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Why Is A Dog's Nose Wet?

There’s an old saying that goes something like this: “wet nose, healthy dog.”

A lot of people believe that a cold, wet nose means a dog is healthy, while a dry, warm nose means a dog is sick. In reality, a dog’s nose is not a reliable indicator of health.

So why is a dog’s nose wet in the first place?

The simplest explanation is that wet noses work better. With more than 100 million scent receptors (compared to 6 million in humans), and up to 40 times more brain power dedicated to smell, dogs are all about detecting and analyzing odors. Dogs even use smell to communicate, detecting and interpreting chemicals from one another that aren’t even “smells” in the way we think of the word.

The more scent particles a dog can get into his nose, the better – and like just about anything else, these particles stick better to moist surfaces.

Noses usually are kept wet in a few ways:

  • Dogs lick their noses. Not only does this keep noses moist to collect more scent particles, it also brings the particles into the mouth so dogs can get them closer to Jacobsen’s organ, an apparatus above the roof of the mouth that interprets chemical messages.
  • Noses secrete mucus. Sounds gross, but this serves a couple of purposes as well – the clear fluid secreted in the nostrils helps aid in cooling dogs off. This is not as effective as sweating is for humans, but follows a similar pattern – evaporation helps the dog keep cooler.
  • Finally, noses get wet because dogs navigate with their noses, and aren’t afraid to stick them into everything from damp grass and leaves to puddles.

A nose’s temperature and moisture are not good indicators of a dog’s health though. Some dogs just naturally have drier noses than others. Any dog is also more likely to have a dry nose when he wakes up, after extreme exercise, or when he’s thirsty. On the other hand, an overly-wet nose can mean there’s a problem, such as a respiratory infection.

As long as your dog is acting normally, there is no cause for concern when his nose is warm and dry. If something else is amiss, however, it might be time to call the veterinarian. For example, if your dog’s nose seems to be running non-stop, or if the mucus is thick or coloured, there could be something going on. Similarly, if your dog’s behavior changes – he becomes lethargic, loses his appetite, etc. – you should give your dog’s doctor a call regardless of the condition of his nose.

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Posted on Nov 14, 2015 by VOYCE Health