Everybody knows that old dog adage, cold nose, warm heart. But what does that imply about dry noses? Do they portend something other than a warm heart?
If you’ve ever noticed your canine companion’s normally cold, wet nose is a little less than, you might have wondered, Why is my dog’s nose dry?
From dog seasonal allergies to age, there are many reasons why your dog’s nose might be dry. As fellow pet-wellness enthusiasts, we’ve put together a guide on all-things-dog-noses for you. Read on to discover why your dog’s nose might be dry, so you can focus a little less on the dry nose and a little more on that warm heart.
What’s in a Nose?
The physical structure of the canine’s moist nose is built for two purposes:
But unlike the human nose that breathes and smells through the same pathways, the dog nose has a fold of tissue inside the nostril that can differentiate between inflow and outflow, allowing them to constantly take in scents.1
In fact, dog noses are so precise, they can actually tell which nostril took in a particular scent. They also have an olfactory-specific tool called the Jacobsen’s organ in the roof of their mouth that works to translate all those scents into information in their brain.2
In order for the maximum amount of scents to “stick” to a dog’s nose, the nose needs to be moist. So, all of this excellent sniffing depends on mucus.
That’s right. Your dog’s nose technically isn’t wet—it’s mucus-y.
Dog noses secrete mucus from a special respiratory-type epithelium within the anterior lining.3 This mucus not only helps with their sense of smell, but it also keeps the tender nasal skin hydrated and protected from the elements. In addition to mucus, dogs lick their noses to keep them clean and working in top condition. This means your dog’s nose isn’t just mucus-y—it’s also saliva-y.
But What if My Dog’s Nose is Dry?
A dog’s nose can be dry for a variety of reasons—some benign and some indicative of a more serious condition. So, let’s take a look at some of the reasons why your healthy dog’s nose may be dry.
Benign Dry Noses
As a pet parent,it’s always important to consult your veterinarian about any unusual changes in your dog’s physical health, many of the reasons for a dry nose are not a concern. Several common, innocuous reasons your dog might have a dry nose are:
- Just Awakened – Because a healthy dog relies on both mucus and saliva to moisturize their nose, it’s not unusual for a dog to wake from sleep with a dry nose.
- Breed – Dogs with short snouts (called brachycephalic breeds) are more prone to drier noses than dogs with long snouts. Some breeds that tend toward naturally dry noses include:
- Boston Terriers
- Age – As canines age, they tend to get a drier nose. Senior dogs (meaning 7 years old and up) sleep more than younger dogs. This, plus the natural aging of their mucus membranes, leads to drier nose skin. If you notice chapping or cracking of the nose, or if your furry friend seems uncomfortable, you can apply a small amount of a non-toxic moisturizing barrier, such as:
- Petroleum jelly
- Shea butter
- Coconut oil
- Olive oil
- Almond oil
- A dog-safe sunscreen (if they’re outdoors frequently)
- Hereditary Nasal Parakeratosis – This genetic condition shows up frequently in Labrador Retrievers between 6 months old and 2 years old and is characterized by crusting and cracking of the nose skin.4 Luckily, there are no other health effects related to this condition, and most responsible breeders will not produce with this condition.
- Weather – Like you, your pet’s skin can be affected by environmental factors such as wind, humidity, and cold. If you find that you need an extra slathering of lotion because of the climate, take a look at your pet’s nose to see how it’s weathering the weather, as well.
- Mild Dehydration from Exertion – If you notice that your pup’s nose is dry after a run or a trip to the dog park, they’re likely mildly dehydrated. A visit to the water dish should get them back to normal. However, on future expeditions, consider carrying some water for your exercise buddy. On average, dogs need to drink 1 ounce of water for every pound that they weigh. Particularly active dogs, pregnant dogs, and puppies require even more. Be sure to always have plenty of fresh water available for your furry friend.
Concerning Dry Noses
While most canine dry noses can be easily remedied with a dish of water and a gentle lubricating agent, there are a few serious dry nose causes that you should be aware of as a prudent pet-parent.
- Dry Eyes and Blocked Tear Ducts – Certain breeds are prone to blocked tear-ducts or dry eyes which, in turn, can lead to dry nose tissue. This is particularly common for Shih-tzus, Pekineses, and Pugs.
- Allergies – If your pet is suffering from food or environmental allergies, they’ll likely have other symptoms along with their dry nose, such as hot spots, itching, and watery eyes.
