Is Your Dog’s Nose Dry? Here’s What it Could Mean

Dr. Ragen T.S. McGowan, PhD
By Dr. Ragen T.S. McGowan, PhD
Updated: 5/9/20242-4 minutes
Red dog

If you’re wondering, “Why is my dog’s nose dry?”, you may not be alone. It’s not uncommon for pet owners to believe that a healthy dog’s nose should be wet and cold. But is this true?

Keep reading to find out why dogs’ noses are wet, and how to react if you discover your pet’s nose is warm and dry.

Why Are Dogs’ Noses Wet?

A dog’s sense of smell is a trusted ally that helps them learn more about their environment. Over time, canines naturally figured out a few tricks to make it work better—like keeping their noses wet.

Scent particles stick to damp surfaces better, giving a dog with a wet nose a superior ability to understand their surroundings. It’s one of the reasons why some dogs keep their noses wet by constantly licking them.

Your dog’s wet nose has another important function: helping regulate their body temperature. You may have noticed how wet their nose is on a hot day or after a good session of play or exercising.

Because of their fur, dogs don’t have sweat glands all over their body as humans do. Instead, their system of releasing heat includes panting, and using their noses and paws to sweat.

What Does it Mean When a Dog’s Nose is Dry?

If your dog’s nose is dry, you don’t necessarily need to be concerned. Wet or dry, your pet’s nose by itself doesn’t indicate a health issue.

There are a few different factors to take into consideration, however. Some of them explain why healthy dogs have dry noses, while others might be side effects of an underlying condition.

What Causes a Healthy Dog’s Nose to Be Dry?

Here are a few reasons why a healthy dog could have a dry nose.

1. Usual Fluctuations Throughout the Day

Your dog's nose can be wetter or drier depending on the time of day.

2. Dehydration After Exercise

If your dog has had a particularly energetic game of fetch or any other strenuous activity, it is possible that their nose feels drier than usual. This is due to dehydration.

Make sure there is plenty of water available for them at all times, but especially during and after playing or exercising.

3. Sleep

Some canines keep their nose wet by constantly licking it. Naturally they won’t have a chance to do so during a nap. If their nose is dry, perhaps they recently woke up.

4. A Warm Environment

Whether it’s high summer temperatures or your home’s heater during winter, exposure to dry, warm environments can make a dog’s nose drier than usual.

When a Dry Dog Nose Indicates Health Issues

Here is what to look for if you notice your dog’s nose is unusually warm and dry.

  • Severe Dehydration. Dry nose in dogs can be a symptom of severe dehydration, alongside excessive panting, sunken eyes, lack of skin elasticity, lethargy and even vomiting. Always keep an eye on your pet’s daily water intake. Don’t hesitate to contact your veterinarian if you notice any of these warning signs in your dog.
  • Sunburn. If your dog’s nose is not only dry but also warm and visibly red, they might be suffering from sunburn. Get them inside as soon as possible and check the rest of their skin for signs of sunburn. Severe cases require immediate medical attention.
  • Unusual Discharge. Other than moisture, if you see a substance on your dog’s nose such as thickened discharge or blood, this may indicate a health issue such as an infection.

Remember, a dry dog nose alone isn’t necessarily a sign of sickness. It’s important to keep an eye out for other factors as well. If you notice dryness, check your four-legged companion for any other unusual signs.

For more canine care tips, check out our dog health articles for advice from our experts.

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