Why is My Dog’s Nose Dry?

Does your dog’s dry nose have you confused and looking for answers? We cover all the bases in today’s dog health guide as we give the reasons why this happens and explain if and when you should be concerned.

dog sleeping close up

Many people believe that when a dog has a dry nose, something must be wrong. A dry nose has long been considered a potential symptom of the dog feeling unwell or having a fever.

But is there any truth to these assumptions? Is a dry nose a reason to worry?

Today, we’ll answer these and other questions to help you understand why your dog’s nose may be dry and when to become concerned.

Before you get worried, though, keep in mind that most of the time, a dry nose alone is not a cause for concern.

Why is a Dog’s Nose Wet?

Should a dog’s nose be wet? Why do dogs have wet noses, anyway? As it turns out, yes, it generally should – and there are two distinct reasons why.

Firstly, it enhances their sense of smell. The wetness on your dog’s nose is actually a thin layer of mucus – which ‘holds’ the smells, giving the dog more time to examine new scents.

golden retriever nose close up

Interestingly, you may even sometimes see your dog licking his nose after smelling something new. This allows them to ‘taste’ the new smell, giving them a more complete picture of the scent.

Secondly, a dog’s nose is important in helping the animal regulate its body temperature. When humans get too hot, our bodies sweat to cool down our skin.

Dogs don’t have as many sweat glands as humans, and they mostly ‘sweat’ through their paw pads – but they can also emit liquid through their noses to cool down.

Common Causes of Dog Dry Nose

Most of the time, if your dog’s nose is dry, it’s temporary and entirely harmless.

It’s very common for dogs to have dry noses while they sleep and immediately after waking up. If the dog is taking a nap next to a heater, it’s even more likely to happen.

This is completely normal and nothing to worry about – within a few minutes of waking up, your dog’s nose should be back to normal.

Age and breed may be a factor in your dog’s nose being dry. Older dogs can sometimes have drier noses, and although this isn’t dangerous, it’s worth consulting with your veterinarian.

dog nose zoom in

They will be able to recommend a balm you can put on your dog’s nose to help keep the skin healthy.

Similarly, if your dog is of a brachycephalic breed (Pug, Bulldog, or any other kind of dog with a short snout), he’s at a higher risk of regularly having a dry nose. Moisturisers to prevent cracking and sores are easily available in vet clinics.

Lastly, dogs living indoors may have dry noses more often during winter. This is because of the heated air within our homes, which dries out the dog’s nose more quickly.

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My Dog’s Nose is Dry: Should I Be Worried?

Is the dog’s nose dry very often or for long periods at a time? Have you noticed any other worrying symptoms? If the answer to either of these questions is ‘yes’, consult a veterinarian to eliminate any underlying health problems.

If, however, your dog’s nose is dry only occasionally or during sleep, it’s likely nothing to worry about.

Below, we’ll outline some of the more serious issues that may give your dog a dry nose.

Dehydration

crusty dry dog nose

Severely dehydrated dogs will often have dry noses. Prolonged dehydration can lead to a dry, cracked dog nose.

Dehydration happens as a result of being in a hot environment, taking part in strenuous exercise, and/or lack of access to fresh drinking water.

If you think your dog may be dehydrated, start by providing water and observing them closely for other symptoms. If their condition doesn’t improve, head to a vet clinic as soon as possible.

Sunburn

Though it may seem surprising, dogs are susceptible to sunburn – though at a lower rate than humans, thanks to the thick fur sported by most canines.

Still, your dog’s nose is vulnerable to the negative effects of staying out in the sun for too long. This is especially likely to happen if the dog has a light-coloured nose.

A selection of sunscreens for dogs is available on the market to help you prevent sunburn to your dog’s nose.

Fever

sleepy dog

If your dog is shivering and/or apathetic in addition to having a dry nose, he may have a fever. Other signs include unusually warm ears, red eyes, and a clear lack of energy.

The only way to tell for sure if your dog has a fever is to take their temperature. If it’s above 39.2°C (102.5°F) – or if you can’t measure it at home – it’s time to see a veterinarian.

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Auto-immune diseases

Though your dog’s nose may be dry sometimes, it definitely shouldn’t stay this way for long. Any cracks or sores on your dog’s nose should be causes for concern.

If your dog’s nose is dry and cracked, it might be a symptom of auto-immune diseases that require veterinary treatment. Even if there’s no sign of a fever, but cracks begin to appear on your dog’s nose, it’s time to make the trip to a professional.

My Dog’s Nose is Running: Is This A Problem?

Just as a dry, cracked dog nose can be a cause for concern, if your dog’s nose is running, you might get equally worried. When is it time to go to the vet?

If your dog’s nasal discharge is clear and appears occasionally with no other symptoms, it’s likely nothing to worry about. Clear, watery discharge is normal and temporary.

Dogs regulate their body temperature by ‘sweating’ through their noses, so an increased amount of liquid may just be due to excessive heat.

small dog with dry nose

Clear, thin discharge may also appear when your dog’s nose is irritated by dust, chemicals, pollen, or allergens.

Most of the time, this reaction is temporary and will disappear on its own.

However, there are certain cases in which a runny nose can mean your dog has more serious health issues. If the discharge is not clear (thick, white, yellow, streaked with blood, etc.), take your dog to the vet as soon as possible.

It could be an indication of an infection, a tumour, or a range of other problems that require professional treatment.

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Conclusion

It’s perfectly normal for a dog’s nose to be dry occasionally, especially in warm conditions or during sleep. Most of the time, it’s nothing to worry about – though when chronic and persistent, nose dryness in dogs can be a symptom of potentially serious conditions.

If you know the dog well, you’ll be able to tell – based on their behaviour – whether something is wrong. Dogs that are unwell in any way display signs of apathy, low energy, and discomfort – so, the opposite of the energetic, affectionate creatures we’re used to.

Regardless of all the advice in the world, if you think there’s reason to suppose your dog is unwell, always contact a veterinary professional, just in case.

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