Ailments of the nose General considerations

General considerations

Now that we have concluded the discussions on maladies of the ears, it is only fitting that we deal with ailments of the nose and nostrils. Later, we’ll dwell on maladies of the throat; after all, the ears, nose and throat are all interconnected.

The functions of the nose (eg sense of smell) are much more important to animals than they are to humans. As such, there are many more nerve receptors in the nostrils in animals. These nerve receptors carry messages to the highly developed olfactory (sense of smell) centre in the brain. Dogs also use their noses for burrowing; perhaps that is why the tip is made up of strong and hardy material (special cells), as well as lots of blood vessels.

Unfortunately, because of the position of the nose on the face, the nose tip gets involved when dogs fight. Even the slightest laceration of the nose tip will result in severe bleeding – which might need suturing to stop the haemorrhage.

pet cornerYoung dogs (puppies) are curious by nature. Consequently they are always pushing their noses in areas where they don’t belong. As a result the nose, the nose bridge and surrounding nasal tissues seem to be exposed and vulnerable to ants’ bites (when they decide to investigate ants’ nests), electric wires, burns from hot food, etc. Adult dogs lead with their faces/mouths when they attack humans and animals which they perceive to be aggressors. The nose/nose bridge and surrounding tissues then sustain wounds which can become serious infections.

Right at the outset, let’s dispel some of the myths and legends associated with the noses of our common pets. So often I hear that a dog is in perfect health because the tip of the nose is wet or moist. If the animal has a heavy nasal discharge that is by no means normal. ‘Moist’ should be the key word here. If the nose is moist (as opposed to dry) then that’s good. If there is excessive moisture which turns into thick slime before becoming purulent (with pus), then that’s bad.

The moisture comes from special glands in the internal coating (mucous membrane) of the inner nose (nostrils). The nose does not have sweat glands, as so many people believe. (In fact, the entire dog has no sweat glands, except for some rudimentary structures between the toes). The inside lining of the nose does have a lot of blood vessels though. And if they are damaged in any way, there will be profuse bleeding which is difficult to stop.

If the tip of the nose is dry and the skin is cracking, that could be representative of a fever, which itself might be reflective of a serious infection.

Having said all that, please allow me to share the following ‘great wisdom’ with you: Over the decades of veterinary practice, I have seen dogs with moist noses that were sick and even terminally ill. On the other hand, I’ve had dogs enter the clinic with dry noses, but with no other accompanying symptoms which would suggest a serious ailment. In other words, dogs might have dry nose tips and be quite healthy. However, I must mention that I consider the dryness of the nose tip to be more a cause for concern than a very wet nose.

The nasal cavities run the entire length of the muzzle and are separated by a dividing wall. The two independent cavities (canals) thus formed connect up (at the back) with the throat.

The colour of the nose tip is usually black, but there are breeds that have pink or brown nose tips. If there is a spot or two on the pale-coloured nose tip, that is no cause for alarm.

Lastly, please don’t go poking around inside the nostrils of your pet. You don’t need to clear the inside of the nostrils, even though wiping away a purulent discharge is recommended.

Next week, we’ll deal with the dog’s sense of smell and the following week we’ll highlight those issues relating to nosebleeds, sneezing and runny noses.


Until then, please enjoy the week.

Please implement disease preventative measures (vaccinations, routine dewormings, monthly anti-Heartworm medication, etc) and adopt-a-pet from the GSPCA’s Animal Clinic and Shelter at Robb Street and Orange Walk, if you have the wherewithal to care well for the animals.  Do not stray your unwanted pets, take them to the GSPCA’s Clinic and Shelter instead. We still have the free spay and neutering programme. Exploit it.  If you see anyone being cruel to an animal, or if you need any technical information, please get in touch with the Clinic and Shelter by calling 226-4237.


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