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My Puppy Has a Dry Nose - What Does It Mean?

Josie F. Turner
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. Updated: January 14, 2021
My Puppy Has a Dry Nose - What Does It Mean?

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When caring for a puppy, we need to be vigilant against any possible symptom of disease. Some will be obvious or include changes of behavior. Others may be a little more subtle. When a dog has a dry nose, many of us think this is abnormal and a sign of a problem. This is partly due to the perceived wisdom that a dog's nose must always be wet, so a dog with a dry nose must, therefore, be unwell.

My puppy has a dry nose, what does it mean? At AnimalWised we explain the reasons why your dog has a dry nose and let you know if there are circumstances where we should be worried.


  1. A puppy's nose
  2. Why do puppies have wet noses?
  3. Why is my puppy's nose dry?

A puppy's nose

When we adopt a puppy, it should after a minimum of 8 weeks spent with their mother and siblings. Not only can this be emotionally damaging to the young dog, but newborn puppies are physically underdeveloped. Canines are altricial animals, meaning they are unable to look after themselves when they are born. It isn't until 2 weeks of life their sense of smell begins to develop, as well as their eyes open and they can start to hear.

Once the puppy's sense of smell begins to develop, it won't be long before it vastly surpasses the olfactory ability of humans. A canine's sense of smell is between 10,000 and 100,000 times better than our own. They use it to navigate their environment, finding food to eat, garnering information about other dogs and even being able to determine an individual's well-being.

Since a puppy's sense of smell is so important to them, a healthy nose means a healthy dog. Dog's noses can also be of varying colors. A dog's nose can even change color in certain circumstances.

Why do puppies have wet noses?

Since we humans often have a runny nose when we are sick, we may think the same with a puppy. However, a dog's anatomy is not the same as ours, so we shouldn't expect their bodies to function in quite the same way. Here are some reasons why a puppy's nose is wet:

  • Mucus: a dog's nose has mucus for many different purposes. It helps to fight against disease since it is the first line of defense against harmful microbes which may enter the nasal cavity. However, mucus also helps improve their smell as it catches scent molecules which their olfactory receptors can interpret.

  • They lick them: puppies often have a very dexterous tongue, although this will somewhat depend on their breed. For wild dogs, this is very important. It allows them to get food from their prey and generally interact with their environment. For wild dog puppies, they even lick their mother to stimulate the regurgitation of food (one of the many reasons puppies keep licking us). They also lick their own nose a lot. They do this to keep it clean, especially after eating. They also do it to help understand a smell better.

  • Keep cool: puppies do not sweat like humans. They mostly have eccrine sweat glands on areas without hair such as the feet and the nose. Since dogs don't sweat very much, they need to use panting and other methods to regulate their body temperature. Licking their nose helps to keep the nasal passage clear which also helps to keep them cool.

  • They touch something wet: also, a puppy may simply have a wet nose because they have been investigating something wet. If they put their nose in the trash or put their snout in the garden's wet grass, it is understandable their nose will be wet afterwards. Since puppies are very curious, this is even more likely.

As you can see, it is beneficial for a puppy to have a wet nose. This doesn't mean a dry nose is necessarily a problem, but we explain further below.

Why is my puppy's nose dry?

The wetness of a healthy puppy's nose can vary during the day depending on various factors. There are a minority of times when a dry puppy nose might be a problem. This is particularly if it is chronically dry or has cuts, scabs or sores. Most of the time there won't be a problem. Below we explain the reasons why a puppy's nose is dry:noses:

  • Sleep: if your puppy's nose becomes dry during sleep it is totally normal. When the infant dog takes a nap, they will stop licking their nose, reducing the humidity in the nasal area. When the air is particularly dry, the nose will dry out more quickly, especially if they have been asleep for a while. Once they wake, it will usually return to its normal state.

  • Allergies: dogs can have allergies to almost anything in their environment, including foods, materials and organic matter. If your puppy has an allergy to plastic and they eat regularly from a plastic bowl or plays with plastic toys, the nose may dry as a symptom of their allergic reaction. This would be if they have a mild allergy, but always be on the lookout for more severe allergic reaction symptoms.

  • Sun: the sun's rays will easily dry out a dog's nose. When it is very hot and dry, the dog's nose won't stay wet for long even after licking it. If your puppy likes to sunbathe, then it is possibly the reason why it is becoming dry. We shouldn't let our dog be out in the sun too long, especially if they have a pale color nose. They are more prone to sunburn or heat stroke.
My Puppy Has a Dry Nose - What Does It Mean? - Why is my puppy's nose dry?
  • Dry air: if your puppy is too close to a heat source or lives in a room with poor air circulation, it is normal for their nose to get dry. This often happens during the winter season, when dogs love to stay close to heat or places where temperature is preserved. Hot air can also lead to the skin on the dog's nose to crack. In these cases, you can use petroleum jelly, shea butter, coconut oil or any similar product which is safe for use with puppies to moisturize it.

  • Dehydration: it is alos possible your puppy is not drinking enough water. When an animal does not have enough fluid in their body, they will become dehydrated. An early symptom is that their nose might dry out. However, if they stay dehydrated for long periods, it can seriously affect their kidneys and other internal organs. This is particularly worrying since the puppy us still developing. Take the puppy to a veterinarian if you are not sure and encourage them to drink more water.

  • Disease: there are some health problems that can cause your puppy's nose to dry out, such as a lowering of their immune defenses. It can also occur in puppies that suffer from parvovirus or distemper.

Whatever may be the reason, a dry nose is usually not a cause for concern. However, if they have a chronic dry nose, it may be a sign of illness. In these cases, take them to a veterinarian for examination and diagnosis. The same should be done if the dog's mouth is routinely dry.

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My Puppy Has a Dry Nose - What Does It Mean?