Why Does My Dog Have A Dry Nose? 

dog laying on the ground under a blanket

Why Does My Dog Have A Dry Nose?

Have you ever touched your dog's nose and it feels cool and moist? Many think that a wet nose on a dog is the normal state and an indicator of good health. It almost feels weird to touch their nose and find it’s warm and dry. At that point, a dog owner might want to know if this is something that they have to worry about or see their veterinarian or if it’s something that they can treat at home.

One factor to consider with a dog is that a wet nose is better for their sense of smell. The ability to pick up scent particles is greater on a damp nose because the particles can stick better, where they then go to the over 100 million sensory receptors for them to process. Their sense of smell is far better than that of a human, which stands at about 6 million.

They also have the Jacobsen’s organ found in the nasal passages and is their secondary olfactory system used for chemical communication. But their noses are not only for smelling. They also use them to regulate their body temperature. How humans sweat to keep cool, they use their noses as part of being able to keep cool (along with panting). They keep their nose wet with a thin layer of mucus that helps with their ability to smell and helps keep them cool. Just because this is the “normal” way a dogs nose is supposed to be, they can also be dry as well and looking at the concerns can help you make an educated decision on whether or not it’s something to worry about.

So Why is My Dog’s Nose Dry ?

Typical ways to determine a dog's health are by watching if they are eating and drinking normally, their activity levels, and sometimes if their noses are wet or not (if you know what their version of a normal wet nose is). We don’t use the nose as the best indicator of health because dryness doesn’t necessarily mean they are unhealthy. Generally speaking, the other ways to determine their health are far more accurate. Daily you can see how much they are eating, sleeping, drinking and playing because these are aspects that are highly visual. While you can sometimes tell their nose is dry by looking at them, most of the time you will need to actually feel their nose, and how often are you feeling their nose unless they are consistently touching you with it (and some dogs instead of giving "kisses" by licking do touch their nose to your face).

Some reasons for a dry nose could be that they were asleep, outside and exposed to the elements, overactivity, and age. One other thing is the breed of dog, and here we will discuss the brachycephalic breeds (flat-faced dogs) and how that alone can be a factor in why their noses are dry. Read on to review some of the common reasons for a pup’s dry nose.

a dog's nose being held in a person's hands

Common Reasons Your Dog’s Nose is Dry

The wetness of your dog's nose is not necessarily the best indicator of a healthy dog or a sick dog. A runny nose can be just as bad as a dry nose. But there are many common reasons why your dog's nose is dry that have nothing to do with them being unhealthy. Like humans, dogs sleep, go outside, run around, and get older. These are common reasons why their little noses get drier than usual, but generally, it’s nothing that offers concern.


Do you lick your lips when you are sleeping? Though we may or may not know. However, when dogs are sleeping, they are generally not licking their snouts, which means their nose will dry during the night or one of their many naps throughout the day. It is not something you would have to be concerned about because this is a normal part of dog life, sleep, have the zoomies, eat, and sleep. If you want to determine if this is the cause of their dry nose, check on them while napping, see if you can touch their nose without waking them up, and then touch it again when they do wake up. If you notice a difference, you can tell that it's just because they aren't licking it while dreaming.

Exposure to the Elements

Getting out is great, but even the change in environment can have a drying effect on their nose. Going from warm houses to cold outsides and vice versa might mean that your dog might experience a drier nose. When outside, especially on particularly sunny or windy days, it's essential to keep an eye on your dogs nose. In this case a dry nose may mean that they are in the sun too much without enough protection for their nose or it might be so windy that their nose is drying up quicker than normal.

close up shot of a dog's nose


Going out and playing with your dog and partaking in strenuous activity is great for them. It helps them to expend energy as well as spend quality time with you and possibly learn some new tricks. However, overactivity can also be the reason their nose is a little dry. While they are running around the wind in their face, their lack of drinking water, and their lack of licking the nose can all contribute to it being a little dry. The resolution to this would be when you are relaxing afterward, get them water so they can replenish what they have lost and have them come back down to a neutral state. After you have done these things they should go back to their normal moisture. One of the biggest factors here might be drinking. It's common even for humans to have dry lips when out running and doing a lot of activities, especially when it's warmer outside, and they aren't drinking enough water. Once your dog comes back down to that calm relaxed state, you should be able to determine if this was the case for their dry nose.


An older dog will not be moving around as much as a young sprite puppy. It generally means, like above, that the puppy is sleeping more and licking its nose less. Just note when they are awake and see if their nose is normally moist. It shouldn't be a problem as long as it is wet while they are up and about. it

Brachycephalic Heritage

Dogs with a brachycephalic background are dogs that generally have that flat face. It would include pugs and bulldogs, Pekingese and boxers, as prime examples. You can tell these kinds of dogs by their short snouts that are flat to their face depending on their breeding. They run into dryness because they have a harder time licking their nose to keep it moist. They have a difficult time because of the structure of their faces and their ability to lick their nose. These breeds are not the only ones that can run into issues because of their face. Lhasa Apsos are another breed that deals with a dry nose but for a different reason that you will see below.

close up shot of a dog's face and nose

Abnormal Reasons Why Your Dog Has a Dry Nose

While the above are common reasons why your dog has a dry nose, there are also abnormal reasons why they do. Some of what you will read below are health issues that cannot be prevented and must be cared for under the supervision of a veterinarian, such as idiopathic nasodigital hyperkeratosis, allergies, autoimmune diseases, or even dry eyes. However, there are other health issues such as dehydration and sunburns that you can prevent with the animal's proper care. In those instances, one rule of thumb is that if you are taking care of yourself in a certain way, such as drinking extra water or applying sunscreen, you should be doing the same for your dog. They are family, and you should treat them as such in this instance.


