I had gotten so used to being woken up by my pet dog poking his cold and wet nose into my face every morning, that I'd hardly given it a thought for quite some time. Till one morning, his nose didn't feel cold and wet. Instead it was warm and dry. That is when I gave it some thought, and wondered to myself, "Why do dogs have cold and wet noses?" Here are a few of the reasons that I found. Read on, if you are as curious as I was.
Reasons Why Dogs Have Cold and Wet Noses
There are a few reasons as to why dogs have cold, wet noses, and in the following paragraphs I will elaborate on those points. Unlike what many people assume, it is not one of the major symptoms of cold in your dog. Some of the reasons stated below have scientific backing and research, while others are logical. Let's take a look at them.
1. Cooling Mechanism
Dogs do not have sweat glands all over their body, unlike humans. There is no way for them to release the heat that is building up in their bodies, except from their paws and through their noses. They have the eccrine sweat glands in the skin of their noses, which help slightly to regulate their body temperature by keeping the nose moist, although the main thermo-regulation comes from panting, urinating, and sweating from the paws.
2. Heightens Olfactory Sense
A wet nose heightens the olfactory sense of dogs. Smell is carried by different gases in the air. Since the dog's nose is wet, the gases (carrying the smell) settle more easily on the nose and thus aid smelling. Just like when we wet our hands, and even lightly touch salt and sugar, the grains stick to our fingers, which wouldn't be the case if our hands were really dry. It works in a similar fashion, except that the odor molecules are not visible to the naked eye. This helps working dogs when they are supposed to track down things and people, by picking up their scent. The dog's nose also frequently secretes a thin layer of mucus, to keep the nose moist and trap the odor molecules.
3. Licking and Cleaning
These are the more obvious reasons why dogs have cold and wet noses. Dogs continuously keep licking their noses. This is partly to keep it moist to aid in cooling them down, while the other reason is to clean their noses, specially after meals. This also helps them to prevent mucus from building up on their noses, so that their noses are not blocked. Blocked noses will not help them smell anything, which is their primary strength. Wet noses exposed to air will be cold.
4. Evolutionary Attribute
Wet and cold noses are not only associated with dogs, but many other animals too. It is very prominent in dogs. This adaptation developed in the process of evolution, since it helped them sniff and track their prey and predators better. It would either help them in hunting, or in case of the hunted, protect them from their predators. It proved very useful for hunting dogs, and has been passed down, even though many breeds have now been domesticated.
The wet and cold noses of dogs are also linked to their health. If a dog has a wet and cold nose, it usually means that he is healthy. But this is not the most reliable indication of his health. When dogs have been inactive for a while, like when they have been sleeping, their noses may become dry and slightly warm. This does not mean that they are unwell. Sometimes even dogs with perfectly wet and cold noses may also be sick. The best (and my favorite) explanation, though, is the legend! Here is how the legend goes...
5. The Legend
We all know the story of Noah's Ark, right? And how the animals went in pairs on the ark? The dogs were there too. Soon after everyone had gotten on, there was a small scare on the ark. A tiny hole was discovered in the ark, which was causing it to flood. This hole was discovered by a dog who used his wit and jammed his nose into the hole to stop the ark from flooding. While he was sitting there with his nose in the hole, his mate went and alerted Noah about the situation. Noah then repaired the ark, and the problem was solved because of the quick wit and selfless nature of the dog. God was very happy with the dogs and so he bestowed them with cold and wet noses as a sign of good health! And that is why dogs have cold and wet noses. Next time someone asks you the reason, tell them it's a gift from God!
Jokes apart, if your dog's nose turns from wet to runny, it could be a symptom of cold, in which case, it is better to have him checked by his vet, rather than assuming that their noses are supposed to be that way.