Why Is My Dog's Nose Cold?
Is your dog's nose supposed to be cold? If you've ever snuggled up to your sweet pup or "booped" his nose, then you've probably noticed your dog's nose is colder than you expected. Why is your dog's nose so cold? This is actually perfectly normal, and the reason may be related to hunting for food.
Cold Noses Might Help Dogs Detect Heat Sources
The tip of a dog's nose (called a rhinarium) is often a little cooler than the environment around him.1 This can help a dog detect very faint sources of heat. One study found that dogs could sense faintly warm objects about five feet away. Another study used MRI scans to determine that dogs' brains get more responsive when a warm object is placed in front of them.
This ability may help dogs detect warm prey when they're hunting. One research team found that carnivorous animals tend to have cooler noses than herbivores, which lends more credibility to the hunting theory.2
A Cold Nose Might Help Your Dog Stay Cool
Another theory is that a cold nose may help regulate a dog's body temperature. Some experts disagree and think that a dog's nose is too small to do this efficiently.3 Others theorize that evaporating the moisture off a dog's nose can help cool a dog when it's warm outside.4 Dogs pant because they can't sweat as humans do, but an "evaporating" nose might also help.
If you're worried your dog is getting too warm in the spring or summer, there are plenty of products to help your dog stay cool. The K&H Original Pet Cot's mesh center and raised design help your pup stay cool and dry. The K&H Coolin' Pet Pad helps your pet stay cool without needing to keep the pad refrigerated. And on a hot day, a Coolin' Bowl is a great way to keep your dog's water cold for 15 hours or more.
A Wet Nose Picks Up Scents Better than a Dry Nose
Dogs lick their noses, which spreads a thin film of mucus on their snout and helps keep their noses cold and wet. A wet nose picks up scent particles better than a dry nose because particles tend to stick to a wet surface more easily than a dry surface.5
When a dog licks her nose, she transfers some of those scent particles into her mouth. This allows those particles to be further "analyzed" by the Jacobson's Organ, a scent gland in the roof of your dog's mouth.
The Temperature of Your Dog's Nose Doesn't Indicate if He's Sick
All this knowledge about your dog's cold nose is helpful but remember—the temperature of his nose doesn't tell you if he's sick or not.6 The temperature (and moistness) of a dog's nose can change throughout the day. Your dog's nose might be warmer after a nap, for example. A dog could be perfectly healthy with a warm nose but sick with a cold, wet nose. It's better to watch for other signs, like a change in energy level or a change in eating or drinking habits. If you have any concerns, talk to your veterinarian.
Although there are many theories about why your dog's nose might be cold, the bottom line is a cold, wet nose is perfectly normal. Your dog's nose is supposed to be cold, so don't worry. Just snuggle up together, and you'll warm him right up.
1. Chadwick, Jonathan. "Why Dogs Have Cold Noses." Daily Mail, 2 March 2020, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-8064029/Scientists-sniff-dogs-noses-cold.html.
2. Leviss, Dani. "Why Do Dogs Have Cold Noses?" Live Science, 12 September 2020, https://www.livescience.com/why-dogs-noses-are-cold-wet.html.
4. Coren, Stanley. "Why Do Dogs Have Cold, Wet Noses?" Psychology Today, 17 October 2017, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/canine-corner/201710/why-do-dogs-have-cold-wet-noses.
6. Davis, Susan. "Is a Dog's Hot Nose a Sign of Illness?" Pets.WebMD.com, 15 May 2012, https://pets.webmd.com/dogs/features/dogs-hot-nose.