Why are dog's noses wet?

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Have you ever felt a dog's nose? They are wet and cold. But, why? As a vet, I hear this question often, especially from novice pet parents who are sometimes afraid that something may be wrong with their furry companion. Today you'll learn why dog noses are wet and what you should do if it becomes dry.

How do Dog Noses Get Wet?

To understand why a dog's nose is moist, we should start by investigating how they get wet. The moisture of a dog's nose comes from a mixture of saliva and mucus. Much like our noses, dogs' noses have mucus-producing glands that keep the inside moist. The purpose of this moisture is to regulate the temperature of the air that moves into the lungs. In dogs, these glands also help to control their body temperature….more on that later.

In addition to mucus, saliva keeps dogs noses wet. Dogs are constantly licking their noses to keep them clean.

Why do Dogs Lick Their Noses?

There are three main reasons why dogs' noses are wet; to keep them clean, to aid in the smelling process, and to regulate their body temperature.

Dogs Lick Their Noses to Keep Them Clean

Dogs rely on their sense of smell to explore their surroundings, to communicate with other dogs, and to mate. In fact, dogs can compensate for the loss of other senses such as sight by relying on their smell. And therefore, they smell everything that comes their way. From your shoes to the questionable stuff on the kitchen floor. And all that smelling leads to a dirty nose. So dogs keep their noses clean by licking them with their long tongues. Keeping their noses clean, allows dogs to maintain their acute sense of smell working properly. Which brings us to the next point…

Dogs Lick Their Noses to Improve Smell Sensitivity

A clean wet nose is essential to keep dogs' sense of smell working how it should. But licking their noses serves another purpose for dogs; it allows them to gather scent particles with their tongues and bring them to olfactory glands on the roof of their mouths. These olfactory glands are specialized in detecting and interpreting smells, and they are the ones to thank for the dogs' incredible sense of smell.

Dogs Lick Their Noses to Regulate Body Temperature

Keeping their noses wet helps dogs cool down their body temperature. Dogs do not have as many sweat glands as humans; in fact, they only have sweat glands on their foot pads and noses. Keeping their noses wet helps dogs evaporate part of their body heat similarly to how sweating helps us cool down.

What if My Dog's Nose is Dry?

Certain allergies and autoimmune diseases can cause your dog's nose to become excessively dry and cracked. Sun exposure can also lead to a dry nose, especially in white dogs. Take your dog to the see the vet if you notice that her nose is cracked; they may prescribe a lubricant suitable for dog noses or may indicate diagnostic tests to find out what is causing the dry nose.

References:

Dogs' Dazzling Sense of Smell. Retrieved from: https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/article/dogs-sense-of-smell/

Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities. The Dog’s Sense of Smell. Retrieved from: https://www.aces.edu/pubs/docs/U/UNP-0066/UNP-0066.pdf

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