Dogs have an enviably long tongue that can easily reach their nose, and they can exercise that privilege so much that you might think they just dunked their snouts in peanut butter. However, a dog licking its nose can mean several things, not simply just trying to clean itself.
Dogs have an ultra-super-hyper sensitive nose that can smell from 1,000 to 10,000 times better than us. That formidable nose contains more than 100 million receptors in the nasal cavity! In contrast, humans contain about a measly 6 million.
As if that wasn’t impressive enough, the part of the brain that perceives odors is about 40 times larger than the same part in our brains.
So why then, do some dogs seem to constantly lick their noses? In this blog post, we’ll look at why dogs pay so much attention to that incredible part of their bodies and see whether it is any cause for concern.
Why is Your Dog Licking Their Nose?
The nose, more than anything, is a vital organ that supplies them with essential sensory information about the environment in which they find themselves. Some nose lickin’ is completely normal, while others might indicate a medical problem.
When Is Nose Licking Normal?
Looking at how vital the nose is for dogs, you can imagine that they give it plenty of TLC!
Bringing Down Their Temperature
Your dog’s nose plays a significant role in the process that brings down its body temperature. Since dogs do not sweat as people do, it is crucial that any skin and flesh on their body not covered with fur be as cool as possible, which is why they lick their paw pads as well.
You’ll notice that dogs lick their noses more in the heat, as they try to cool themselves down. That also might explain why dogs like to nudge around ice cubes with their noses if you give one to your pooch.
Increase Their Sense Of Smell
Your dog’s nose performs several vital jobs, one of the most significant of which is cooling, but smelling is even more crucial. Although it’s hard to imagine their incredible sense of smell improving, dogs lick their noses to increase their sensitivity.
Your dog explores his surroundings by using his nose to smell everything, and this is how he interacts with the world around him. However, a dry nose doesn’t effectively capture scent particles the way a wet nose does. The outer nose and the nasal cavities better capture scents when they are wet, so if a dog’s nose is dry and he or she is trying to smell something more accurate, SLURP!
Cleaning Their Noses
Sometimes they blow their noses don’t they, and the snot seems to always go all over you. Dogs blow their noses to get a better whiff too!
However, if blowing their noses isn’t good enough, they are probably trying to clear out the moisture to get a scent better, especially if there is food in the area!
All dogs get nervous, some more so than others. They lick their nose as a nervous twitch, much like we bite our nails at times. If your dog is the anxious kind or has a bout of separation anxiety, you might see him or her lick their noses, which can be a sign of stress.
Of course, some stress is normal, while excessive stress should be more carefully monitored.
When Is Nose Licking Not Normal?
Some nose licking is normal, but some might indicate a medical issue or the onset of one. Here are some things to watch out for if you notice your dog slurping at his honker excessively.
When dogs get the sniffles, they use their tongue to eliminate any irritating trickles of nasal discharge because they lack the manual dexterity that humans have. You may not always be able to notice any discharge as dogs will either sneeze it out or lick it away and consume it. Yep, they eat their snot.
If he has heavy yellow or green discharge, it could be a sign of a respiratory infection, especially if it is accompanied by a fever or your dog is lethargic and weak. If the nasal discharge is clear, allergic rhinitis, or inflammation of the nose, could be the culprit.
If your veterinarian detects allergies, he or she may advise you to give your dog a simple antihistamine and observe how your dog reacts.
Most dogs slobber and lick their chops and noses excessively when they are nauseous. It could be a sign of an upset stomach or gastroesophageal reflux. A change in appetite or vomiting in conjunction with the licking strongly suggests nausea.
Our dogs are just as susceptible to illness as we are, and licking their noses and lips helps them eliminate excess saliva. It could take a day for the dog to feel better and stop licking if it consumed anything that didn’t agree with its digestive system.
Stress and Anxiety
Many dogs tend to lick their noses when frightened, stressed, or puzzled. Observe your dog closely and make mental notes of its behavior in various situations, like when a thunderstorm is playing or some fireworks are going off.
Some stress is normal, especially in times of excessive stimuli, but constant licking when there are no stimuli could indicate that your dog is anxious about something not as obvious, such as a recent move or the arrival of a new pet or baby.
If your dog’s nose has been injured in any way, such as being cut, abraded, punctured, or otherwise damaged, it may cause them to lick their nose continually. If you are concerned, check and evaluate the severity of the damage, and make an appointment with your vet as soon as possible.
Dogs can get bacterial or fungal infections of the nose, which can result in discharge from the nose. Licking their noses is a reflex that comes naturally to dogs when they are trying to deal with a runny nose. Some dogs will also sneeze, and their breathing will sound as though they have a stuffy nose.
In addition, nasal discharge and licking of the nose may be symptoms of a sinus infection.
Nasal tumors are a common cause of licking in some dogs and should be checked by a certified veterinarian so that the true problem with your dog may be identified. Cancer can develop in any part of a dog’s body, including the nose. Sneezing or nasal discharge are common symptoms of a nasal tumor.
As the tumor grows, the discharge can become bloody. Get your dog to the vet immediately.
Allergies are another reason why your dog continues to lick its nose. Dogs lead with their noses, and can easily pick up allergens during their daily walk. If you suspect some allergies, ask your veterinarian to perform an allergy test on your dog to determine what they are allergic to and keep them away from those allergens.
Dehydration means that their noses might become dry, and a dog with a dry nose has a compromised sense of smell, taking away their keenest sense. They could then lick their noses excessively to try to improve their sense of smell but if they are dehydrated, their mouths might be dry too.
Some common symptoms of dehydration in dogs include excessive panting, lethargy, dry or sticky gums, and decreased appetite.
You can perform a skin test to determine if your dog is dehydrated. All you have to do is pinch the pup’s skin and lift it. If your dog’s skin falls slowly or retains its shape after releasing it, he is dehydrated.
Dehydration is a serious health concern for dogs, and it can happen much more easily than you might think. Just like humans, dogs need to stay hydrated to stay healthy and function properly.
If you notice any of these signs of dehydration in your dog, it’s important to act quickly and give them access to fresh water. If the dehydration is severe, you may also need to take them to the vet for treatment.
Your dog can inhale something unfamiliar into its nasal passages. This is not a common problem in dogs, but it is not impossible, and you should think about it if your dog is licking her nose and seems uncomfortable at the same time.
If your dog is wheezing, sneezing, snorting, or exhibiting other signs of abnormal breathing, then her nose licking could be due to foreign item inhalation. Time to go to the vet!
Some nose licking is to be expected. After all, your dog might simply be trying to hone their incredible olfactory skills. However, if you notice your dog licking its nose excessively accompanied by some discomfort, it might be prudent to check with a vet. Better safe than sorry!