry nose automatically means your dog is sick is a myth, there are times when you need to pay attention.
If your dog were ill, they might present with a dry, warm nose or a nose wet from a discharge. They are, however, likely to exhibit other signs of illness, such as lethargy, lack of appetite, pale or dry gums, vomiting, and so on. Those signs are more important indicators that your dog is ill than whether their nose is wet or dry.
Where does the myth come from?
Since this is a deep-rooted belief, what are the origins? The best guess seems to be that it started at the time when canine distemper was a common disease plaguing the dog population. One of the symptoms of advanced distemper is a dry, crusty nose.
Canine distemper symptoms break down into two stages. The signs of the initial stage include:
- nasal discharge
- eye discharge
- loss of appetite
A dry, scaly nose follows the initial acute stage of the disease. In the next stage, your dog develops neurological symptoms.
Source: American Kennel Club
When is a dry nose a concern?
Your dog’s nose can change color for benign reasons. But suppose it is consistently dry and/or changes color and texture. In that case, I recommend you have it checked because your dog might have aspergillosis or an autoimmune disorder such as discoid lupus or pemphigus.
Autoimmune diseases don’t get better on their own, particularly if triggers persist, such as sun exposure in case of discoid lupus. Knowing your dog and using good judgment are key.
Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog: Nasal Discharge
Is Dry Nose a Sign of Illness in Dogs?