Why is My Dog's Nose Dry?

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Introduction

There’s nothing as distinctly canine as a cold, wet nose! This characteristic feature is often cited as a sign of good health in dogs, and when the temperature or dampness changes, many think it means something is wrong. A warm, dry dog nose can sometimes be concerning, but it doesn’t necessarily mean anything is wrong with your dog.

So why does a dog’s nose become dry? Is it normal, or does it mean your dog needs medical attention? The truth is there are several reasons why your dog’s nose could become dry, and most of them are not causes for concern. Let’s explore how and why a dog’s nose could become dry.

Signs Your Dog’s Nose is Dry

When your dog’s nose is dry, it is quite obvious. Instead of a wet, slobbery or slick feel, your pooch’s sniffer will be dry like your skin, and usually warm to the touch. All dogs experience a warm and dry nose throughout their regular day and night cycles, especially when they have been sleeping or napping, and haven’t been licking their nose to wet it. Some older dogs can even have longer periods of a dry nose that are simply a symptom of age.

Like humans, the weather and moisture level inside your home can also affect your dog’s nose the same way it affects your skin, causing chapping and cracking. And active dogs who don’t drink enough water to rehydrate their bodies can also experience a drier than usual nose.

The signs of a dry nose include:

  • Lack of any wet or dampness on nose
  • Warm nose
  • Cracking or chapping on nose
  • Nose licking

In some cases, a continuous dry nose may be accompanied by other symptoms which can indicate that something not normal is occurring. Conditions like allergies, fever, dehydration, hyperkeratosis, pemphigus foliaceus, or canine distemper could be causing your dog’s nose to become dry, so watch for other symptoms such as thick or discolored mucus, changes in energy or appetite levels, vomiting, diarrhea, behavioral changes, or tacky or pale gums. If you notice your dog’s nose staying dry for a long period of time, is becoming severely chapped, or is happening along with other symptoms, you’ll need to see your veterinarian. 

Body Language

Signs of a normal dry nose include:
  • Nose licking

Other Signs

Symptoms that could accompany a dry nose and indicate a medical condition can include:
  • Thick or discolored mucus
  • Behavioral changes
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Changes in appetite
  • Pale gums

History of A Dry Dog Nose

All dogs have and will experience a dry nose, and usually it occurs throughout their normal daily routine. Since a dog nose receives most of its moisture from your dog licking it to wet it, when dogs sleep, their noses will become dry. Upon waking from sleep or a short nap, your dog’s nose will remain dry until your dog starts licking it again. Brachycephalic breeds like Bulldogs and Pugs often experience more dryness due to difficulty with licking their shorter noses.

Most dogs love to play, run and exert all that pup energy, but just like us, they become hot and will pant to cool themselves down. Naturally, their nose can become dry as an indication that they need to rehydrate, and will need to drink water after their workout to replenish that moisture.

Our skin is sensitive to the elements, and can easily become dried out in windy conditions, in hot, dry weather, or in response to a sunburn. Your dog’s nose is the most exposed part of your dog’s body, and doesn’t have any fur to protect it. Much like our skin, it is directly affected by the environment, and can get chapped, burned and dried out.

Dogs aren’t very different from us, and like all mammals, their bodies can change as they age. As a result, many older dogs experience drier noses more frequently than they did when they were younger. A natural result of the aging process, a dry nose without any other symptoms in an elderly pooch is no cause for concern, but it can get uncomfortable sometimes and lead to cracking. 

Science Behind a Dry Dog Nose

A dog’s nose is utterly fascinating and extraordinary. While sight is a human’s primary way to perceive the world, dogs rely on their incredible sense of smell. It is estimated that dogs have 100 to 300 million scent receptors in their nose, and when compared to our mere 6 million, that is a lot! Their brain has devoted a lot of power to analyzing everything they sniff, and has evolved an area that’s 40 times larger than ours. They even have an additional organ to help take in even more smells called the Jacobsen’s organ. These factors are why dogs excel at scenting work for the police and military, and can even smell cancer in humans!

In order to keep their best sense in tip top shape, dogs need to keep their noses wet. This is because that wetness holds the many scents they encounter until they can process them, giving them even more scent information than a dry nose could. When a dog’s nose is normally dry for a short amount of time, they are only missing a fraction of scent information that can be made up once they wet it again. But a constantly dry nose can reduce the number of scents they are able to take in and process. 

Training Your Dog to Deal with a Dry Nose

While there’s nothing you or your dog needs to do about a normal dry nose, as some licking and water drinking will usually remedy the situation, there are times when a dry nose can be a symptom of another issue that needs attention.

If you need to administer medication or treatment for your dog’s dry nose or whatever is causing it, you’ll need your dog to be accepting and patient. Teaching your dog to ‘sit’ or ‘stand and stay’ can make it easier to administer medicine, or slather on some dog-safe sunscreen or balm to your pooch’s nose. It can be challenging to give your dog pills or liquid medication, but a calm, quiet environment and hiding it in food or treats can help.

If you are outside having fun, and you notice your dog panting while their nose is getting dry and chapped, you may need to get your dog to drink water to rehydrate. Without a water bowl, it can be difficult to get your pup to drink, so try training them to drink from a bottle or to drink from a water fountain to ensure they get the hydration they need. 

How to React if Your Dog’s Nose is Dry

  • Clean nose with a cool, damp cloth.
  • Ensure your dog has enough water to drink.
  • Remove any allergens, or bring your dog inside if allergic to outdoor allergens.
  • Apply nose balm for sunburn or chapping.

Safety Tips for When Your Dog’s Nose is Dry

  • icon-check
    Note additional symptoms, including severe cracking and bleeding on nose.
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    Consult your veterinarian for a continuous dry nose, or worsening or accompanying symptoms.