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Should a Dog’s Nose Be Cold? Myth Busted

Dog noses come in all sizes and colors from black to pink and from really small to wide.

And while they can be so different in appearance they all share the same function, enriching your dog’s life with a great sense of smell.

In order to do that a dog’s nose should be cold and moist to the touch but is this really the case?

Should a Dog’s Nose Be Cold?

Dog noses are actually supposed to be cold and moist with a temperature of about 101°F. The coldness improves their ability to navigate their surroundings and regulates their body temperature.

However, recently published research found that the nose is unlikely to play a big role in regulating body heat due to its small size, disproving previous theories.

They suggest that it helps dogs sense faint heat sources even five feet away.

The tip of a dog’s nose is considerably colder than its ambient temperature making it sensitive to radiating heat.

Dog noses are much colder than herbivores’ so this sensory function may serve as a tool for better hunting rather than just regulating the body temperature.

Small dog with a wet nose.
Photo by Renko Aleks on Shutterstock

The fact that the nose always stays cold, makes it incredibly ineffective in dissipating surplus body heat compared to the tongue which is always wet and warm.

To keep it cold, your dog has to constantly apply moisture to his nose.

The moisture will then evaporate and keep the nose cool similar to what your dog is trying to achieve with panting.

This enables your dog to have a colder nose even on hot days.

But what happens if your dog’s nose feels suddenly warmer than usual?

Should a Dog’s Nose Be Warm?

A dog’s nose shouldn’t be warm for an extended amount of time but hourly fluctuations in temperature are normal and don’t necessarily indicate a health issue.

This means that a healthy dog’s nose could be warm while a sick dog’s nose could be cold and wet.

It’s always important to look at your dog as a whole and evaluate his health based on all of his symptoms.

If your dog has a fever, vomits, or feels lethargic, it’s important to bring him to the vet for a check-up.

Rather than the temperature and moisture, focus on the skin around the dog’s nose.

If you see lumps, swelling, or sores, it’s better to have a professional look at it.

Clear discharge is completely normal to come out of your dog’s nose but you should keep an eye out for pus, blood, and thick mucus.

These could be caused by inflammation, tumors, allergies, and much more.

Read my article on 10 types of unhealthy dog noses to learn their signs and meanings.

What Does It Mean When a Dog’s Nose Is Wet

Dog noses are usually wet as scent particles are much more likely to stick to wet surfaces than to dry ones, helping your dog to gather more information from their environment.

The nose is lined with special glands that produce mucus throughout the day.

You can observe your dog licking his nose multiple times per hour which distributes the mucus and keeps the nose moist.

However, dog noses are not wet all the time.

Dog lying on his back under a table.

If your dog hasn’t been able to lick his nose, for example during his sleep, it will feel much drier.

This is no cause for concern and your dog will wet his nose again after waking up.

A long walk outside or an extensive play session can also leave the nose quite dry especially if it’s on a hot or very cold day.

In the warmer months, you should watch your dog’s drinking habits and carefully monitor his nose for any signs of dehydration.

Although moisture greatly improves your dog’s olfactory abilities, a lack of it doesn’t necessarily mean that your dog is sick.

Signs like dryness or cracking can be symptoms of underlying health issues but oftentimes your dog just needs a good moisturizer.

Keep in mind that some dog breeds have drier noses than others.

This may include brachycephalic breeds as they often have difficulty licking their noses.

Other breeds like the Lhasa Apso are prone to blocked tear ducts which can result in a dry nose.

Are Puppy Noses Supposed to Be Warm?

Puppy noses are not supposed to be warm and they also are not an indication of their body warmth which should be measured using a digital rectal thermometer.

Newborn puppies are actually not able to regulate their body temperature and rely on the warmth given by their mother and littermates.

During the first week, a puppy should have a temperature of about 94-97°F.

They should be a few degrees warmer during the second and third weeks (97-100°F).

Puppies reach their adult body temperature during the fourth week.

It’s very important to closely monitor a puppy’s temperature to find a “normal” range for each puppy as they can be slightly different.

Young puppies are also more susceptible to fever and hypothermia which both require veterinary attention.

A puppy who is still living with his littermates and mother can have a warm nose due to sleeping, playing, or simply burying the nose in his mother’s fur.

If you have brought a puppy home with a warm nose this doesn’t necessarily mean that he is sick.

Puppies are always playing, exploring, and napping so a warm and drier nose is usually not a cause for concern if he is not displaying other symptoms or behavioral changes.

Dog Warm Dry Nose Lethargy

If your dog has a warm, dry nose and is feeling lethargic, the symptom you should be focusing more on is usually lethargy.

Every human and dog has days where they feel a little under the weather and sleepy but persistent lethargy is a cause for concern.

Your dog might not be interested in things he usually enjoys (playing, going for walk, sniffing) and refuses to get out of bed.

He might also feel very weak and may even refuse to eat and/or drink.

Lethargy can have a ton of causes including pain, disease, medication, toxin, infection, etc.

It’s impossible to find the underlying issue without a vet exam and lab work.

Bring your dog to the vet as quickly as possible in case your dog has eaten something he is not supposed to or he is suffering from life-threatening diseases or infections.

Disclaimer: This blog post does not substitute veterinary attention and does not intend to do so. I am not a veterinarian or pet nutritionist. If your dog shows any sign of illness, call your vet.

About Danielle

Equipped with 5+ years of expertise as a Rottweiler owner, I partner with licensed veterinarians and trainers to share research-backed and actionable advice for you and your furry friend.