- Autoimmune Disorders – Though rare in dogs, autoimmune diseases like Lupus and the Pempihus complex can cause the surface of a dog’s nose to become crusty, scabbed, and ulcertated. In the case of a crusty nose, testing and diagnosis by a veterinarian is necessary, but treatment with immunosuppressants should help relieve the dog health condition.5
- Overproduction of Keratin – A nose that’s dry, rough, and appears pointy in places may be a sign of ideopathic nasodigital hyperkeratosis—the overproduction of keratin. This is common in older dogs, particularly Cocker Spaniels. While it can be uncomfortable, it’s not associated with any other serious dog health problems.
- Infection or Infestation – While extremely rare, certain pests and parasites can cause a dog to develop a dry nose. Distemper and fungal infections can both lead to a dry and crusted nose. If you suspect either, a quick trip to your veterinarian is in order.
- Fever – If your dog has a fever, a dry nose might develop along with their increased body temperature. Rather than simply treating the dry nose, check with your veterinarian to determine the underlying cause of the fever.
Why Monitoring Your Dog’s Nose is Important
Keeping an eye on the condition of your dog’s nose can help clue you into potential health conditions and ensure your furry friend’s snout is performing optimally. If you’ve ever had a stuffy nose yourself, you can understand how frustrating it is to not be able to smell and breathe properly. But for dogs, the loss of smell has an even greater impact.
It’s likely no surprise that dogs have a better sense of smell than humans do, but do you know just how much better their sense of smell really is?
According to a frequently cited study, a dog’s sense of smell is between 1,000 and 10,000 times better than a human’s.1 While human noses have approximately 6 million olfactory receptors, the average dog nose has 100 million. Some breed’s noses (like Bloodhounds) can have up to 300 million olfactory receptors. And all those receptors translate into big knowledge.
When you’re out walking your dog, you might be smelling flowers or even a distant waft of bacon, but your dog’s nose is taking in a whole different world of smells. When you smell freshly cut grass, your dog smells every single animal that has crossed that portion of grass, even hours earlier.2 When you smell cookies baking, your dog smells eggs, flour, butter, and chocolate. When you smell someone cooking chicken soup, your dog smells carrots, chicken, celery, and onions.
In fact, a canine’s sense of smell is so powerful, they can be trained to detect:
- Drugs, such as:
- Cocaine HCL
- Crack cocaine
- Prescription drugs
- Illnesses, such as:
- Cancer of the lungs, breasts, ovaries, and bladder
- Low blood sugar
- Suspects and missing persons
- Termites, bedbugs, and invasive pests
- Electronic devices
- Thermal radiation
That’s a pretty impressive sniffer! And one that you can help keep in healthy, working order by monitoring its condition.
Get Back to Warm Hearts & Cold Noses with All-In by Vetericyn
Because your dog can’t tell you when something doesn’t feel right, it’s helpful to be on constant watch for unusual signs and symptoms. Luckily, in most cases, a dry nose can easily be remedied, and your dog can get back to feeling its best.
At Vetericyn, your pet’s wellness is our top concern. That’s why we’ve designed our ALL-IN supplement to restore and replenish your dog’s system after a hard run, a fun afternoon at the park, or just from the natural aging process. Made with key ingredients to support all stages of life, our ALL-IN supplement promotes dog skin care and digestive, cellular, bone, and immune health. Delivered in a protein base, you can trust exactly what your pup is getting with each dose.
By making a daily supplement part of your pet’s diet, you can ensure you’re supporting total body health and wellness—from their cold nose to their warm heart.
Reviewed by Dan Richardson, Veterinarian
- Frontiers in Veterinary Science. What The Nose Doesn’t Know. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fvets.2018.00056/full
- VCA Hospitals. Why Do Dogs Have Wet Noses? https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/why-do-dogs-have-wet-noses#:~:text=So%2C%20wet%20noses%20help%20dogs%20smell%20and%20see%20the%20world%20better.&text=Noses%20secrete%20mucus.,the%20dog’s%20ability%20to%20smell
- PBS Nova. Dog’s Dazzling Sense of Smell. https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/article/dogs-sense-of-smell/
- American Kennel Club. Why Does My Dog Sniff Everything? https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/training/why-does-my-dog-sniff-everything/
- Medical Detection Dogs. Anatomy of the Dog Nose. https://www.medicaldetectiondogs.org.uk/anatomy-of-the-dogs-nose/
- NCBI. Hereditary nasal parakeratosis in Labrador retrievers: 11 new cases and a retrospective study on the presence of accumulations of serum (‘serum lakes’) in the epidermis of parakeratotic dermatoses and inflamed nasal plana of dogs. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12895224/
- VCA Hospitals. Autoimmune Skin Diseases in Dogs. https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/autoimmune-skin-disease-in-dogs#:~:text=This%20condition%20is%20rare%20in,worsens%20this%20form%20of%20pemphigus