[From Tufts December 2011 Issue]
Folk wisdom has long held that a warm, dry nose means a dog is sick. Veterinarians frequently hear the comment from owners, says Michael Stone, DVM, a specialist in small animal medicine at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, but the truth is that it’s a fallacy in most cases.
“It likely means your dog has not recently licked or used his nose for anything in particular, or it could mean he has spent most of the day lounging about your house. After sleeping or resting, a dog quite often will have a warm and dry nose,” Dr. Stone says.
However, if his nose is warm over a period of time — say, two or three days — or if his body feels warm, it could indicate illness. “In either case, it’s best to take him to your veterinarian to determine if there is a problem,” Dr. Stone says.
If you want to take your dog’s temperature, use an electronic thermometer — not a mercury one, which has the potential for breakage. In addition, Dr. Stone doesn’t recommend ear thermometers for dogs. “There’s too much variability with their results.” Dogs’ normal temperatures run between 100 and 102 degrees Fahrenheit. Consult a veterinarian if the rectal temperature is greater than 102.5 degrees.
More often than not, common sense is a reliable gauge of your dog’s health. “If your dog is acting lethargic and not his normal, playful self, more than likely something is wrong with him,” Dr. Stone says.
Other signs of illness include loss of appetite, lameness, vomiting, diarrhea and cough. “These signs are much more alarming to me than a warm nose,” Dr. Stone says. “In the absence of other signs of illness in a dog, if there’s a warm nose, perhaps he just needs a little kiss.” n
— Betty Liddick