Our dogs’ noses are visible to us (and often in our faces). We can easily note any changes in something that is so apparent to us and vets often get asked about warm and dry noses. In the past, people have said that a dry and warm nose means that a dog is ill.
Dogs are not like humans in the way their bodies manage heat and moisture. Your dog cannot sweat in the way that you think of perspiration. Dogs pant and sweat only on their noses and paw pads. That is why a hot dog pants and an overly hot dog can be cooled faster if you put cool water (or rubbing alcohol) on his feet. It is true that a wet nose is normal for dogs.
It is likewise true that a dry or warm nose can be normal also. The temperature and moistness of your dog’s nose will depend on multiple factors, including his own body and the ambient temperature and humidity. A dog’s body temperature can normally range up to 102.5 degrees and still not be a fever. Inside your home, where the temperature and humidity are controlled, your dog’s nose might be dry or wet, warm or cool and still be alright.
There are conditions in which the nose can be a warning sign. If your dog has a dry and crusty nose chronically, you need to see a vet. There could be issues with his tear ducts in his eyes because the tears drain partly onto the nose. There are immune mediated (formerly called auto-immune) issues that can be evidenced on the nose. A high fever can dry out the nose, but fortunately for caregivers, a high fever will show other signs that will alert you that your dog needs help, like lethargy (no energy), anorexia (not eating) and usually a high fever is very obvious to someone that knows their own dog’s typical demeanor.
Any abnormality of your dog’s nose should prompt a call to your vet, but if he is not acting sick, it is unlikely to indicate a fever or emergency situation. Always watch for other signs of disease. Any change in appetite, thirst, urination, defecation or energy level can be clues that your vet needs to get to the bottom of trouble. If the nose is always dry, warm and crusty, you do need to call your vet to get the bottom of the issue.
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