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Should a Dog’s Nose Be Wet or Dry?

Written by Anna Hollisey

Updated

close up of dog snoot

Your dog’s nose is usually cold and wet. But what if it feels warm and dry? Don’t worry. Dry noses are quite common – here’s why it happens (and when you should be concerned). 

Why Dogs’ Noses Are Wet

Noses are just wet because they’re more surprising that way… right? 

Actually, dogs’ noses have a scientific reason for being wet. It’s twofold (according to most experts):

  1. Scent particles cling to a damp surface. Dogs pick up on tiny particles in the air to detect scent – and those particles will stick to a wet nose. So when your dog sticks his nose in a poop, he’s getting extra bits on his nose. Mm, delicious.
  2. Damp surfaces cool faster. Dogs don’t have any sweat glands, so they use their tongues and noses to dissipate body heat. A wet nose is cool and relieves them on a hot day.

For both reasons, dogs purposely keep their noses wet – instinctively, through tiny glands which produce mucus, and sometimes also using saliva.

So Why Is My Dog’s Nose Dry?

If you were to feel your dog’s nose all the time, you’d discover that their noses actually change from dry to wet quite a lot. 

In many cases, this is nothing to worry about. Your dog’s nose could be dry because:

  • The weather is warm. A dry nose sometimes indicates dehydration, but it can just dry out a bit faster in warm conditions. If your dog’s been playing outside in summer, their nose can become dry. A good way to check for dehydration is by lifting your dog’s lips and checking their gums. If your dog is adequately hydrated, their gums will look pink and moist. A temporary dry nose on a hot day is totally normal. 
  • The weather is cold. Ah, life is cruel – those cute little noses can also suffer during the winter. Cold air and indoor heating can cause dry noses, just like they give humans dry lips. 
  • They’ve been exercising. A good training or work session means your dog has heated up, which dries out their nose. It will return to its normal, moist state when they have a rest!
  • They’ve just had a nap. Like humans, dogs’ bodies shut down somewhat when they sleep. Their noses don’t need to produce all that mucus and their hearts don’t need to pump quite as fast. So a just-woken dog might have a dry nose.
  • They just haven’t been licking their nose. Older dogs are less active, less bothered about sniffing the world, and less likely to waste energy on nose-licking. In our experience, the mucus glands slow down a bit as dogs age too. Pugs and other flat-nosed dogs can also be prone to this problem.  Your vet might recommend using a medicated product or petroleum jelly to protect the skin on your dog’s nose, especially if it has started to flake. It’s treatable and also nothing to worry about. 

When Your Dog’s Nose Becomes Cause for Concern…

Occasionally, a dry nose can be a sign of a health issue. 

If you have suspicions, keep checking (your dog will love that) and see whether their nose changes during the day – or feels too warm. Here are some of the problems that can cause a dry nose:

  • Sun exposure. This is particularly a thing for dogs with pink noses; like humans with pale skin, they’re more susceptible to the sun.  Make sure your dog can stay in the shade during the hottest parts of the day, and walk them early or late to avoid sunburn, like you would with children. If your dog gets it once they’ll probably get it again. You can ask your vet about doggy sunscreen – it’s best to get the right one, rather than using yours. You can also get canine moisturiser which is a useful aftersun treatment!
  • A sting or an allergy. In dogs, allergies cause skin irritation and this can occur especially around the nose. If they’re licking it a lot, it could be feeling swollen as well as dry.  Dogs can be allergic to all the normal things – grass, pollen, and dust mites in the air, or foods like dairy and gluten. But an airborne allergy is especially likely to produce an itchy or swollen nose. Try to track their condition against the activities they’ve done during the day, which will help you to diagnose the cause.
  • Dermatitis or skin issues. Likewise, a skin condition can affect the nose, particularly if the dog has dry skin. Dry or flaky skin on the nose will make your dog lick it more, which puts them in a vicious cycle of dryness. Some dogs develop dermatitis when they are older, but there’s some good news: a dry nose is easy to care for.
  • Some worse health concerns. A dry nose can also be an early signal of more serious issues. For example, a respiratory infection can cause a dog to lick their nose more and make it dry. A dog with a fever will have a warmer, drier nose (besides other symptoms). If your dog’s nose is dry and cracking or bleeding then you should check with the vet – there are also autoimmune conditions (like lupus or pemphigus) which can cause this.  

If you have eliminated the possibility of serious concern, you might want to help your dog to feel more comfortable. You can alleviate dry skin around the nose using a doggy nose balm: there are some lovely natural options on the market (and these are probably best, considering how much your dog is likely to lick it). 

Don’t forget that minor digestive trouble and skin imbalances can be tackled using our Soothe supplement. Sprinkled over their daily dish, it gives your dog an immune and skin boost. It is loaded with goodness from clinically proven postbiotics, Omega-3 fish oil and egg membrane. Our reviewers have reported that Soothe helps to reduce the effects of allergies and even prevents dogs from scratching their paws, bottoms and legs. Head on over to the product page and scroll through the comments from lots of happy dog owners.