You may think you know your pup’s nose. After all, you see it in action every day, sniffing out those treats stashed away in your pocket! Everybody knows dogs are superior smellers, but those snouts can do a lot more than sniff out hidden treats.
A dog’s nose is a vital organ and is the source of important sensory information. Dogs depend on this highly sensitive smelling system to communicate, stay safe and explore and understand the world. So, there’s no surprise that, of all the five senses, a dog’s sense of smell is the most advanced.
In this blog, you can better understand how your dog perceives the world around them, how their unique nose works and how you can best take care of their almighty snout.
Your pet will be grateful that you have an insight into their world and together, your bond of companionship will be firmer than before…
- Contrary to popular belief, dog noses are not naturally wet
Have you heard that a dry nose indicates a sick dog? Interestingly, whether a dog's nose is damp or not has little to do with health, as dog noses are not naturally damp! When a dog sleeps, their nose will be dry. However, as soon as they’re awake, your pet will lick their nose.
The primary reason for a dog moistening their nose is because a thin layer of moisture helps to collect and capture tiny scent molecules, which increases a dog's ability to detect smells. Just as a wet cloth picks up dust better than a dry one!
That little indentation, known as "philtrum", found in the middle of the bottom part of the nose and at the top of your dog's upper lip, carries moisture from the mouth to the nose.
Other reasons why your dog may lick their nose:
-Dogs like to keep their noses clean and moist as their noses need to be able to function effectively. Your dog might lick their nose to clean away food or dirt.
-To cool themselves down. A dog’s snout is a vital cooling system in times of physical exertion and high temperatures.
-Nose licking also happens when a dog smells something good to eat.
-Some dogs will lick their lips or noses to express anxiety, confusion or stress. If you see other signs of fear like wide and startled eyes, then the nose licking is probably not an indication of a calm state but is an expression of anxiety. For example, some dogs who are scared of fireworks may lick their noses when they hear the explosions.
-Dogs will lick their noses if they have smelt an unpleasant odor.
-Just like us, dogs can feel nauseous and develop fevers. They may lick their noses to try and make themselves feel better.
Remember that dogs are individuals and so will have different ‘licking habits’. As general rule of thumb, you only need to worry about underlying illnesses if your dog’s nose licking habits change drastically. Also, if your pet is awake and with a suspiciously dry nose, make sure your pet is well hydrated. If there’s still a problem, talk to the vet.
Did you know: the average dog will produce about a pint of mucus/saliva every day, just to keep their nose running in good condition!
- Different dogs have different snouts
Just as individual dogs have their own ‘licking habits’, individual dogs also have unique snout types. There are 3 main snout types:
-Dolichocephalic (long and thin snout). A longer nose means more room for specialized scent receptors inside the nasal cavity, and consequently have a more sensitive and refined sense of smell. Dolichocephalic snouts help to humidify and filter the air and move it rapidly towards their scent receptors. The most common dolichocephalic dog breeds in the US include, Afghan Hounds, Basset Hounds, Bloodhounds, Bull Terriers, Dachshunds, Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherds, Great Danes, Italian Greyhounds, Poodles and Whippets.
-Mesocephalic (medium length snout). These breeds are gifted with broader snouts and larger nasal cavities giving them wonderful scenting capabilities. Some Mesocephalic dogs include Labradors, Dalmatians, Beagles, Yorkshire Terriers, Springer Spaniels and Border Collies.
-Brachycephalic (extremely flat snout). These dogs have fewer scent-detecting receptor cells than dogs with longer snouts, because of the smaller surface area in the nose. Examples of brachycephalic breeds include Shih Tzus, Chihuahuas, Chow Chows, Pekingese, Lhasa Apso, Bull Mastiffs, Pugs and English Toy Spaniels. Sadly, some flat-nosed or, Brachycephalic breeds have been so badly bred that they cannot keep their noses lubricated properly. If this is the case with your pet, keep reading to learn how you can help.
Did you know: There are some dog breeds equipped with a distinctive split "double" nose! Also known as “split noses” and “cleft noses,” double noses are simply nostrils that are split by a band of skin. This divided nose, resemble the double barrels of a shotgun. The Catalburun is one of only three dog breeds that possess the split nose feature (along with the Pachon Navarro and Andean Tiger-hound), have one of the strongest senses of scent among other members of the pointer/hunter breeds.
What type of snout does your pup have?
- Dogs have stellar sniffing abilities
Your pup has the ‘wiggliest’ tail and the cutest face, they’re great at fetch and love a good nap. But their true superpower? Their incredible sense of smell! A dog’s world is defined by scents.
We have known for millennia that a dog’s sense of smell is very different than ours, but did you know that the part of a dog's brain that is devoted to analyzing smells is, proportionally speaking, 40 times greater than ours? Dogs also have up to 300 million olfactory receptors in their noses (compared to a measly six million in us!). They really put our senses to shame!
Dogs also come equipped with a patch of scent-sensitive cells in the nose, the vomeronasal organ. This organ acts as a second nose, powering up a dog's sniffing capabilities. This organ is dedicated solely to detecting pheromones, which are hormone-like, behavior-altering chemicals released by other dogs and humans. Your dog’s ability to identify pheromones explains how they know to be extra-attentive when you’re feeling sad or sick.
The vomeronasal organ also enables your dog to:
-Notice when someone is pregnant
-Find potential mates
-Decide who is friendly and who is a potential predator or threat
-Recognize their owners’ emotional states
Did you know: Us humans have a vomeronasal organ too, but scientists are yet to discover if it works!
