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Why is my dog's nose dry? A vet answers...

why is my dog's nose dry?
(Image credit: Getty)

If you find yourself asking 'why is my dog's nose dry?' there are a few reasons that could be behind this. 

It is a bit of an old wives’ tale that all healthy dogs have wet noses; a dry nose doesn’t necessarily mean that your dog is poorly. It is true that occasionally an underlying illness could be the cause, but not always, as many healthy dogs can have dry noses too.  

If you're worried that your dog may be sick, the good news is that a dry nose can be caused by multiple things. This article will explore the reasons why dogs have wet noses, what the potential causes are behind your dog's dry nose and when it's time to take your canine to the vet. 

Why do dogs have wet noses?

Dogs are well known for their excellent sense of smell, and their noses work best when they are wet. They are designed this way to trap scent particles, which occurs within a thin layer of mucus on the nose surface. This allows them to hold on to and examine the smell thoroughly. Some dogs will lick their noses to moisten them further when having a good old sniff.

The nose also acts as a way of cooling dogs down. They are unable to sweat as we do, so moisture evaporating from the nose surface, as well as from their mouth through panting, can help to cool them down.

why is my dog's nose dry?

(Image credit: Getty)

Why is my dog's nose dry?

Most of the time a healthy dog’s nose will be nice and moist, but there are some situations when it could feel a bit dry. Some of these are normal occurrences and others could be due to ill health. Here’s 9 reasons your dog could have a dry nose. 

1. He’s been asleep

When your dog is asleep, he is no longer licking his nose and his nasal secretions have dried up. Usually, once he is up and going again his nose will moisten up.

2. Heating in our homes

Things like central heating or air vents can dry our pets noses out, just the same as our skin can get a bit dry in the winter months too. This is especially true if he likes to sleep curled up next to a warm radiator or fireplace.

3. Age

Older dogs seem to have more dried-out noses than younger dogs. This isn’t a particular concern unless your dog’s nose is becoming cracked or sore.

4. Breed

Brachycephalic (flat-faced) breeds like bulldogs, boxers and pugs seem more prone to dried out crusty noses. Some breeds are less able to reach their tongue with their nose to keep it moist too, like chihuahuas and Shih-Tzus.

5. Congenital abnormalities

Some dogs can suffer from issues they have had since birth, which may have given rise to facial deformities causing their nose to be dry.

6. Hyperkeratosis

A condition seen very commonly in some of the brachycephalic breeds mentioned previously. Hyperkeratosis describes an over-production of keratin (the protein that makes skin and hair), leading to hardening and cracking of the nose surface. Don’t pick these areas as it will cause bleeding and risk infection. Nose balms or petroleum jelly can help soften them up instead.

7. Sunburn

Pale, non-pigmented noses are more likely to catch the sun and become damaged. Use pet safe sun lotions if your dog has a pale/pink nose, to help protect them.  

8. Dehydration

In very hot weather your dog’s nose could become dried out, or if he is very poorly and not taking drinking enough water. If he has an illness causing dehydration such as vomiting or diarrhoea, then treatment for this is crucial.

9. Illness

Several illnesses could affect the skin on the nose such as autoimmune disease which may cause cracks or sores, and certain types of cancer. Distemper, a viral disease, could cause cracking of the skin on the nose as well as the paws. Other serious symptoms can also be seen with this infection, but thankfully most dogs are now vaccinated against this disease. 

why is my dog's nose dry? When to take your dog to the vet

(Image credit: Getty Images)

When should I take my dog to the vet?

You should take your dog to the vet if you notice any of the following signs along with a dry nose:

  • Bleeding from the nose
  • Painful cracks or sores
  • Rubbing or scratching at his nose excessively
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Excessive discharge from the nose
  • Reduced appetite
  • Lethargy

An occasionally dry nose is usually nothing to worry about, most dogs will have this from time to time. You should seek help if your dog is uncomfortable or if you are worried about how it looks. 

For some dogs with dry, but otherwise comfortable noses, you could consider using a ‘nose balm’ to keep them soft and prevent cracking. Speak to your veterinarian for advice first though.


Many dogs can have dry noses without there being a serious underlying issue. Monitor the skin on their nose closely for any signs of sores or cracking, and seek veterinary advice if this occurs. Most of the time a dry nose is nothing to worry about but always get it checked if you aren’t sure!