Medically Reviewed by Dr. Majid Tanveer, DVM
A dog’s sense of smell is a phenomenal asset, allowing him to explore and understand his surroundings. But what if he doesn’t have the trademark wet nose?
Can he still inhale odors or investigate all that surrounds him without it? Can a dog be sick if his nose isn’t wet? Or are there any other reasons why his nose is dry?
If your dog’s nose is dry and hot, it may be nothing serious. However, it could also mean that something isn’t quite right. Fever, dehydration, or even eye complications can manifest in a dry nose. If you’re noticing other concerning symptoms like fatigue, vomiting, decreased appetite, or activity changes, it’s best to take your pup to the vet for a check-up.
In this article, we’re going to discuss dry noses and what they could mean for your pup. So let’s dive in and learn more!
What Is a Normal or Healthy Dog Nose Look Like?
For a healthy pup, the size of his nostrils should be equal, and his nose should feel slightly damp to mildly dry. Both sides will have consistent airflow when breathed in and out as well.
The color of the nose can vary from black to pink, depending on the breed and coat color. Generally speaking, all dogs should have a wet nose with some degree of moisture present.
To remain clean and moist, dogs often lick their noses due to the accumulation of dirt and pollen. When a doggy licks its nose, it activates Jacobson’s organ, which helps sharpen the sense of smell.
But what will happen if your dog’s nose becomes dry? Let’s find out.
What Does It Mean When a Dog’s Nose Is Dry?
Dogs, just like humans, are prone to illnesses and conditions that can affect their noses. If your pup’s nose is chronically dry, it may be worth visiting a vet for a check-up.
If your dog’s nose appears dry and cracked, it can indicate that his body lacks essential hydration and nutrients.
It is a good idea to contact your veterinarian if your dog’s nose is dry and cracked, as it can indicate underlying health issues. Some common causes of a dry nose in dogs include:
- Skin irritation
- Severe medical conditions such as kidney or liver disease
As a veterinarian and dog owner, I dealt with many cases of dry noses in dogs and usually found that dehydration or a vitamin deficiency was at fault. I recommend adding a daily supplement to your pup’s diet that includes essential vitamins and minerals to avoid dry nose issues in your beloved companion.
Reasons for Dry Nose in Healthy Dogs
Let’s investigate why your pup’s nose may be lacking its usual moisture – here are some potential explanations:
He’s Been Exposed to the Elements
You likely feel your nose and throat getting drier or more congested when the weather shifts. The same happens to your canine companion too!
The following elements can cause your dog’s nose to become dry and cracked, leading to breathing difficulty and many other problems:
- Strong sunlight
- Dry air
- Gusts of wind
The climate, whether sunny and warm or chilly and breezy, can impact your pup’s olfactory senses.
During the winter, you may observe that your pup’s nose has dried out. This is perhaps due to your dog lying too close to a warm source such as an air vent or fireplace.
He Just Woke Up
While your pup is sleeping, he is not licking his nose. As a result, it’s typical for a dog’s nose to become dry during sleep time.
When your pup is zonked out for an extended period, his snout may dry due to a lack of moisture.
He’s Dehydrated From Strenuous Exercise
After a vigorous workout, it’s common to become dehydrated – and your pup is no exception. His nose will be telltale evidence of this, whether he went for a run with you or spent the day running around at the park.
If your pup is running around or exercising too intensely, and there’s no fresh water nearby, it can quickly become dehydrated.
Check your pup’s gums to see if they are still wet – dryness indicates they need more fluids. Ensure your canine companion is hydrated by providing them with plenty of water!
He’s an Old Man
Much like wrinkles and grey hair are natural signs of aging in people, a drier nose is typical for senior dogs. As dogs grow older, their noses may take on a different texture due to the effects of time.
There is no need to worry, but if you want to ensure his nose stays hydrated, consider applying some made exceptionally safe for dogs.
Brachycephalic Breeds Are Prone to Dry Nose
Pugs and Bulldogs are canine breeds with shorter snouts and cannot often wet their noses naturally. To keep them hydrated and healthy, consider applying a moisturizing product.
While other breeds, such as the Lhasa Apso and Spaniels, are predisposed to blocked tear ducts and consequently have difficulty keeping their nose moist.
Conditions or Illnesses that can Cause a Dog’s Dry Nose
In some cases, a dry nose could be indicative of an underlying health issue. Some conditions that may contribute to a chronically dry nose include:
Allergies Can a Cause Dry Nose
Allergies are a common cause of a dry nose in dogs. Allergies occur when the immune system mistakenly identifies something harmless as a threat, triggering an overreaction.
