A couple of months ago I wrote about dogs with the ability to sniff out strange objects, such as box turtles. These special animals help protect the turtles that need to be transferred to a safer place when new roads are built.
The other day, I came upon a short article by Shelley Bueche in the January/February issue of Family Dog magazine, regarding Labrador retrievers that are being trained to locate root-infesting fungi in Southern pine trees. The fungus is slowing the growth and even killing the trees, but the dogs are capable of detecting infected roots as far as two feet below the ground. By using the trained dogs, called Timber Dogs, the trees can be treated without spreading the fungus infection or disturbing the land. The article also mentions that dogs are now being trained to detect the presence of live fawns in another long-term survival study.
It made me think about how important the nose is to dogs. An article by Diana Barber, Ph.D., titled “Nosing into Canine Olfaction,” and published in “Pepper “N Salt” newsletter, January 2012, relates that dogs can detect scents in minute concentration (better than 2 parts per trillion).
So, how can we be responsible dog owners and care for our pets unless we know something about the anatomy of the dog? In this case, how do owners spot a problem with the pet’s nose. Using my trusty volume, “Dog Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook,” I learned that the dog’s nose is normally cool and moist and the moisture comes from mucus glands in the lining of the nose.
Excited and nervous dogs may have a runny nose, but it will disappear when the dog relaxes. A persistent discharge is an indication of a nasal irritation, which can be caused by foreign bodies, infections or tumors. If your dog has a runny nose, mucus in the corners of the eyes and has a slight fever, it is time to see a veterinarian.
If both air passages are blocked by swollen membranes, the dog will breathe through his mouth, according to the handbook. It is not the same thing as panting and also deserves a look-see by the doctor who will use a special instrument to check the nasal passages. One of my dogs in the late stages of congestive heart failure developed blocked nasal passages that had to be treated.
Dogs that have lost some of their teeth sometimes will regurgitate through the nose. (This is a good incentive to brush your pet’s teeth on a regular basis.) This can be rectified by creating a flap of skin from the inside of the lip and suturing it across the opening between the hard palate and the nasal cavity.
Remember, if your dog’s nose is anything but clean, cool and moist, check with your veterinarian. It could be something simple like an allergic reaction or sinusitis, but it can be something serious like a foreign object (grass for instance) in the nasal cavity.