Why Are Dogs' Noses Wet?

Why Are Dogs' Noses Wet?

Oftentimes, new dog owners worry that their dog's wet nose means that they are sick. However, it is perfectly normal for dogs to have wet noses. The fact is that a wet nose helps a dog function in everyday life and provides them with many unique benefits. Below are a few common reasons why dogs have wet noses.

It Helps Them Smell

It is true that a dog’s most powerful tool is its sense of smell. In fact, it is estimated that a dog's sense of smell is anywhere from 10,000 to 100,000 times more acute than a human's. Part of the reason for this is due to their wet nose! One of the primary reasons why your dog's nose is wet is because there is a thin layer of mucus secreted by their nose. Dogs have more than 100 million sensory receptors in their nasal cavity, compared to approximately 6 million in the human nose. These sensory receptors need the mucous a dog’s nose secretes in order to function. This moisture traps and absorbs scent chemicals, helping them to smell things far better than humans can.   

dog sniffs leaves

 It Keeps Them Cool

Unlike humans, dogs do not have sweat glands throughout their bodies to help keep them cool. This is why dogs have to pant to cool off on a hot summer day. However, what you may not know is that dogs do have sweat glands in a few places on their bodies: their paws and their nose. So on a particularly hot day, part of the reason why your dog's nose may be wet is because they have been sweating. Their wet nose allows them to maintain a normal body temperature. Similarly, a dog's feet will also sweat on a hot day, helping to keep them cool while also preventing their pads from becoming too dry. 

dog jumps into water

Dogs Lick Their Noses

Another reason dogs' noses are often wet is because they tend to lick them a lot, which is something you may have even witnessed your dog doing. Dogs lick their noses for several reasons. The main reason is that a dog's snout can get dirty quite easily when they're eating or digging around in the yard. Licking their nose is an easy way to get rid of any excess dirt that may be inhibiting their smell, or simply to keep clean. 

Another reason dogs lick their noses is to further improve their sense of smell. As we previously mentioned, the mucus on a dog's nose is great at catching scent chemicals. Another tool dogs have that humans don’t is what’s known as Jacobsen’s organ. It is located inside the nasal cavity and opens to the roof of their mouth. When a dog licks their nose, it transfers the scent chemicals from their nose to the roof of their mouth. The extra absorption of scent chemicals gives a more accurate sense of smell of the world around them. 

dog licking its nose

They Stick Their Noses Everywhere

Of course, your dog's nose may also be wet simply because of where they have been sticking their nose. As you may have noticed, dogs get really invested in sniffing things out. They often spend most of their day shoving their noses into the grass, leaves, and other debris to explore new scents. Along the way, their snouts tend to pick up moisture, which contributes to them having perpetually wet noses. 

As you can see, there are many reasons why a dog's nose may be wet, and it is perfectly normal for your dog's nose to be cold and damp when they greet you at the door. 

beagles sniffing the grass

What if My Dog's Nose is Overly Wet?

While a wet dog nose is perfectly normal, there may be cause for concern if your dog's nose is overly wet. It is important that you familiarize yourself with how your dog's nose normally looks, as this can help you keep an eye out for any usual changes. If you notice an overabundance of mucus coming out of your dog's nose, and/or the mucus is thick or discolored, it is important that you call your veterinarian. Changes to your dog's mucus can indicate that your dog has a respiratory infection, or even a foreign body stuck in their nasal passage, so it is important that you do not ignore this symptom.

What Does It Mean if My Dog Has a Dry Nose?

Although it is normal for dogs to have wet noses, it does not mean a dry nose is necessarily a bad thing. The fact is that some dogs have dryer noses than others, and the moisture levels on your dog's nose can fluctuate throughout the day. For example, if your dog just woke up from a nap in front of the fireplace, or they were exerting themselves outside, they may have a dry nose because they are simply dehydrated. Other dogs develop a dry nose with aging. A better gauge of information is going to be checking your dog’s gums. If they are moist and pink, that is a good sign of hydration. If they are dry or tacky, your dog might be dehydrated. Pale gums could indicate anemia or low blood pressure. If your dog has red-purple or blueish gums, take them to a veterinarian right away.

a dog's snout

When Should I Take My Dog to The Vet for a Dry Nose?

The fact is that it is perfectly normal for the temperature and moisture level of your dog's nose to fluctuate, and just because your dog has a dry nose does not necessarily mean a trip to the vet. If your dog has a dry nose but is acting normal and seems to be feeling well, simply monitor them at home. Try getting your dog to drink some water, or take them into a humid environment (such as the bathroom after you've gotten a shower), and observe them for any other possible symptoms. If you are worried, use other clues such as their gums to evaluate their health. If their nose returns to normal after they've been exposed to some moisture, it is a sign they are in good health. 

Of course, if your dog has a dry nose accompanied by other symptoms such as a lack of energy or appetite, or they just don't seem to feel well, then you should schedule a visit with your veterinarian. Tell the veterinarian all about your dog's symptoms including their dry nose, as this can help them to diagnose any illness that your dog may have.

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