There are a lot of old wives’ tales in the pet world. Take, for instance, the saying that “cats always land on their feet.” That’s just not true. They are really good at landing on their feet if they fall from high enough.

Another myth I hear a lot from clients is that if their dog’s nose isn’t cold and wet, then the dog must be sick. This simply isn’t true.

Why are dogs’ noses wet?

Dogs’ noses are one of two places they sweat (the other being their paw pads), so if your dog is hot, you can expect their nose to be damp. Add in the fact that dogs also produce nasal secretions to regulate their temperature, and now you have two reasons for their wet nose.

And finally, and perhaps most simply, dogs are capable of licking their own nose, so they contribute saliva to their normal nose drippings.

What's a normal dog nose look like?

A cold, wet nose is perfectly normal. But a warm, dry nose (or any combination of temperature and moisture, actually) can also be perfectly normal!

You’ll probably notice that when dogs are sleeping comfortably, their nose leather is warm and dry. It actually should be about the same as their normal body temperature, which is 101.5 to 102.5°F, so it’ll feel a little warmer than your 98.6° finger. When they’re sleeping, there’s no need for them to sweat – and unless they’re having a particularly crazy dream, there’s no need for them to be licking their chops, either.

My point is that you really can’t tell anything about the health of your dog as it relates to nose temperature and moisture. General demeanor, appetite and activity level are much more reliable in that department.

When the nose knows trouble

There are a few things that should raise a red flag regarding nasal discharge. Nasal discharge should be clear and watery. If it’s anything other than that, you’ll need to see your veterinarian. Upper respiratory disease will result in thick, green, yellow or white nasal discharge and could mean your pet needs medications to get better. And anytime you see your dog bleeding from the nose, get to the vet ASAP. These are abnormal nasal discharges.

Secondly, if your dog’s nose leather isn’t just dry, it’s cracked, that’s a problem. The skin of the nose should look and feel soft and healthy. If it’s thick, crusty or cracked, your vet will want to figure out why.

But in the grand scheme of things, I think you should consider the “cold, wet nose=healthy dog” myth busted. Sure your dog is healthy, but it’s not their nose that lets you know — it’s their “smile.”

Updated November 19, 2019

Dec 28, 2016

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