Why Are Dog Noses Wet?

Dogs love to give licks, but is a wet nose a good thing? Here's why dogs have wet noses and why it's important for their health.

Why do dogs have wet noses? 

Anyone who has just gotten nuzzled by an affectionate dog knows you’ll probably need to wipe your face afterward. Turns out that dogs have wet noses for several important reasons, says Pete Lands, DVM, Director of Emergency and Critical Care at Saint Francis Veterinary Center in Swedesboro, New Jersey. Speaking off affectionate dogs, find out why your dog follows you to the bathroom.

First, dogs’ noses secrete mucus, which helps them track smells in the air. “One of the reasons that the noses are going to be wet is because the secretion will come out of the inner part of the nose and sit on the top of the nose,” Lands says.

Another reason? Dogs don’t sweat the way humans do. Their noses act as a cooling mechanism and evaporating fluid from their nose to help cool their bodies.

Third, you’ve often seen dogs licking their noses. Dogs are lower down to the ground and pick up all kinds of dirt and pollen. They lick their noses to fully experience the scent, but also to clean them, Lands says. So that moisture you see also likely includes some saliva. It’s perfectly normal, but you may also be curious about the reasons behind some weird dog behaviors.

Finally, the wetness could come directly from what dogs are smelling. “When they’re outside sticking their nose in things, their nose can get wet because of what they’re sticking it into, whether that’s leaves, plants, puddles, the morning grass,” Lands says. “It’ll get a little bit wet that way.” Here are some other unbelievable facts about your dog.

What does it mean if your dog’s nose is dry?

While a wet nose is a healthy sign in your dog, a dry nose isn’t necessarily cause for worry. Young dogs that love to lick are going to have wet noses, but as dogs age, their noses typically become a bit dryer. The dryness could also be a sign that your canine is dehydrated, Land says. So be sure your dog gets plenty of water.

If the dryness is chronic, however, it could be a sign that your dog may have a skin disease. A dry nose could also indicate a systemic health issue. “It can also be a sign of overall poor health,” Lands says. Keep an eye out for these signs your pet is sick and schedule a visit to the vet to make sure.

What does it mean if your dog’s nose is too wet?

A very, very wet nose can also be a sign that your dog is sick. Dogs are like humans in that “if we start to get some sort of infection in our nose or upper respiratory infection, our noses can become more moist and we can start getting some mucus buildup on our nose or coming out of our nostrils,” Lands says.

It’s important to keep an eye on your dog’s nose, since it’s such a big part of how they function. Dogs have about 100 million sensory receptors in their nose, compared to five or 6 millions in humans. And they can use them to do all kinds of great things, from detecting cancer to finding criminals.

“It really is a powerful organ,” Lands says. Now that you know why dogs have wet noses, find out 50 secrets your pet won’t tell you.

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Jen McCaffery
Jen McCaffery is an associate editor for Reader’s Digest. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Prevention, Rhode Island Monthly, and other publications and websites. When she’s not writing or editing, she’s growing veggies or trying to figure out the way home from assorted trails.