- Dogs can basically smell time
In addition to being able to smell pheromones, dogs’ powerful noses also allow them to perceive the passage of time! These amazing animals can understand much about the past because of the extreme sensitivity of their noses.
Many dogs can, for example, tell which way to follow a scent trail by heading from where it is weakest to where it is strongest. Scents lose power over time, so a stronger odor is probably more recent, and a weaker one is from farther in the past. Because dogs can detect both new and old odors, they are perceiving events and substances across intervals of time.
Did you know: The furless skin surface of the dog's nose is called rhinarium. It can also be called planum nasale, but most dog owners simply refer to it as nose or snout, while breeders may prefer to call it “nose leather”.
- Dogs communicate with their noses
As a dog owner, you’re most likely aware that dogs like to bump you with their noses constantly! Most pet parents assume that dogs engage in ‘nose bumps’ with them and other dogs as a way of saying hello. Whilst this can be true, nose-to-nose touches can also serve as a method of gathering and exchanging relevant information.
As we now know, dog noses are very sensitive and they can deduce a whole lot of things by just the mere act of sniffing. So, when one dog nose touches another dog, they may be gathering information about whether the other dog has recently eaten something that could be palatable. Dogs like to investigate and share their eating habits just as they share information about their identities, so nose touching for the purpose of gathering information about another dog's feeding habits makes perfect sense.
Did you know: To canines, nose touching is also a form of getting your attention for a variety of reasons. They typically want to be petted, played with, walked, or given food.
Unfortunately, dog noses are often prone to dryness. If your dog’s nose is dry most of the time it can lead to cracking of the skin– as can a range of other environmental factors and health conditions too.
Environmental factors that can dry out your dog’s nose:
-Central heating can lead to cracking of your dog’s nose, especially if they come in and out a lot during the course of the day from the cold temperature outside to the dry warmth inside. Often during winter months, dogs like to nap right next to a radiator to snuggle up and keep warm. However warm air can have a drying effect on the skin of both dogs and owners. Even if your pet does not cozy up by the radiator, the central heating in which many of us use, is a very dry type of heat, which can lead to lower than normal humidity levels in the home. This can also dry out skin.
-Winter weather. The cold winter wind can also cause a dry dog nose. It can lead to sore and chapped skin.
-The sun. Dogs are sensitive to the UV rays of the sun, particularly dogs with pink skin or with short or thin fur. Excessive sun exposure can cause sunburned skin on the nose that can peel, flake and crack.
Other factors that can dry out your dog’s nose:
-As dogs age, they tend to have drier noses.
-Brachycephalic Short-snouted dogs often have difficulty licking and moistening their noses because of the conformation of their skull. Unfortunately these dogs often develop a lumpy, crusty, chalky, cracked, uncomfortable nose in place of the cute little black button that used to sit on their face.
-A dog that is prone to dehydration will also be more prone to developing a very dry nose, which will in turn increase the chances of it cracking. Learn more about the importance of hydration here.
A cracked, dry or sore nose can be pretty painful and uncomfortable! If your dog’s nose is cracked, it may be painful for them to use snout-to-snout contact and to lick their nose, which will over time, reduce their amazing smelling capabilities. So, what can you do about it?
Caring for your dog’s nose
With so much emphasis placed on the nose and the sense of smell, it is only fitting that the health of the nose be of the utmost importance. The nose is a dog’s chief sensory source of information and you’ll no doubt want to be keeping it in top working order. That’s why we have created the Snout Soother.
PET CARE Sciences Snout Soother gives you the power to maintain soft, supple skin and to heal dry, cracked noses. This balm will also provide relief and prevention from chapped, sore, damaged, itchy, crusty and flaky skin! Enriched with an abundance of natural moisturizers, Snout Soother will nourish your pet’s nose back to full glory! Coconut oil, coco butter and shea butter gently work hydrate and protect your pet from potentially damaging weather conditions and harsh surfaces.
More reasons to try Snout Soother:
-Because dogs lick their noses so often, whatever moisturizer is used must be safe for ingestion. Most skin lotions that are sold over the counter are not safe for ingestion. However PET CARE Sciences Snout Soother is safe and natural.
-Snout Soother is also formulated with a subtle vanilla scent that both you and your pup will love!
-It’s quick and easy to apply! With your hands, carefully apply to your pet’s nose, avoiding the nostrils, for supple nourished skin in no time!
-It’s convenient! Snout Soother comes in a handy and transportable 60 gram tin. It's 'pocket size' design allows you to provide your pet with nourishment and protection on the go, wherever you are and whatever the weather
-We are manufactured to the best exacting standards in regulated premises & undertake full testing. PET CARE Sciences products are designed to assist in safely maintaining the health of your precious pets - we stake our reputation on it.
Dog noses deserve respect
So as you’ve learnt, our pets are capable of things that us humans can only dream of. Dogs rely on their noses not only to breathe, but to communicate, gather information and even tell the time!
While we can never truly experience the world of the dog, we can at least imagine the fascinating information that a dog might get from sniffing a tree or lamp post.
The superior smelling capabilities of dogs- even yours- may give you a new respect for the incredible skills our canine companions possess. Perhaps we will allow our dogs more time to go on more sniffing adventures and just occasionally, we will resist the temptation to tug the lead to get somewhere more “interesting”…