Why Is My Dog's Nose Dry?

The nose knows about your dog's health.

Do you notice every bump, stray hair, and change in your dog? Some of us pet owners might be classified as helicopter pet-parents. We hover caringly over our dogs, like a buzzing chopper, just in case of any odd behavior or issue. So, if you've ever noticed the moisture of your dog's nose, you've likely been curious about what it tells you regarding his health.

First of all, let's go ahead and dispel the number one myth: Just because a dog has a dry nose, doesn't mean he is sick. In fact, according to the American Kennel Club, a wet nose just plain works better than a dry one. Dr. Laura Stronach, a Little Rock, Arkansas, veterinarian with almost two decades of experience, takes that explanation even further. "A dog will lick his nose to keep it moist because that's his scent organ. Particles stick better to the nose [when it's wet]. The scent lands on his tongue, and then it goes onto the roof of the mouth. A wet nose helps those particles get into the nasal cavity, so they can find the scents that they're looking for," explains Dr. Stronach.

Dog with Dry Nose
Damon Giannoccaro / EyeEm

Wait. My dog's nose is never wet. Is that a problem?

Not necessarily, especially if you have a brachycephalic breed such as an English bulldog or Boston terrier. These dogs, because of their shorter nose, are more likely to often have dry sniffers. If you do find that your dog's nose is dryer than usual, like anything else, keep an eye on it to see if there are any changes.

What does it mean when my dog has a dry nose?

Various conditions can cause dry noses in dogs including everything from allergies to weather. Getting older can also be a culprit, says Dr. Stronach, "As the dog ages, they sometimes will get something called hyperkeratosis which is a thickening of mucosa. They'll get a very dry, thick, hard keratin layer."

How can I treat my dog's dry nose at home?

If you find your dog is having intermittent dry nose, you can actually use over the counter, human dry skin remedies such as Aquaphor. Make sure you rub it in well, so your dog cannot lick it off or digest it. Be careful not to use anything poisonous for your pet such as products with zinc or titanium oxide. "Zinc is very toxic to dogs and can cause organ failure pretty quickly. And because they do lick the nose, we don't want to be using it," says Dr. Stronach.

When should I be concerned that my dog has a dry nose?

A dry nose could also let you know about a more serious underlying condition for your dog. According to Dr. Stronach, there are a few indicators, "The thing that we need to be worried about is when you see that only one-half of the nose is dry. That's a hallmark that there's actually a problem with the eye on that side." Other problems might include nasal passage tumors, a tooth root abscess, or even an autoimmune disease. "If you notice an abrupt change, such as going from having a super wet nose to a super dry nose, you want to consult a doctor," Dr. Stronach says.

Ultimately, it's best to monitor any changes and consult your veterinarian if you have a concern. "I think the big thing is a general health checkup every year. If you're doing regular blood work every year for your three to five years and older dogs, you're going to catch some of this early on," says Dr. Stronach.

*As always, consult your veterinarian with any questions or concerns regarding your pet's health and care.

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