Dry Nose in Dogs: The Causes and Treatment

Dog's nose that looks dry

Ask any dog owner, and they’ll probably tell you that if their dog’s nose is wet, it means they are healthy. They may also believe that a dry nose is a sign of illness. But, what’s the evidence to back up these claims? 

Find out more about how dogs use their noses as we look into what the relative humidity of this invaluable organ might mean. 

Why Do Dogs Have Wet Noses?

As well as for breathing, dogs use their noses to get rid of excess tears from the eyes Their noses also have sweat glands that help cool the body. But perhaps their greatest function is to help dogs gather information about their environment through sniffing.

Scent particles cling more effectively to moist surfaces. When a dog licks their nose, they transmit information to special glands on the roof of the mouth. This could let them know about other animals in their vicinity or food sources, for example. 

Dogs have over 100 million sensory receptor sites in their nasal cavity. That’s many more than humans have. The area of their brains that analyzes smells is also considerably bigger. Some estimates suggest that dogs can smell many 1000s of times better than people. 

Part of this is down to the olfactory tool we refer to as Jacobsen’s organ. It boosts a  dog’s ability to smell. You’ll find this organ inside the nasal cavity. It opens into the top of the mouth at the rear of the incisors. 

What Are Common Causes of Dry Nose in Dogs?

There are lots of very normal reasons why a dog’s nose may be warm or dry. In fact, sick dogs can sometimes have wet noses. Potential explanations for a warm, dry nose include:

  • Exercise: this can cause dehydration
  • Sleeping: when a dog sleeps, it may lick its nose and wake with a warm nose
  • Weather: wind, hot sun, or cold conditions can dry out a dog’s nose
  • Age: some dogs may get dry noses as they grow older
  • A heat source: lying next to a hot radiator can also lead to a dry nose

A hot, dry nose can also be a symptom of dehydration, a fever, and even a condition such as dry eye. If your dog has a dry nose along with other symptoms such as vomiting or diarrhea, lethargy, or a change in appetite, you should seek expert advice.

Examining your dog’s gums, particularly their color, may provide you with more accurate information than the nose can. When gums are extremely dry, or tacky, it may mean your dog has become dehydrated.

Pale gums can indicate low blood pressure or anemia. When a dog has bright purple-red or blueish gums, you should seek emergency treatment from a vet. 

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Conditions That Can Cause a Dog’s Dry Nose

Allergies can be a cause dry nose. Just like humans, dogs can develop an allergy to pollen or certain foods, for example. Talk to your vet about how to get to the bottom of what’s causing the allergy. Your vet will be able to provide you with a prescription for medication that will relieve your dog’s dry nose.

Certain breeds of dogs, particularly those with pink or pale noses and eyelids or thin coats are at higher risk of sunburn. However, even thick-coated breeds can get sunburnt. You should use sunscreen to protect your dog.

In the hot summer months, always ensure there is a steady supply of cool, fresh water. If a dog exercises strenuously, they can become dehydrated remarkably quickly. This, in turn, can lead to them having a dry nose. 

Illnesses, Breeds, and Types of Behavior 

Dry nose may also be a symptom of an auto-immune disease. Pemphigus or discoid lupus erythematosus are both auto-immune illnesses that can cause a dog’s nose to crust, dry out, and then crack.

Some brachycephalic breeds like bulldogs and pugs can find it hard to lick their noses due to the shape of their skulls. Over time, these dogs can end up with crusty, lumpy, cracked, and uncomfortable noses.

There are dogs that have dry noses simply because they don’t lick their noses often enough. Occasionally, a dog will have a dry, warm, nose due to a fever. But should a dog contract flu, they can develop a warm, dry, nose, or a wet, runny nose.

Dogs may also over-lick their noses because of certain neurological conditions such as partial seizures or over-anxiety. There could also be behavioral reasons at play. Some dogs will lick their noses as a sign of submission.

Do I Need to Worry About Dry Nose? 

Sometimes a dog’s dry nose can become a chronic issue even though a vet observes no signs of disease or allergies. In these cases, you may need to apply a prescription balm or lotion to keep your dog’s nose moist. 

Given that dogs lick their noses regularly, whatever you use needs to be safe for them to ingest. Remember that your dog’s nose is their main sensory source of information, so you must ensure it’s always in top working order.

If a dog feels warm, starts behaving as though they are sick, and appears to lick their nose excessively, it’s time to consult a vet. This is especially important if they are also coughing and sneezing as well.

When to Talk to a Vet

A wet nose is normal in dogs. A dry nose doesn’t always mean something is wrong. Some healthy dogs have naturally drier noses than others. In a similar way, sick dogs can have cool, wet noses too.

A dog’s nose is one of those parts of the body that owners should keep an eye on. If you notice a sudden change in the condition of your dog’s nose, it may to time to check in with a vet, if only for a little reassurance.

Talk to One of Our Team of Expert Vets

Clear nasal discharge is perfectly normal. If you spot more mucus than usual, or if the mucus becomes thick, green, or yellowish, seek advice. Nasal discharge can be a symptom of respiratory infections or of foreign bodies stuck in the nasal passages. 

A nasal discharge that contains blood could be a sign of particular infectious diseases, including cancer. We have a team of highly qualified vets who can answer any questions you may have about wet and dry noses and what they can mean. Book a timeslot with one of the team today.

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