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Why Do Dogs Have Cold, Wet Noses?

Nose moisture may contribute to a dog's heightened sense of smell.
Licking can lead to a cold, wet nose.
A panting dog with its tongue hanging out.
A warm nose that persists for more than 2 days should be examined by a vet.
A dog panting.
Panting is the main way a dog cools itself.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 14 November 2014
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When you look for a dog or are selecting one from a breeder, shelter or rescue agency, many veterinarians suggest that you check the dog’s nose. Healthy dogs should have cold, wet noses, clean rectums, and bright eyes without any film on them, and they should appear clean and relatively free of fleas. Of course, you may have already had to field the question as to why dogs have cold, wet noses. Any child is bound to ask, and there are actually multiple explanations and no consensus on exactly why.

First off, you may have noticed that dogs don't sweat. Their principle means for cooling down is by opening their mouths wide and panting. Some scientists suggest that having cold, wet noses also plays into this cool-down equation. A little moisture on the nose keeps it cooler (hence the cold), and therefore helps to keep the dog cooled down on hot days. A dry nose is not a good sign, and might suggest that the dog is dehydrated, and a warm nose suggests the dog may be running a fever. If this condition persists for more than a day or two, you should head to your vet to have it checked out.

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Another reason that dogs have cold, wet noses is because they’re quite fond of licking their noses. Many dogs have long tongues with which they can easily reach their nose — possibly enhancing coolness and transferring moisture to the nose. Further, after a dog has eaten, you’ll frequently find them using their tongues to clean off their noses, particularly when the meal is messy. This in turn leads to the cold, wet noses we’ve come to expect in dogs.

An alternate explanation as to why dogs have cold, wet noses may have to do with survival skills, and predate domestication of our furry friends. It’s suggested by some scientists that extra moisture on the nose may increase a dog’s olfactory capacity: in other words, the dog’s sense of smell. While the modern pampered pooch may not need to have a particularly good sense of smell, this aspect of the dog is still relied upon. Working dogs especially, need great “smelling” skills to herd, find pests, look for missing people or sniff out illegal substances at airports. Cold, wet noses may simply be better at smelling thing than a dry nose would.

The dog that likes to explore outdoors will frequently present its owner with a very cold, very wet nose. Dogs can pick up moisture from the ground or grasses, and if the weather is cool, their noses are liable to be even cooler. While it may not be the best thing in the world to be sniffed over by a dog who’s just spent some time exploring the outdoors, and while the reasons may be something of mystery, cold, wet noses tend to serve dogs well and be just one of the features expected in these animals.

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anon336629
Post 9

They have wet noses because that means they are healthy and their owners are looking after then. If they don't, then they need to have their dogs taken from them or go to the vet to see what's going on.

All of my seven dogs have wet noses and I love dogs and would never let them go. -- Jade

ZipLine
Post 7

@ysmina-- Cats have cold, wet noses for exactly the same reason that dogs do, because their tear glands run through their nostrils.

When cats and dogs produce tear, some of it empties through their nostrils which keeps the tip of their noses cold and wet.

The only time that a dry nose should be a concern is when it's swollen, red or crusty. This can be a sign of infection or dermatitis.

But a dog or cat can have a dry nose for short periods at a time and still be perfectly healthy. It happens often in hot weather.

ysmina
Post 6

Why do cats have wet noses?

candyquilt
Post 5

If you truly intend on helping and caring for an animal, you shouldn't check if the dog has a cold wet nose before selecting him or her!

I don't think that perfect health should be a requirement for adopting pets. You can always take them to the vet and have them treated so that they can be healthy and happy again. Unconditional love can overcome every problem!

Plus, a dry nose is not a big deal. There are special balms and lotions on the market for dogs with dry noses.

anon144786
Post 3

Dogs are covered with fur and are warm and cuddly except for the cold wet nose, which is the first thing the dog jams into you leg on a cold winter morning. No, they can't rub up against you like a cat and warm you up with the fur, no, it's the cold wet nose for you, Mister!

baileybear
Post 2

@sinefey - I have definitely noticed the same type of thing with my dog and the cold, wet nose factor. Sometimes his nose is dry and/or warm and he is perfectly fine.

I believe it works much the same way that the theory behind dressing a newborn works. If you are comfortable, then most likely your dog will be as well. The only exception to that is that longer haired dogs will get hotter, faster in the summertime.

As for winter time and a dry nose, think about how most people lose the moisture in their skin during the wintertime as well – it’s a very similar story.

sinefey
Post 1

A dry nose isn't always a sign of illness. Our little mutt mix dog frequently has a dry nose, but it's still cool. We've asked the vet about this and after having done the general health check, found nothing wrong with him at all. It could be the weather, because I have noticed that in the summer it is occasionally wet, but very rarely is his nose wet during the winter. So that would lead me to believe it's probably helping to cool him down.

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