When dehydrated, our lips get cracked and dry. We reach for the lip balm, knowing full well that drinking water and increasing our fluid intake would better suit us and help rectify the situation instead of temporarily covering up the symptoms. The same goes for dogs. When they are out working and walking, they also need to have more to drink. If they are not adequately hydrated, this can result in a dry snout. When going out, it is crucial to bring a water source and a bowl for them to drink out of so that you are not in a place that doesn't have access to fresh water consistently. Ensuring they have constant access to fresh water is imperative in helping to keep their nose moist because severe dehydration can lead to other issues such as sunken eyes, tacky gums, and weakness. If it gets to that point, you’ll want to seek medical attention immediately.


You took your dog to the beach or on a long hike through the desert, and you made sure to start the day with sunscreen for yourself, reapplying every two hours to ensure that it was still working. But you didn’t think about fido, and they come home with a very dry nose that now has sunburn because there wasn't protection for an extended period. Also, consider the color of your dog's nose because the lighter the nose (such as pink ones), the easier it can get sunburned. A sunburn on a dog's nose looks like that of a human. Severe sunburn can cause their nose to be dry, and it can peel and crack.

Next time when you are putting on your sunscreen, you should also use a dog-friendly nose balm for your pup to protect their nose. It’s a form of lotion, and it ensures that your pup feels good too after a long day outside.

close up shot of a dog sleeping on a couch

Dry Eye or Blocked Tear Ducts

A blocked tear duct is quite common in Lhasa apsos, which, as one would assume, causes them to have a drier nose despite it being in their eyes. It seems confusing; however, excess tears drain into the nasal passages. If they are blocked, it takes some of the nose’s moisture. An indicator of this is their eyes being watery and draining down their face instead of their nasal passages.


When we have allergies, sometimes it results in dry eyes or dry skin and a lot of sneezing (seasonal allergies, anyone?). A dog can have the same reactions, such as a dry nose and swelling, and a lot of scratching. Allergens can be anything from pollen to the dog food that they eat and a range of things in between (just like humans). Their dry nose can be an allergic reaction to that or their environment. If the allergies are severe enough, you can treat them with medications such as antihistamines and steroids.

Autoimmune Disorders

Dogs can have some diseases such as lupus and Pemphigus, which cause different surfaces like their paws and noses to become dry, and insevere cases, crack and bleed. If you notice their nose is in that kind of state, it’s essential to go ahead and look at their paws to see if they are crusty or have scabs on them. If they are, they are most likely dealing with an autoimmune disease, which warrants a vet trip.

Idiopathic Nasodigital Hyperkeratosis

Idiopathic Nasodigital Hyperkeratosis is the overgrowth of keratin on the nose. Generally, this is common in breeds that are brachycephalic and older dogs. Pet owners can usually determine this by seeing that their pup's nose is rougher and possible pointy. It’s not fatal and doesn’t come with other issues, but it’s probably not comfortable for the dog. A trip to the vet can help make them a bit more comfortable by having them trim the excess keratin and also giving you medication for your pup.

close up shot of a dog's nose

Should I Bring My Dog to the Vet?

Even though a wet nose is supposedly healthy, consider that a runny nose might not be. If there is thick discharge, a vet visit is imperative as this could be a sign that they are sick.

There is a happy medium between too dry and too wet. Knowing what is normal for your furry friend is important in determining if this could be a condition that can wait and see or requires a professional's review. Sometimes a little help is needed to keep your dog's nose wet, such as a dog-safe lotion that is safe if licked off. Please don’t go for the ones you use on yourself as they are most likely not safe.

Genetic reasons for a dry nose, such as autoimmune diseases and allergies, and the type of breed they are might all be factors in having a dry nose. These require a trip to the vet to diagnose, but treatment can begin once the diagnosis is received. And treatment can be as simple as extra doggy lotion or different food and allergy medications.

But then you have severe dehydration and severe sunburn, which are preventable issues, but they are severe enough to go to the emergency vet. Those two might be the precursors to underlying issues based on what happened to them.

In summary, we shouldn’t be using the wetness or dryness of a dog's nose to determine if they are healthy or not. There are many other ways to look at them and determine if their pet health is optimal or not. Some of these other ways are to look at activity levels, if they are eating or drinking, and how they act. These are better indicators of their health than how moist their nose is.

So when you look at your pet, get close to their sniffer and see how it feels. Ask yourself what should be a general indicator of what they are normally, but again, this is not the overall indicator of how they are feeling.

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