What Does It Mean If a Dog’s Nose Is Dry?

Even before the terms “dog mom” and “dog dad” were coined, all pet owners want the best for their pups. Dogs are part of the family, and pay close attention to us.

So it’s only natural that we want to pay close attention to them, especially since dogs can’t communicate in human terms.

That means it’s on us to notice when something seems a bit off. One such example is a dry nose. What does it mean when a dog’s nose is dry, and should I be worried if my pup’s sniffer isn’t wet?

Why Is A Dog’s Nose Wet?

Why Is A Dog’s Nose Wet

First of all, let’s talk about the dog’s natural nose state: wetness. When a dog shoves their face in yours, you typically notice that their nose is wet (that is, if you aren’t distracted by getting licked).

But why is this? Because dogs have a high level of smelling ability, keeping their nose working is very important. Dogs have wet noses because the wetness forms a type of lubrication that scent particles stick to. Since the particles adhere more easily to a wet surface, dogs’ noses because a scent magnet of sorts.

Where Does the Lubrication Come From?

By “nose lubrication” we actually mean nose mucus. Gross, I know. Dogs have mucus-producing glands that provide enough moisture to keep the nose working efficiently. The gland also produces a very watery and clear fluid that helps to regulate the dog’s temperature.

Dogs also lick their noses to keep them clean. This also provides moisture (through slobber). Plus, dogs can interpret scents through taste (thanks to “Jacobson’s organ”, an olfactory organ that mammals and reptiles have).

All this liquid helps the nose to not become dry and cracked. Having a wet nose also helps your dog stay cool (in the same way that sweat helps humans stay cool).

However, if a dog’s nose is warm and dry, it is not always a cause for concern. Let’s look at other explanations for dry noses.

Sleeping

Dogs’ noses may become dry overnight or if they’ve been napping for a while. This is because dogs don’t lick their nose while they’re sleeping. Once they wake up, they should resume their normal doggy ways, licking their nose and drinking water to get their nose cool and wet again.

The Elements

It’s not uncommon for us humans to get a scratchy throat or a dry nose when the seasons change.

The same is true for pets. Each season and outdoor element, whether that is the wind or sun, can affect your pup’s nose. In fact, the most common culprit is during winter. The dry winter air can dry your dog’s nose out. But sitting near a source of heat (such as a fireplace) can also dry your dog’s nose out.

Old Age

As your dog ages, the nose tends to become drier.

To counteract this, you can use dog-safe balms on their noise to keep it moist and healthy. The Natural Dog Company does a great organic option for dogs that includes a natural SPF and has been made specifically for the snout.

Dehydration

When humans work out, we sweat. To stay hydrated, we know that we need to drink more water, so we typically keep a water bottle nearby.

The same is true for dogs. After a long day at the park, a hike, a run, or even a walk (especially in hot climates), dogs can become dehydrated.

Sometimes this dehydration is accompanied by a dry nose. Give your pet some water, and once they’re rehydrated, their noise should become moist again.

If you live in a warm climate or have an especially active dog, be sure to have water nearby at all times to preempt any dehydration that might occur.

Allergies

Just like humans, dogs can have allergies. Since dogs aren’t able to talk, sorting out potential allergies can be difficult. It maybe environmental, food, or other medical conditions.

Your best bet for determining and treating dog allergies is a trip to your vet. They can help narrow down the issues (such as by prescribing an elimination diet) and get your dog feeling better.

Breed

Some breeds of dogs have shorter snouts (such as Pugs and Bulldogs) that make it difficult for them to lick their own nose.

Other breeds, such as certain types of Spaniels, can suffer from blocked tear ducts.

Both of these can contribute to dry noses.

Again, there are moisturizes formulated for dog noses, such as Burt’s Bees nose and paw lotion that can help to restore moisture and repair cracked or dry noses.

Sunburn

It’s easy to forget but dogs are also affected by sunlight. This is particularly true of dogs with light, pale, or thin coats. If a dog is overexposed to sunlight, the paw pads, ears, eyelids, and nose can become sunburnt easily.

If they get a sunburned nose, it might crack or be extra dry. There are dog-safe sunscreens for pups that spend a lot of time outdoors or at the beach.

When To Take Your Dog to the Vet

When To Take Your Dog to the Vet

We’ve covered a number of common reasons why your dog’s nose might be dry. Each of these have straightforward solutions: provide your dog with enough water, don’t expose them to too much of the elements, and get them medical or balm help where needed.

So, dry noses don’t always mean that you need a trip to the vet. Likewise, wet noses don’t necessarily mean that your pup is healthy.

When it comes to the nose, you want to look out for other symptoms too, rather than just how wet or dry their nose is.

If your pup has a lot of mucus coming out of his nose, or if it is green, black or yellow, then it is a red flag that your dog is not well.

There are also a number of other things to look out for such as nose licking excessively, discolored gums, a fever, sneezing, coughing and a really warm temperature. Along with a dry nose this could be a sign of something else, so it is always best to get it checked out.

If it is an allergy, your pup’s nose may become red and swollen, and he or she might try to rub or scratch at their nose and face.

In all of these cases, where the symptoms are more severe, greater in number, or have gone on for a longer time (such as dry nose that isn’t explained by the previous reasons), be sure to take your dog to the vet.

Conclusion

If your dog’s nose is dry, it’s not always a cause for concern. It could mean a number of things, including dehydration, seasonal allergies, age, breed, and exposure to the elements.

Be sure to keep your dog well hydrated and out of excessive sun and wind. If your dog has other symptoms, or a very severely cracked and dry nose, get them veterinary attention so they can get back to feeling like their happy, wet-nosed self.

PuppyLists is written by J., who has owned, trained, volunteered with, and loved dogs for nearly three decades. When she isn't writing or researching, she's out adventuring with her 14 year old Lab mix.

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