Why is My Pet’s Nose Wet or Dry?

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A dog with a cold, wet nose.

By Dr. Eva Evans, a veterinarian and writer for Pets Best, a pet health insurance agency for dogs and cats.

There is an old wives’ tale that a dog or cat’s health can be assessed by the state of their nose. Typically, cat and dog noses are wet and cold, but why? What does it mean if they are warm and dry?

Often times, pet owners think that if their pet’s nose is dry, then the pet must be sick. Conversely, many people think that if a pet’s nose is wet and cold, then the pet is healthy. The truth is that a wet, cold nose has no bearing on your pet’s health, and it is not a reliable way to gage if your pet is sick or healthy.

One reason that cat and dog noses are typically wet is because pets like to lick their noses often. This moistens the nose and keeps that wet feeling. Sometimes, dogs and cats can have a warm, dry nose naturally. However, it can sometimes be a sign of dehydration. Pets that are dehydrated may have dry noses, but a dry nose doesn’t always mean your pet is sick. The humidity and temperature of the air also contributes to how wet or dry your pet’s nose will be.

If you notice a wet, runny nose with clear or colored discharge, then your pet may have an infection or other nasal disease and should be seen by your veterinarian for proper treatment. Some pets will always have dry, cracked noses even when they are healthy otherwise. This is especially true of senior pets.

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The best way to assess your pet’s health is to monitor for decreased appetite, lethargy or abnormal behavior. Observing these factors in your pet’s routine is a much more reliable way to determine their overall health.

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