Closeup of wet dog nose

Key takeaway

Dog noses are wet for several reasons, including natural mucus, improving their sense of smell, licking, and more. Not all dog's noses are the same; some have wetter noses than others.

Most pet parents know everything about their animal companions from head to tail, so if you're a dog owner, there's no surprise in us telling you that your dog's nose is wet. If you've ever gotten a jolt from your dog's cold, wet nose while you were snuggling on the couch, you might have wondered why your dog's nose is wet. This article will discuss common reasons why dogs' noses are wet and when you should worry. Let's get started.

Reasons why dog noses get wet

5 Reasons Dog Noses Get Wet

Dog's noses can be wet for a number of reasons, and they're wet most of the time when they're awake. Here are the main reasons why dog noses get wet.

1. Serous Secretion: Mucus On The Outside Of The Nose

Dog noses secrete mucus that's completely healthy and normal. Dog noses are lined with glands that produce mucus to keep their inner noses wet. These mucus glands produce a clear fluid that promotes the evaporative cooling process. This mucus is responsible for enhancing your dog's sense of smell by absorbing chemicals.

2. A Wet Nose Improves Sense Of Smell

Dog's sense of smell is the strongest sense they have; it's even stronger than taste and vision. Of course, dogs still use their vision to learn about the world, but they also use smell in a way that humans cannot. If you've ever been on a walk with your dog and they stopped to sniff, they're likely learning about other dogs in the area through their sense of smell.

Overall, wet noses are more effective at smelling than dry noses because scent particles can easily stick to wet surfaces.

3. Dogs Lick Their Noses

Dogs lick their noses quite a bit throughout the day to keep them clean and free from allergens like pollen and dust. Their noses also get dirty while they're sniffing everything outside, including blades of grass, dirt, rabbit tracks, and even urine from other dogs. Dogs may also lick their noses to take scent particles from the nose to the mouth.

Additionally, licking their nose will enhance their sense of smell by keeping it wet. It's also a natural dog behavior that they learn at a young age, and many dogs will lick their nose as soon as they realize it's dry so they can continue to smell anything and everything.

4. Temperature Regulation: Dogs Have Sweat Glands On Their Noses

Did you know? Dogs have sweat glands on their noses.1 Instead of sweating through their pores like humans, dogs have to cool themselves down by panting and releasing sweat through sweat glands in their paws and noses. You're probably familiar with a dog who pants when the weather gets warm, but dogs have other ways of regulating their temperatures naturally.

Wet noses keep your dog cool in the same way that sweat on your skin would. The air evaporates the moisture on your dog's nose to provide a cooling sensation, allowing them to easily cool down on a hot summer day.

5. Dog Noses Get Wet Sniffing

Your dog's nose can get wet while it's sniffing. Think about the last time you went on a walk early in the morning with your dog. They likely shoved their noses into the dew-covered ground to sniff, bringing up more moisture with every sniff. Dogs use their noses to move things around and investigate, often sticking them into the damp earth, including puddles and mud. Dog noses can be wet from simply using their noses to prod around to discover the world around them, especially if it's wet or moist outside.

Graphic listing reasons a dog’s nose could be dry

Frequently Asked Questions

What does it mean if a dog’s nose is dry?

Having a dry nose is natural for dogs, and it doesn't mean you need to rush to the vet in most cases. However, a dry nose can be a sign of fever, dehydration, and other conditions, such as dry eye.2

Of course, in most cases, there's no need to panic if your dog has a dry nose unless it's accompanied by other signs of illness, including vomiting or diarrhea, or changes in behavior.

Unfortunately, too many dog parents believe that a dry nose is a sign of illness even if the dog isn't displaying other signs of sickness. This is simply a myth. No matter its age or breed, any dog can have a dry nose at some point in their lives.

Believe it or not, some dogs have wetter noses than others. Dogs with short tongues may even have dryer noses because their tongues can't reach the entire nose.

If you find out your dog's nose is dry, there's no need to panic if they don't appear sick. Here are common reasons why your healthy dog might have a dry nose.

