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A Nose for Trouble: Color and texture changes may indicate problems.

Just like touching a person's forehead to see if he has a fever, checking to see if a dog's nose is warm and dry does not indicate an illness. "It does not mean anything if a dog's nose is wet or dry," says Dr. Leni Kaplan of Cornell's Community Practice Service, although usually a dog's snout is damp.

"Wet noses result from normal nasal secretions (including sweating) and dogs licking their noses," says Dr. Kaplan. "That being said, some dogs' noses are dry and normal. Often, dogs' noses will be dry after they have been sleeping and breathing through their noses." Low humidity or exposure to extreme weather conditions, such as heat or high winds, also can dry out your dog's nose temporarily.

Super Sniffers

Dogs naturally secrete small amounts of mucus and sweat through their noses, and they do regularly lick them. But why? Their amazing sense of smell. By keeping his nose moist, your dog provides an ideal environment for scent molecules to stick and dissolve, allowing your dog to process each smell. The wet nose is part of why your dog has a much better sense of smell than you do.

Changes to Watch

"Dog noses have a normal cobblestone appearance, texture, and color," says Dr. Kaplan. What is normal for one dog may vary for others, especially when it comes to color--dog noses can range from black to brown to pinkish, sometimes matching the color of the dog's skin or coat. The nose should overall be smooth, but if you look closely you will be able to see that it has tiny grooves that give it that cobblestoned look (these grooves also aid in scenting, as they channel moisture with dissolved scents into the nose to the scent receptors).

Knowing what your dog's nose looks like normally will help you to identify any problematic changes. "If an owner notices any changes to the nose including loss of cobblestone appearance, change in color, crusting, bleeding, or peeling, then they should contact their veterinarian for an appointment. Increased or thick nasal discharge is also a cause for concern," says Dr. Kaplan.

Diagnosis and Treatment

"There are a variety of causes that will affect the normal appearance and texture of the nose including: infection, trauma, immune mediated diseases, or conditions where there is a loss of innervation to part of or the entire nose," explains Dr. Kaplan.

Treatment depends on the cause of damage to the nose. An infection will need to be treated with appropriate antibiotics or antifungals, and therapy could include systemic medications given orally as well as topical solutions applied directly to the nose. Traumatic injuries will generally heal with time, but may require stitches depending on the extent of the wound. Nerve damage can cause the dog to be more likely to damage his nose, so it will be necessary to protect him, possibly with something like a basket muzzle to act as a barrier between the delicate nose tissue and all of the hazardous places that our dogs like to sniff.

Immune-mediated diseases can be more difficult to diagnose, and treatment for these conditions is often lifelong, but some can achieve remission.

Breed Tendencies

"Breeds with shortened snouts often have thickened keratin layers, a loss of cobblestone appearance, and a dry nose as they are unable to keep their entire nose moisturized and/or exfoliate the keratin normally," says Dr. Kaplan. This thickening of the nose leather is called hyperkeratosis and can affect dogs' paw pads as well. While it can affect dogs of any breed or mix, brachycephalic breeds, like the Pug, and Cocker Spaniels seem to be predisposed.

Labrador Retrievers can suffer from hereditary nasal parakeratosis. Dr. Kaplan says that affected dogs "will have thickened keratin layers, loss of cobblestone appearance, and a dry nose." This is a recessive disorder requiring both parents to pass on the gene for a pup to be affected, and signs typically show up before the dog reaches a year of age. Genetic testing is available. Because of these three factors, this condition can be easily avoided through conscientious breeding practices.

Signs Something is Wrong

Whether your dog's nose is wet or dry does not necessarily indicate that something is amiss, but these symptoms do:

* Copious or thick discharge

* Change in color

* Change in texture

* Bleeding

* Cracks

* Hard, thick layers

* Growths

* Crusting

* Peeling
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Title Annotation:ILLNESS
Publication:Dog Watch
Date:May 21, 2019
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