In every issue of WebMD the Magazine, we ask experts to answer readers' questions about a wide range of topics, including questions about what's true and not true in the field of pet health. For our July/August 2012 issue, we interviewed a professor of veterinary medicine about what a dog's nose temperature means about his health.
Q: My dog's nose is hot and dry today. Does that mean he's sick?
When Jennifer Paterno of Belleville, N.J., learned that her 8-month-old Labrador retriever mix had let herself out of their new home and slipped a neighbor's grip on a frigid day last January, she did what experts advise panicked pet owners to do: She got busy, fast.
Paterno quickly made and distributed flyers with Jersey's photo and identifying information to area businesses, local police departments, and shelters. She posted notices on her Facebook page and on various online lost-and-found pets...
A: The common belief that a healthy dog has a cold, wet nose and a sick dog has a hot, dry nose is FALSE.
Here's why: The temperatures of dogs' noses fluctuate day to day, even hour to hour. It's hard to say exactly why (it could be the environment or it could be what they've been up to recently). But a dog can be perfectly healthy and have a warm, dry nose. A dog can be really sick (think heart disease or critically injured) and have a cold, moist nose.
The moistness of your dog's nose is also not an indicator of health, says Steven Marks, DVM, clinical associate professor of critical care and internal medicine at North Carolina State University's College of Veterinary Medicine. "In a very dehydrated dog, yes, the nose might be dry," he says. "But dogs can have moist noses because they're healthy, and they can have moist noises when they have a nasal disease. It's just not a reliable sign."
Better indicators of a dog's health are symptoms such as not eating, not drinking, or behaving oddly.