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What Does It Mean When a Dog’s Nose Is Dry? 21 Useful Things to Know

Where people mainly use their sense of sight to explore the world, dogs mostly use their sense of smell. Therefore, a dog’s nose is very important. They have 50 times more smell receptors than a human. This allows them to smell up to 100 000 times better than any human ever could.

Dog owners know that dogs have cold, wet noses and you’re told this is a sign of a healthy dog. If you’re used to your dog having a cold wet nose, it can be concerning when your pet’s nose is suddenly dry. So what does it mean when a dog’s nose is dry?

Most of the time, a dog’s dry nose isn’t anything to worry about. Their activities and genetics play a big role in how wet or dry your pup’s nose gets throughout the day. Allergies can also cause a dry nose but can be managed with hypoallergenic food.

Read this post to find out what it means when your furry friend has a dry nose and why this can happen sometimes.

big dog nose in focus

5 Reasons Why Dogs Have Wet Noses

Before we find out what it means when a dog’s’ nose is dry, let’s look at why they have moist noses most of the time.

1. It Helps Them Smell Better

Humans only have 6 million olfactory sensors compared to dogs who have over 300 million olfactory receptors. This means a dog’s smelling capabilities, and more importantly, a healthy dog’s nose is powerful. Olfactory receptors are located in the nasal cavity and are responsible for smelling and scent detection. Dogs’ noses are often cold and wet because it aids their smelling capabilities. Scent particles stick better to a damp nose.

2. They Lick It

Dogs lick their noses with their long tongues quite often. Their noses get dirty from constantly smelling new things like their new canine friend or from sniffing around the dirt in the garden. To clean their noses, they have to lick them.

To smell better, dogs will often lick their noses to help them understand what they smell better. Transferring the smell particles from their nose to their mouth aids in better sleuthing.

3. Noses Emit Mucus

Many times the reason a dog’s nose is wet is similar to why the inside of yours would be damp. A dog’s nose, just like a human’s, secretes mucus. Their noses, however, produce a constant thin line of mucus to keep their nasal canals moist. Moist nasal passages help enhance their smelling capability.

shiny dog nose in focus

4. Keeps Them Cool

On a hot summer’s day, dogs will lick their noses. The added moisture helps cool their bodies off.  They don’t have sweat glands like humans do. Instead of sweating from their armpits and foreheads, they release heat through their tongues and paws. You’ll see them panting or licking their noses when it’s hot and their body temperature may be raised.

5. They’re Anxious

Dogs excessively lick their noses when they’re extremely nervous or anxious. In stressful environments, like storms with thunder, you’ll often see them pacing and licking their nose. The action in those instances is a sort of pacifying notion.

What Does it mean when a dog’s nose is dry? 5 Reasons

It doesn’t necessarily mean your dog is sick just because their nose is dry. More often than not, it is nothing to be worried about – drier noses may exist for a multitude of reasons.

1. They Were Napping

If a dog doesn’t lick their nose for a long while, it will be dry. When they’re napping, they don’t lick their noses for a few minutes or a few hours. It is similar to humans sleeping with their mouths open and not being able to hydrate it with saliva.

dog nose up close what does it mean when a dog's nose is dry

2. Weather Change

Harsh elements like extremely hot or cold weather and harsh winds can dry out your dog’s nose. During winter, you might notice your dog’s nose is a bit drier than usual. This could be because they’re lying near heat sources like fires or heaters. The heat emitted from these sources dries up their noses momentarily and can cause a crusty nose, but it’s nothing to worry about. It is best to keep dogs at a safe distance from heat sources so they don’t injure themselves.

3. Their Age

As dogs age, their noses will become drier over time. This might be because older dogs sleep more than younger dogs and, therefore, won’t lick their noses when they’re asleep. The drier it gets, the harder it will be to moisturize it.

4. Allergies

Allergic reactions like hives can dry a dog’s nose up. One of the first symptoms of environmental allergies or skin allergies is a dry nose. They’ll often sneeze or scratch themselves if they are allergic to something. If you notice an allergy, take them to the vet where they’ll prescribe medication like an antihistamine.

5. It’s in Their Genetics

Unfortunately, some dog breeds just can’t reach their nose with their tongue. Short-nosed and flat-faced dogs like Shih Tzus, Pugs, Bulldogs, and Boxers are unable to lick their noses. These breeds will have dry noses, but it’s nothing to worry about.

dog nose in sheets

When Should You Be Worried? 6 Things to Check

A dry nose isn’t always a cause for concern, but there are isolated cases where it can be a health issue so it is a good idea to check. A dry nose is usually a symptom of a bigger problem.

1. Check their gums

A dry nose is one possible symptom of a sick dog. If they have a dry nose and discolored gums then it could raise concern. Pink and moist gums in dogs are a good sign. If you press on their gums, it should return to its usual bubble pink color after a few seconds. If their gums are any other color than pink and their nose is dry then they might be sick. A blue-ish or pale color is a sign that your dog may have health concerns.

2. Odd Mucus Color

When you’re examining your dog’s nose, pay close attention to the color of their mucus. A healthy nasal discharge color is a clear color that isn’t too runny. If the mucus is clear and runny, it is because your dog has an allergy. Anything other than clear mucus should be monitored more closely and is a sign to take your dog to the vet.

