My Pet’s Nose is Dry – What Does That Really Mean?

Aside from being incredibly adorable, our pet’s noses are pretty amazing things. A dog’s nose has up to 100 million more receptors than our humble human noses and the part of a dog’s brain that processes smells is 40 times bigger than ours! Cats have even more receptors with up to 200 million in those cute little schnozzes.

A close up photo of a cat's nose

Dogs have been trained to use their super nose to sniff out cancer, detect low blood sugar levels, and there was even a study undertaken in 2020 that wanted to see if dogs could sniff out coronavirus!

A close up photo of the nose of a black dog

Once upon a time you may have thought that a wet or dry nose on your pet was a good indicator of their health, but now we know that isn’t always the case. A wet nose does not necessarily mean your pet is well, and a dry nose doesn’t always mean your pet is sick. This blog post covers reasons why your pet’s nose may be wet, why it may be dry, and symptoms that, when accompanied with a dry or wet nose, means it’s time for trip to the vet.

A close up photo of a grey and white cat's pink nose

Pet’s Noses Are Wet For a Few Reasons

  • There are glands in the noses of dog’s and cat’s that produce a watery fluid that keeps their nose wet which helps to regulate their body temperature
  • Their tear ducts drain through their nose which keeps their nose cool and wet
  • Dog’s in particular lick their noses all the time. This helps them to smell better by making scent particles stick to their noses and then when they lick their nose they can “taste” the scent particles. Cat’s may lick their nose to “reset” it by removing scent particles that have gotten stuck and so they can get a better whiff at the next smell that comes along.
A close up photo of the nose of a brown dog that is lying on blankets

Perfectly Normal Reasons Why Your Pet’s Nose Might Be Dry

  • Your dog has just woken up and they don’t lick their nose when they are sleeping so it may have dried out a bit
  • Your cat or dog has been exercising vigorously and they are a little dehydrated. Encourage them to drink some water or swap their dry food for wet to ensure they receive adequate water intake through their food.
  • They’ve been out in the sun, wind or cold and this has dried their nose out. Some dog’s and cat’s, and particularly those with white fur can be more prone to suffering sunburn on their nose or areas where their fur is thin. Specially made pet sunscreens are safe to apply to these areas as they are safe to be licked off. Filta-Bac is a sunfilter and antibacterial cream safe to use on dogs and horses.
  • They’ve been close to a heat source such as a fire or heating vent
  • As dog’s and cat’s age, their noses can become drier
  • Brachycephalic breeds like Bulldogs, Pugs and Persians may have trouble licking their noses and certain breeds are more prone to blocked tear ducts which prevents drainage from entering their noses
A close up of the nose of a dog lying on a knitted blanket

When To Worry About Your Pet’s Nose

  • If a dry nose is accompanied with symptoms such as lethargy, vomiting, diarrhoea, or changes in activity levels or their appetite
  • Their nose is cracked, bleeding, dry or scabby. This could be due to sunburn, insect bites or another type of trauma to the nose. In rare cases it may be the result of an autoimmune condition such as lupus or pemphigus.
  • Your pet has lots of nasal discharge (particularly if it is green, yellow or black) and is sneezing or wheezing
  • They have a dry nose as well as a fever and feel warm all over
  • Their nose is red and/or swollen and they are scratching or licking at it almost constantly
  • If they won’t stop licking their nose! Excessive licking of the nose can be a symptom of certain neurological conditions including partial seizures or anxiety, and it is also a submissive behaviour
The front of a cat's face is just visible poking out from behind a cat scratcher

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Contributing Writer
Our contibuting writers provide some of the best information for owners of older pets. Working with our animal health professionals the OlderPet.com.au contributing writers provide content that is up to date, practical and accurate.

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