Many people grow up believing that you can diagnose a dog’s health by his nose. You might think that if your dog’s nose is cold and wet it means that he’s healthy. Or, if his nose is warm and dry it means that he’s sick. Well, the answer is yes and no. Or, not really.
The basic answer is that your dog’s nose will be wet or dry at different times, depending on when you touch it, what he’s been doing, the environment around him, and so on. It’s hard to get a standard reading on a dog’s nose. Your dog may lick his nose to moisten it. He will probably get it wet when he takes a drink. All of these things can affect whether it’s wet or dry.
However, your dog’s nose is an extremity, so it’s likely to be cooler than some other parts of his body most of the time.
There are exceptions, of course. If your dog’s nose is hot for several days in a row it’s likely to be a sign of illness. Likewise, if your dog’s nose is dry and chapped, it’s usually a sign of sickness. Your dog may be running a temperature. You should take him to your veterinarian for a check-up.
You can tell other things by the condition of your dog’s nose. Many dogs lose the black pigment in their nose during winter months because they spend less time in the sun. This is called “winter nose.” It’s nothing to be concerned about. Your dog’s black pigment will return when he starts spending more time outdoors in the sunlight.
Other dogs can be allergic to plastic food bowls — their noses come in close contact with the plastic when they eat. This can make them lose the black pigment in their noses, too. If this is the case you can overcome this allergy by feeding your dog from a stainless steel pan or from a ceramic dish.
If your dog has an actual runny nose or nasal discharge then you should take it seriously. Dogs don’t get colds but they do get respiratory infections. Take your dog to the vet for a diagnosis. Your vet can prescribe the proper medication for your dog.
Your dog probably doesn’t like to have a very cold nose any more than you do. That’s why dogs seem prone to poking their cold noses into your warm spots when you least expect it. And, if your dog’s nose is wet, you can almost count on your dog rubbing his nose on you, usually when you’re wearing some nice clothes.
Your healthy dog will probably have a cold, moist nose most of the time but when he doesn’t you should not be alarmed unless his nose is hot and dry for an extended period of time. Watch for other signs of illness such as lethargy, coughing and nasal discharge.