If you notice that your pup has a runny nose with mucus that is yellow or green, then you should take them to the vet. This is due to it either being inflammation or bacterial infection. The vet will do a thorough investigation of your pet’s physical wellbeing and take a nasal swab..

3. Signs of Dehydration

A dehydrated dog’s nose feels very dry to the touch. During this time their saliva and mucus will dry up because of a lack of water in their body. A dry nose is only one of the symptoms of dehydration. Don’t leave your dog without water for very long. They can only go about 8 hours without water before they experience health problems. Other symptoms of dehydration include sunken eyes, weakness, and panting. Make sure your dog has plenty of water.

dog nose in profile

4. Cracked Nose

If your dog’s nose feels cracked and rough to the touch, then it might be suffering from hyperkeratosis. Hyperkeratosis generates an overgrowth of keratin and skin on their nose. This causes a thickening of the outer layer of the skin on their nose. Unfortunately, there is no cure for this uncomfortable condition. Only a good moisturizer can maintain it.

5. Sunburn

When they’re out during hot days on the beach or in the park, be sure to apply a sun protector spray to their noses. Dogs can get sunburnt easily and their noses are often one of the first things to burn. A sunburnt nose will look pink or red and may have a few blisters in addition to being dry.

6. Auto-immune diseases

An auto-immune disease means the body cannot differentiate between its own system and harmful diseases or germs. The body’s immune system then mistakenly attacks itself. This attack on healthy cells can cause serious illness in a dog’s body. Depending on the breed of dog, there are a number of auto-immune diseases that they can have.

The cause of autoimmune diseases is not yet known and it cannot be cured. The affliction can only be managed with regular medication. The most common auto-immune problems that cause dry noses in dogs are Lupus and Pemphigus.

curly dog hair dog nose


Lupus commonly appears in middle-aged female dogs. It is caused by stress, UV light exposure, medications, and viral infections. It can also be genetic, but the aforementioned causes can worsen it.

There are two kinds of Lupus that affect dogs. The most common and less serious type of canine Lupus is Discoid Lupus Erythematosus. This mainly affects the face, but it can affect the feet or genitals in rare cases. Dog noses become dry, scaly, and red. The open sores on their noses can cause bacterial infections.

The more severe case of canine Lupus is Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE). Symptoms of SLE vary a lot because it can show up in any area of the body. Symptoms of SLE include sores and lesions on the skin, muscle stiffness, and hair loss, among many other things. If you suspect your dog of having any form of lupus, take them to the vet because SLE quickly can become life-threatening.


Pemphigus is a skin-related auto-immune disease that comes in five variations. The most common kind of Pemphigus is Pemphigus Foliaceus.  It is unlikely to affect puppies and young dogs. It’s usually present in middle-aged or mature dogs.

Dogs with Pemphigus Foliaceus develop scabs and ulcers on their nose, paws, and some parts of the body. If left untreated, it can spread to other parts of the body. While it can be caused by certain drugs, it usually has no clear cause. Some breeds that are susceptible to Pemphigus are Akitas, Chow-Chows, and Labrador Retrievers.

black dog nose

How Do You Treat a Dry Dog Nose? 5 Options

If you’re concerned about your dog’s dry nose, there are a few things you can do at home to provide some relief.

1. Water

If a dog has been napping for a few hours or is dehydrated, it might not have had enough water. If your dog’s nose needs a little more TLC, you can try to soak their nose with a warm, moist towel for a few minutes.

2. Nose Balms

If a drink of water isn’t enough to moisturize dry skin around the nose. Applying a dry nose balm to their noses might offer them some relief. A good moisturizing balm will provide immediate relief to your pet. It is especially helpful if their nose becomes dry due to the elements.

3. Fish Oil

Fish oil is a wonderful treatment for many dog ailments. It contains omega-3 fatty acids which help maintain a healthy body. Dogs cannot produce their own omega-3 fatty acids, so a fish oil supplement is very beneficial. Fish oil for dogs is especially helpful for the treatment of allergies they might have. It prevents itchy or flaky skin your dog might experience, especially around the face and nose area.

black dog nose in focus

4. Vet

Sometimes we need some professional help and prescription medication that only a veterinarian can provide. If your dog has hyperkeratosis, a vet might have to trim off the excess skin on your dog’s nose. The vet will also provide antibiotics for your dog to take and an antiseptic to avoid infections.

5. Medication

Depending on the cause of your dog’s dry nose, prescribed medication might be necessary. A balm or after-sun lotion can provide relief to light cases of dry nose.

More serious cases, like hyperkeratosis and autoimmune diseases,  need medical treatment. There is no cure for these diseases. They are only maintained and controlled with regular doses of medication.

Is a Dry Nose Good or Bad?

Unfortunately, we cannot diagnose a dog based on the amount of moisture their nose holds. Dog’s have wet noses to help them smell better, but that doesn’t mean anything is wrong when their noses are dry.

It is completely normal and can be expected from time to time. Some dog breeds like the brachycephalic breeds are inclined to have dry noses due to genetics. Some dogs have dry noses due to allergies or weather changes. It is only concerning if a dry nose is accompanied by other symptoms like nasal discharge.

If the dry nose of your four-legged friend is concerning you, there are many ways to ensure it doesn’t get drier, but it isn’t always necessary. As long as your furry friend is happy, then you should have nothing to worry about.

black dog nose in focus

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