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?
Over the last two decades, the role of the domestic dog has undergone significant change. Dogs who used to live in a house with family members around all day, every day-and who had a big backyard in which to play and chase rabbits-may find themselves in an empty house 8 to 10 hours a day and being taken on a leash to a place to eliminate. Some dogs have a difficult time adjusting to this lifestyle, and many behavior problems occur because dogs are on their own and entertaining themselves inside...
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.