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Why do dogs have dry nose?

Dog nose close up advice
© Pixabay

Dog’s noses are naturally moist - almost wet, even. If you’ve discovered that your pooch’s snout is a bit on the dry side, it can seem a little alarming. But is a dog dry nose something which actually warrants concern?

By Alice Lang

A dog’s nose is an incredible piece of equipment. With an impressive 220 million scent receptors, they’re able to smell things, which are completely undetectable to humans - who have a far inferior 5 million. And did you know that the wetness of a dog’s nose plays a big part in their stellar sense of smell?

“Traditionally a moist dog nose is viewed as a sign of good health, but now experts say the layer of mucus in a dog's nose actually helps them pick up scents,” explains Richard Alleyne, Science Correspondent at The Telegraph“So while they may make a mess of windows and clothes, they are also vital to the extraordinary ability of canines to sniff out anything from cocaine to cancer.”

As well as this, a dog uses its nose as a way to cool down. As they don’t have sweat glands as us humans do, a pooch will sweat from the pads of their feet and their snout. Crazy, huh?

It’s no surprise then, that feeling a sandpaper-like nose on your pooch can leave you feeling concerned. However, the wetness (or lack of) of your dog’s nose isn’t necessarily an indication of health and vitality.

In fact, a pup’s nose goes through a natural daily transition from wet to cool and warm to dry, multiple times in any given day.

What causes a dog dry nose?

Although a dog dry nose alone doesn’t normally signal any serious underlying medical conditions, a chronically dry nose can quickly become crusty and uncomfortable for your pooch, and eventually affect their ability to smell. So what could be causing the lack of moisture in your dog’s nose?

They’ve just woken up

Do you notice that your dog’s snout is dry first thing in the morning, or feels a little rough post-nap? This is totally normal! If you watch your dog whilst they’re awake, they’re constantly licking their nose - and this provides a constant flow of moisture.

But when your pup is fast asleep and dreaming, they don’t do this. So, not to worry - your pup’s nose should be back to its slippery, wet self within 10 minutes or so of waking up!

Plastic is irritating their skin

Does your pooch drink from a plastic food or water bowl? If their have a dry nose, this might be an allergic reaction. Shockingly, almost half of all dogs are said to be allergic to some form of plastic. If you suspect this could be causing your dog’s dry nose, try switching to a ceramic or stainless steel bowl instead. This simple swap could make all the difference to dog dry nose.

They’ve got a spot of sunburn

How quickly does your nose burn whilst out in the summer sun with no SPF? Pretty quickly - and the same goes for your pup! Their sensitive little snout can easily burn after prolonged exposure to UV rays, causing dryness and cracking. Plus, dogs are susceptible to skin disorder or skin cancer, too - so it’s essential to protect them with a specially formulated doggy sunblock whenever the sun is out to play.

The heating is drying their nose out

It gets a little chilly here in the UK in the winter months, so most houses whack up the central heating to keep warm through the night. Your dog is likely to find the warmest spot in the house - perhaps, next to a radiator - and settle there for the night.

However, heat sources like this can easily cause your pup’s nose to become dry and cracked. They won’t want to leave that warm, comfy spot anytime soon - so here is a little pet care tip: help them out by applying a little chapstick, petroleum jelly or coconut oil before bed.

They’re suffering from allergies

Nope, it’s not just humans who reach for the Clarityn come spring and summer! Allergies can lead to uncomfortably dry noses in dogs. The good news is that an allergic reaction can easily be treated with allergy-fighting prescription medications (head to your vet for this) and a dab of moisturising balm or cream.

They’re dehydrated

What is the essence of moisture? Water, of course! If your dog isn’t drinking enough water, it’s likely that it will begin to show on their snout. But the real concern here isn’t dry skin, but your dog’s overall health. Dehydration can cause severe kidney damage - so make sure they’re lapping up the good stuff regularly.

When is a dog dry nose a cause for concern?

If your dog has a dry, cracked nose with any of the following symptoms, a trip to the vet is in order as your dog might be sick:

  • Nosebleeds
  • Green or yellow coloured nose discharge
  • Thickening skin or excessive, sore cracking of the nose
  • Lumps, bumps or swellings in or around the nose
  • Excessive itching of the nose on furniture or the carpet

If your dog doesn’t have any of the above symptoms but you suspect their dry nose is causing them pain, head to the vet anyway. They’ll be able to provide a prescription cream to help hydrate your dog’s nose back to its former glory and wet nose.