But my dog’s nose is wet…

Every day we receive calls from concerned pet parents asking if their dog needs to be seen by a vet. With obvious worry in their voice, the list of symptoms is sometimes followed by the comment, “But my dog’s nose is still wet”. Is your dog’s nose a reliable indicator of their health?  While the dryness and temperature of a dog’s nose is not a tell-all indicator, there are some things you can learn from the condition of their nose.

First why is a dog’s nose wet at all? As any dog owner can tell you, dogs are putting their snouts in everything they can find. They are constantly licking their nose to keep it clean, thus leaving it wet and cold. A wet nose helps dog’s absorb the tiny water droplets that carry scent, aiding them in the detection of faint odors. Finally, because dogs do not sweat in the same way that humans do, they instead dispel heat by panting through their mouths, and through special mucous glands in their nose.

What CAN you learn from your dog’s nose? Notify your veterinarian if you see the presence of discolored discharge or blood from the nose. Changes in color or texture of the nose can also be indicative of health issues and should be addressed sooner rather than later. If your dog’s nose feels unusually hot, it would be a good idea to check their temperature to confirm a fever.

The temperature and moistness of a dog’s nose will likely change from hour to hour throughout the day. This may fluctuate based on environment, age, or just because they were taking a nap. If your dog’s nose is dry but they seem otherwise fine, there’s no reason to worry. If you do see any of the following symptoms though, contact your veterinarian:

Requiring Immediate Attention

Requires attention if persisting more than 1-2 days

  • Blue, white or very pale gums
  • Labored breathing
  • Collapse or loss of consciousness
  • Unresponsiveness
  • Dizziness, imbalance, or circling
  • Inability to walk
  • Extremely bloated abdomen
  • Seizures
  • Signs of acute severe pain (such as crying out very loudly and excessively, acting aggressive when touched, or guarding a part of the body intensely)
  • Body temperature over 104 or under 99 (normal is typically 100.5-102.5)
  • Sudden and extreme change in mental state or cognitive function
  • Poor appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lameness
  • Weakness
  • Excessive salivation
  • Excessive thirst (increased water intake)
  • Frequent and/or inappropriate urination
  • Constipation
  • Excessive scratching or dull, dry, or flaky hair coat
  • Wheezing or frequent panting
  • Nasal discharge or congestion
  • Displays of mild to moderate pain (such as whimpering or resistance when a specific area is touched or action is taken)
  • Not acting like their normal self

Remember…you know your pet best. If you suspect something isn’t right, call your regular veterinarian or the Animal Emergency Center at 541-385-9110 for advice.

Further sources:

What Your Dog’s Nose Can Tell You

Why Dogs Have Wet Noses

What Your Dog’s Nose Can (and Can’t) Tell You About His Health

The Signs of a Sick Dog and What to Do