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Should I Worry About My Dog's Dry Nose?

The rule of thumb "wet nose good, dry nose bad" isn't foolproof -- relying on it can be dangerous.

 |  Jun 12th 2012  |   2 Contributions


I have a question that I am hesitant to call or e-mail my own vet about because it is seemingly a little issue. Does a dry nose on a dog signal any health problem if the inside of the nose is still wet? The nose in question is "attached" to an older dog with an IBD history who has been stable for months.
 
Ann
San Francisco
 
It might be a little question, but lots of people have asked it. In fact, over the years I have had many people bring their dogs to me because of dry-nose concerns. Let me lay those concerns to rest: A dry nose can be completely normal in dogs.
 
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Unfortunately, the flip side of the "wet nose good, dry nose bad" issue can be much more dangerous. I have seen many sad instances in which gravely ill dogs were not taken to the vet for urgently needed care because their owners mistakenly believed that wet noses indicated nothing was wrong.
 
Most healthy dogs generally have cool, wet noses. There is a loose correlation between warm, dry noses and fever or dehydration, which I suspect is the origin of the urban legend about wet and dry noses. But the keyword in "loose correlation" is loose. Plenty of healthy dogs have dry noses. And plenty of dogs that are febrile or dehydrated (or otherwise sick) can have wet noses.
 
The only way to know whether a dog has a fever is to take its temperature. You can use a regular digital thermometer, but remember that the only accurate way to take a dog's temperature is rectally. (Ear thermometers are available for dogs and cats, but I have used them extensively and found them to be unreliable.) For dogs, a normal temperature is 100 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit.
 
The best way to determine whether a dog is dehydrated is to asses a combination of skin elasticity, saliva production, depth of rest of eyes in sockets, and, yes, nasal moisture. However, one must assess literally thousands of dogs before one becomes proficient at determining dehydration. Only a trained professional (read: veterinarian) should attempt this task, and nasal moisture alone should not be used to diagnose dehydration.

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Other signs of illness are more important than nasal moisture. Symptoms such as lethargy, poor appetite, difficulty breathing, mental dullness, limping, coughing, sneezing, vomiting, and diarrhea should not be ignored no matter what the nose feels like.

Those who insist upon monitoring nasal moisture should start by recognizing what is normal for their dog. A dog with a normally moist nose that goes dry might be sick. A normally dry nose that becomes moist can be a sign of trouble, too.
 
In the end, if you have any doubt about your dog's health, consult a veterinarian. No decent vet will think less of you for taking a healthy dog in just to be sure. It's much better than the opposite extreme -- the thought of sick dogs not receiving needed attention breaks my heart.
 
Ann, to answer your question specifically, let me say that I am not aware of any correlation between infiltrative bowel disease and a dry nose. I don't think you should worry about this matter.

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