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Why Do Dogs Have Wet Noses?

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Why Do Dogs Have Wet Noses?

If you're wondering why your dog has a wet nose, you're certainly not alone. That's probably one of the most common questions dog parents ask about their pooches' snouts. Let's get right down to it and dig into some other fun facts about dog noses.

Reason for Wet Dog Noses

There are some good reasons why your dog's nose feels cool and wet when they nuzzle against your hand. It's quite a cocktail!

  • Mucous: Your dog's nose secretes a thin layer of mucous that captures scents and increases their already remarkable ability to smell things.
  • Saliva: You've probably often seen your dog rolling their tongue around their lips and noses, so part of that wetness is saliva. Why do they do this? They may be doing a little cleaning or tasting the scent particles stuck to their noses.
  • Perspiration: Another reason for the dampness is because dogs perspire through their noses. They don't sweat all over their bodies like we do, so this (along with perspiration from their paws) helps keep them cool.
  • Other wet stuff: Our pooches like to put their noses in all sorts of wet places. They stick it in their water bowls when they take a drink, in the wet grass when they want to sniff around, or even in the toilet bowl to check it out.

Be sure to keep your toilet lids closed to avoid that last one. Toilet water may look clean, but it can harbor bacteria that can be harmful to your dog.

What Does It Mean When a Dog's Nose is Dry?

If your dog's nose isn't wet, does that mean there is a problem? Not necessarily. While wet noses are typical, some healthy dogs have naturally drier noses than other pups. Your dog's nose may also range from wet to dry, depending on what they're doing during the day. For instance, your dog may have a drier nose after taking a nap near the fireplace or exerting themselves in an energetic game, which can make them a bit dehydrated.

Dry Noses and Fevers

Some dog parents jump to the conclusion that their dog has a fever if they have a warm and dry nose. While this can be a sign of an elevated temperature, it's not an accurate way to tell if your dog has a fever or not.

If a dry nose is accompanied by other symptoms, such as mucous discharge or stomach upset, you should take your dog to the veterinarian to find out what is going on. Your dog may have a cold or a case of canine flu.

Sunburned Noses

A dry nose can also be caused by sunburn. In addition to the dryness, you may notice that the skin is flaking and red. To help avoid sunburn, apply a small dab of dog-safe sunscreen on your pup's nose when you're out in the sun.

Sunburn will usually clear up on its own, but you should talk to your veterinarian if it looks particularly inflamed or seems painful for your dog. Sun exposure and sunburn can lead to skin cancer in dogs, which can be treated more easily if it's caught in the early stages.

close up of fluffy dog nose

8 Fun Facts About Dog Noses

Dogs have an uncanny sense of smell, which has to do with the way their noses are designed. Their noses are large relative to the size of their faces so they can be more powerful. They also have wavy tissue inside of their noses called turbinates. This gives them more area for scent receptors. Dogs also have other nasal advantages:

  1. Dogs have around 300 million olfactory receptors in their noses compared to about 6 million in human noses.
  2. The area of a dog's brain designed to interpret smells (called the olfactory bulb) is four times larger than ours.
  3. It's estimated that dogs can differentiate between 30,000 to 100,000 smells. That's an awful lot when you compare it to our scent repertoire, which is only around 4,000 to 10,000 scents.
  4. Dogs have something called the vomeronasal or Jacobson's organ, which is found near the bottom of their nasal passage. It allows them to pick up on pheromones of other dogs.
  5. Your dog's nostrils can wiggle independently of one another. This helps them figure out which direction a smell is coming from.
  6. Dogs have slits in their nostrils, and the opening is more on the side than to the front. This adds to their directional sense of smell.
  7. When a dog inhales, air exhales from those slits while fresh air and new smells enter from the front. This allows them to smell continuously. We can only smell as we breathe in new air, not as we breathe out.
  8. Dogs breathe faster when they're trying to smell something. They also widen their nostrils to take in more air.

dogs nose in close-up, tricolor Jack Russell Terrier

How Dog Noses Benefit Humans

Our dog's amazing sense of smell has lots of benefits for people. For instance, search and rescue dogs can take a whiff of an article of clothing or other personal item and use that scent to help track and locate a missing person. Bomb and drug-sniffing dogs help keep us safe in public places like airports, train stations, and malls.

Medical dogs can detect disease like cancer or low blood sugar in humans. Some dogs can even predict when someone is going to have an epileptic seizure. It's believed that these dogs can detect a change in scent that occurs before someone has a seizure. Once they detect that smell, the dog will alert their person so they can take precautions, such as leaving a crowded area or lying down to prevent a fall.

Tips to Keep Your Dog's Nose Healthy

Dog noses are pretty low maintenance. You should wipe it off gently if it gets dirty and look for signs of problems, such as flaky skin, redness, excessive or colorful discharge, or sneezing. While a sneeze now and then is absolutely normal, a lot of sneezing could mean your dog has an allergy or is coming down with something.

If you have any concerns about your dog's nose, you should visit your veterinarian who can diagnose the problem and recommend treatment. An ASPCA Pet Health Insurance plan can help you manage the costs of your dog's nose care, including exam fees, medications, and other services. Learn how pet insurance can help you and your dog.

The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.


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