As pet parents, we’re ultra-aware of anything that seems out of the ordinary with our pups. We know their usual energy levels, how much they eat, where they like to snooze—even how their noses feel.
So if your dog’s nose suddenly feels warm when it’s normally on the cool side, it’s easy to worry that something is wrong. But what does it actually mean when a dog’s nose is warm, and is it really a cause for concern?
Is a Dog’s Nose Supposed to Be Cold or Warm?
A dog’s nose is information-gathering central. Aside from breathing in oxygen (certainly an important assignment!), it can sniff out almost anything—just think of the working dogs who can locate explosives, missing people, and even cancer simply by using their noses.
But what is a dog’s nose supposed to feel like when you touch it? “People think that dogs have to have these ice-cold noses, but that’s not the truth,” says Dr. Tyra Davis Brown, a veterinarian at Hammond Animal Hospital and Pet Lodge in Hammond, Louisiana, and assistant professor of animal science and pre-veterinary medicine at Southern University and A&M College. “Most of them do have a cooler nose, but if they don’t, it doesn’t necessarily mean something’s wrong with them.”
As for why a dog’s nose is typically cool, scientists in Sweden and Hungary uncovered the answer in 2020. According to their published research, a dog’s cool nose is what makes it “particularly sensitive to radiating heat.”
The dogs they studied could detect very faint heat sources that were too weak to be felt by human hands. In other words, pups’ cold sniffers mainly serve a sensory role—and can even help them find the warm bodies of small prey animals—rather than regulating or even reflecting their own body temperatures.
Why Is My Dog’s Nose Warm?
Just like humans, not all dogs’ bodies behave in the same ways. While a cool nose is normal for most dogs, it’s not necessarily the case for all of them. Dr. Brown says that a room temperature or even semi-warm nose isn’t typically a cause for concern—especially if that’s normal for your pup.
The temperature of a dog’s nose also changes throughout the day, shifting from warm to cold, wet to dry, often based on the weather or his activity level. At times, your dog’s nose may feel warm simply because he’s been running outside on a hot day and needs some water and time to cool down. Or it could be dried out from sleeping (a time when dogs aren’t licking their noses) or because of the hot air streaming from your vents in winter.
However, Dr. Brown notes that a very warm or hot nose can sometimes be a sign of something more serious—like an illness, a skin condition, or severe allergies.
Does a Warm Nose Mean a Dog is Sick?
In some cases, a warm nose can signal that a dog is sick. If you notice that your dog’s nose feels very warm and dry—and that his ears feel hot, too – Dr. Brown says it’s a good idea to check him for a fever. She says a rectal thermometer reading, rather than a feel of the nose, is the only sure way to know if your dog is running a high temperature.
Dr. Brown notes that an overly warm nose can also be the result of nasal inflammation from allergies or another disease. And hyperkeratosis—a skin condition caused by an overgrowth of keratin—can create rough, crusty patches on your dog’s nose, often making it feel warm and dry to the touch rather than cold and wet.
When Should You Worry About Your Dog’s Warm Nose?
If your dog’s nose is simply feeling warm, it isn’t usually something to worry about. But Dr. Brown says to be on the lookout for additional symptoms—especially nasal discharge, which could indicate anything from sinusitis or polyps to allergies or a viral/bacterial upper respiratory infection. “It’s not normal for their nose to just run,” she adds.
She also recommends a trip to the veterinarian if you notice that your dog is excessively licking her nose in a way that is abnormal for her, or if her nose suddenly feels crusty and dry to the touch. “If they’re constantly licking their nose, something’s going on inside of that nose and they should be checked out.”
If your dog’s nose feels hot, rather than simply warm, it could be the sign of a fever or some type of inflammation, both of which warrant a veterinarian visit. And on the flip side, even if your dog’s nose is cold and wet, that doesn’t necessarily mean he is in perfect health. So always make sure to look beyond just the nose for other signs of possible illness—from withdrawal and lethargy to refusing food or water.
“People tend to overthink this,” Dr. Brown adds. “If your dog’s nose is crusty and hot, that’s a problem. But just because it’s room temperature and not ice cold doesn’t mean something’s wrong with your dog.”