  • They just woke up: Dogs can't lick their noses while they're fast asleep, so they can wake up with dry noses.
  • Regular dehydration: While you never want your dog to be dehydrated, they can easily become mildly dehydrated playing outside or running around, especially if they don't have access to water. This form of mild dehydration can cause a dry nose, so always make sure your dog has water available to them at all times.
  • Weather: Just like your skin, dog noses can be sensitive to the elements. Anything from sunlight to cold weather can cause your dog's nose to dry, just like your skin. Believe it or not, your dog's snout can also become sunburned or chapped, just like your lips. If you just took your dog for a walk in windy weather and noticed his or her nose is dry, make sure they have plenty of water so they can hydrate themselves and start licking their nose again. After a few minutes, their nose should be just as moist as it was before the walk.
  • Age: Dogs can get dry noses as they age. When a dog gets older, their glands might not produce enough mucus, or they might nap more, which means not having enough time to lick their noses throughout the day. Many older dogs have dryer noses than when they were younger because they're less active.
  • Allergies: Some dogs are prone to allergies, which can dry up their nose.

Remember, most of the time, a dry nose is not a medical emergency. However, if your dog's nose remains dry for days at a time, it's always best to visit your vet for a check-up.

Is a wet nose on a dog good or bad?

A wet nose on a dog is completely normal, but so is a dry nose, in most cases. When most people think of dogs, they think of cold, wet noses. However, your dog's nose may depend on its level of activity and its breed. For example, one dog may always have a wet nose, while another dog has a drier snout because they nap more.

It's always important to get to know your dog to determine when something is wrong with them. By learning about your dog's nose and monitoring them daily, you can be alerted to changes in their health, which can help you treat illnesses immediately.

Should you take your dog to the vet if their nose is too wet or too dry?

As we've discussed, having a dry nose doesn't necessarily require a vet visit. However, if you notice prolonged dryness and your dog typically has a cold, wet nose, it could indicate that something is wrong. Additionally, a nose that's too wet can indicate an infection.

Of course, it's important to understand your dog's nose. If your dog's nose has become oddly dry for a few days, it could indicate dehydration and fever. However, you should never think your dog is sick just because they have a dry nose. If you notice your dog's nose is dry and they're exhibiting signs of illness, such as lethargy, not eating or drinking, or having diarrhea and vomiting, you should go to your vet as soon as possible. On the other hand, if your dog is acting normal and not showing any signs of illness, you likely don't have to worry about a dry nose.

As we have said, just like an overly dry nose, an overly wet nose can also be an indication of a health problem, especially if it's accompanied by yellow or excess mucus. A dog nose that's too wet, especially if it has a color or is thick, could indicate a respiratory infection or something stuck in the nasal passages, such as a blade of grass.

Additionally, your dog's nose should never be bleeding. If you notice your dog's nose is overly wet and the discharge is red, you should seek veterinary attention immediately.

Closeup of dog nose and eyes

Final Notes

Your dog has an amazing sense of smell, which can, in part, be attributed to the moistness of their nose. Every dog is different, and one dog's nose might be wetter than others, depending on their sniffing activity and how often they nap. However, most dogs have cold, wet noses when they're young. It's hard to imagine all the things your dog does with their nose, but they use it as a way to learn about the world around them, hunt, and even learn information about other animals in the area.

Dog noses are supposed to be wet, but they might become dry throughout the day, and some breeds and types of dogs have dryer noses than others. In severe cases, dog noses can become chapped, especially in cold weather. Hence, you must monitor your dog's nose throughout the day to ensure they get enough water and stay safe from the elements. Of course, dog noses that are also too wet or too dry can indicate a health concern.

Consult a vet if you're not sure whether your dog's nose is too wet or too dry. Dutch allows you to contact a licensed vet without leaving your house so you can talk to a professional about what your dog's nose moisture levels mean and determine together whether you need to seek emergency care.

References

  1. Blatt, Charles M., et al. "Thermal Panting in Dogs: The Lateral Nasal Gland, a Source of Water for Evaporative Cooling." Science, vol. 177, no. 4051, 1972, pp. 804–805., doi:10.1126/science.177.4051.804.
  2. Reisen, Jan. "Why Is My Dog's Nose Dry? – American Kennel Club." American Kennel Club, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/why-is-my-dogs-nose-dry/. Accessed 21 March 2022.