Getting Nosy: What You Can Learn from Your Dog’s Nose

The lines and ridges that make up the pattern on your dog’s nose print are as unique and individual to your dog as a fingerprint is to a person.  In fact, beginning in the 1930s, the Canadian Kennel Club used dog nose prints as a form of dog identification.

Most of the time, your dog’s nose will be cold and wet.  The moisture from your dog’s nose is actually a thin layer of mucus which helps his sense of smell.  As you have probably observed, most dogs also seem to enjoy licking their noses, and this contributes to the wet nose.  The evaporation from his wet nose helps your dog stay cool, although the primary means of staying cool is the evaporation from panting.  However, if your dog has a dry nose, this does not mean he is sick.  Michael Dym, VMD, writes that “Except in cases of dehydrated dogs, where the nose may occasionally appear dry, there is often no special significance as to whether a pet’s nose is dry or wet.”

While there is no direct correlation between a dry nose and a sick dog, other changes in your dog’s nose can provide clues to his health. A thick yellow or green discharge can be a sign of an upper respiratory infection.  Additionally, a dog’s nose can sometimes change color. “Snow Nose” or “Winter Nose” refers to a loss of pigment in certain dogs’ noses which sometimes occurs in the winter months.  Snow Nose is a harmless condition and typically, the nose will return to its normal color around springtime.  De-pigmentation of your dog’s nose can have other causes such as an allergic reaction to plastic food bowls.  Lightening of the nose is not uncommon in Labradors that have a genetic predisposition to a lightening of the nose.  However, if you notice any changes in the pigment of your dog’s nose and you are not sure of the cause, a trip to the veterinarian is in order.

Since there is no fur to protect the nose, dogs with pink or lighter-colored noses can get sunburn on the nose, which can eventually lead to skin cancer.  Consider using sun block on the nose and ear tips of dogs with light-colored fur and skin.

About author

Abby Rosenberg

Abby Rosenberg is a PetMeds employee and long-time cat lover. She was a volunteer for several years at a local no-kill cats only rescue shelter. This has prepared her for her most challenging role to date: secretary, photographer, social coordinator and treat dispenser for Daisy, and Daisy’s sidekick Harley. Daisy is a dilute calico Devon Rex cat, and Harley is a “cow-cat” who was adopted from the shelter where Abby volunteered. You can also find Abby on Google+

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  • […] 5:Every nose is unique. The Canadian Kennel Club has been using nose prints as a means of individual identification since […]

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