The most common allergens that can cause nasal dryness include:
- Dust mites (Microscopic pests found in carpets, furniture, and pet bedding)
- Certain foods
If your pup is sensitive to specific proteins in their food, grains, or even pollen and grass on walks, he may experience allergic reactions- which can dry out the nose as a side effect.
Consult your veterinarian to identify the root of the allergy, and get a prescription medication for your pup’s dry nose.
Ideopathic Nasal Hyperkeratosis (INHK)
Idiopathic Nasal Hyperkeratosis (INHK) is an ailment characterized by the buildup of too much keratin on the top of the nose and paw pads.
Brachycephalic breeds like Cocker Spaniels are more likely to experience this condition than other dog breeds. Symptoms of the condition include:
- Thickened dry nose
- Hardened keratin buildup
This is often caused by a facial structure preventing normal wear away when in contact with food bowls or hard surfaces during eating.
A Dry Nose Can Be a Sign of Sunburn
Sunburn is a common cause of dry noses in dogs. It can be caused by overexposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays, which can damage and dry out the delicate skin on your pup’s nose.
Sunburn can cause:
- Redness of nose
- Cracking of nose
- Skin cancer in severe cases.
Dogs with thin, light coats, pale noses, paw pads, eyelids, and ears are particularly vulnerable to sunburn.
An Auto-Immune Disease Can Cause Dry Nose
Autoimmune diseases can cause dry noses in dogs. An autoimmune disease is when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks its healthy tissue, causing inflammation and damage.
The most common autoimmune disease that affects a dog’s nose is discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE).
The signs of these diseases can be seen on the exterior of your pup’s nose, including:
- Even bleeding
Dehydration Causes a Dry Nose
Dehydration occurs when your pup isn’t drinking enough water and can lead to other serious health problems.
Symptoms of dehydration include:
- Sunken eyes
- Decrease in elasticity of the skin
- Dry, cracked nose
Dehydration can also occur due to diabetes, kidney disease, and cancer. Keep an eye on your pup’s water intake, particularly in hot weather or when exercising.
Always provide fresh and clean drinking water to keep your pup hydrated. Add some low-sodium broth or tuna juice for a tasty treat that encourages him to drink more often!
Is it Time to Take Your Dog to the Vet?
A dry nose isn’t necessarily a medical emergency, so panic is unnecessary. As it turns out, having a cool and wet nose doesn’t always guarantee that your pup is in perfect health.
If you discover that your pup has a dry nose, it is also essential to evaluate the other symptoms.
Excessive Discharge: If your pup produces extra mucus from his nose that is yellow, green, or black, he may be ill – which should not be overlooked.
Allergic Reaction: If your pup has a severe allergic reaction, his nose may become swollen and flushed. Additionally, he will likely be nonstop scratching or rubbing his face.
Other symptoms to watch out for are:
- Excessively licking his nose
- Gums of an unusual color
- Excessive coughing or sneezing
- Feeling warmer than usual throughout the body
If none of the above symptoms is apparent, observe your dog for a few days and monitor any changes.
However, if your dog displays additional signs of distress – and shows earlier discussed symptoms, it is always recommended to take your dog to your veterinarian.
Tips to Prevent Dry Nose in Your Beloved Dog
To help prevent dry noses in your beloved pup, try the following tips:
- Regularly check your dog’s nose for dryness, such as redness, flaking, or cracking.
- Keep the air in your home humidified to help prevent drying out of your dog’s nasal passages.
- Use a gentle dog-safe ointment or moisturizer to help keep your dog’s nose lubricated and healthy.
- Ensure your dog gets plenty of water throughout the day, as dehydration can lead to dryness in his nose.
Pet Care Tip: Check out this video on what it means if your dog has a dry nose. It will show you the proper way to check the dog’s nose without putting yourself or your dog in danger.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is It Ok if My Dog’s Nose Is Dry?
It is generally not a cause for concern if your dog’s nose is dry. However, suppose you notice other symptoms such as listlessness, vomiting or diarrhea, changes in playfulness, and hunger cravings in addition to the dry nose. In that case, it is best to contact your veterinarian.
What Is the Best Way to Keep My Dog’s Nose Hydrated?
Pamper your pup’s nose with a warm, wet towel, followed by some petroleum jelly to nourish the nose and keep it feeling soft and hydrated.
Does a Dry Dog Nose Hurt?
It’s likely that if your pup has a dry nose, you have nothing to be concerned about. A lack of moisture in the snout is normal and harmless – it simply means your pup needs more water or a little extra care.
A dog’s dry nose may not be enough to decide whether your pup is in good health or needs medical attention.
You must routinely inspect your dog for any strange indications of illness. Regularly check up on them and watch for other factors related to their well-being.
Don’t hesitate to call your vet if you detect any changes or if he seems to be in distress. Safety always trumps regret!