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?
Anyone with a dog or cat will tell you: Pets are amazing. They’re loyal, comfort us in tough times, and even lower our blood pressure.
But some animals seem to perform what often seem like miracles, attracting attention for rescuing their owners from dangerous situations, predicting health problems, or making their way home from miles away.
Are these dogs and cats exceptional or are these abilities common among animals? Here's what experts tell WebMD.
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.