There are plenty of myths and armchair critics when it comes to pet health, and dogs are no exception. A classic characteristic of many dogs is their wet nose. However, what does a wet nose actually signal? Is it something to worry about? Is every dog the same?
We’ve cut through the noise to offer an explanation.
Can a wet nose be helpful?
Dogs have super sensitive noses, with more than 100 million sensory receptor sites in the nasal cavity (you and I have 6 million). In addition to receptor sites, the area of the dog brain assigned to analyzing odours is larger – over 40 times larger, in fact – than the same area in our brain. It’s been estimated that dogs can smell anywhere from 1,000 to 10,000 times better than people. One reason for this is the presence of an additional olfactory tool called Jacobsen’s organ that increases their ability to smell. The organ is located inside the nasal cavity and opens into the roof of the mouth behind the upper incisors. This incredible organ serves as a secondary olfactory system designed specifically for chemical communication.
Dog noses often work best when damp because scent particles stick better to damp surfaces.
How do dogs wet their noses?
There are actually multiple ways that dogs maintain a wet nose!
Perhaps most obviously, they lick them. Dogs have long tongues that can easily reach the tip of the nose, even in breeds like greyhounds that have really long noses. They do it to keep them clean, partly as canine noses are often everywhere – and smell everything! Whether it’s eating breakfast, sniffing pollen from a flower, or nosing under the sofa, dog noses stay dirty and licking helps to manage this. Dogs also lick their noses to gather some of the scent particles inside the mouth. The mucus from the nose, laden with scent particles, is carried to the roof of the mouth where Jacobsen’s organ is located. Licking the nose enhances the sense of smell by facilitating the function of Jacobsen’s organ. Moisture is so important to the canine sense of smell that dogs learn to keep their nose moist and will automatically lick their noses when they become dry. Smart dogs don’t want to miss out on important information due to a dry nose!
Aside from licking, dog noses produce mucus. The inner lining of the dog’s nose contains special glands that produce mucus to keep the nasal canals moist. A thin layer of mucus clings to the nostrils, enhancing the absorption of scent chemicals and improving the dog’s ability to smell. The special mucous glands inside the nostrils also produce clear, watery fluid that aids the cooling process through evaporation.
Finally, noses get wet from the environment around them. Dogs rely far more than we do to navigate via scent than we do. They probe with their noses while investigating something new, from sticking them into damp grass, leaves, plants, puddles, etc. They come out with wet noses after they pick up moisture from the environment.
So is a dry nose bad news?
No, not necessarily. The temperature of a dog’s nose isn’t an accurate measurement of overall body temperature, so don’t panic if they have a dry nose but otherwise seem happy and healthy.
If you’re reading this you’re likely a great pet owner who’s concerned for their pooch! So give yourself a pat on the back and look out for more of our content on how to take care of your dog.
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