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Why do dogs get cold noses?

After a particularly good rub on the belly, a dog may bump into it nose in its human as a way to say thank you. Often, this snoot boop feels cold and wet. The owner may wonder: Is it normal for a dog’s nose to feel this way?

The answer is yes, that’s normal. But a hot nose is too, especially after sleeping, said Anna Bálint, a researcher who studies animal behavior at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary. “When a dog sleeps, his nose usually gets warm and dry,” he told LiveScience. Then, the dog wakes up, licks his nose and comes back cold.

But why are dog noses cold and could there be an advantage?

Related: Do dogs really smile at us?

One idea is that the dog̵

7;s cold nose could help the furry beast regulate its body temperature. But the tip of the nose is so small that it probably isn’t able to contribute significantly to a dog’s overall thermal regulation, Bálint said.

To investigate further, an international team of scientists measured the file nose temperature of many animals, including a horse, a dog, and a moose. By the time Bálint joined the project, the team had already learned that the tips of the nose, or rinari, of carnivorous dogs and animals are generally colder than those of herbivores. Perhaps, a cooler nose tip could be an advantage in nature, the researchers thought.

The team conducted two experiments, one on behavior and another on the brain, to see if a cold rhinarium could improve heat detection. In the first experiment, the team successfully trained three companion dogs to choose a warmer object, roughly the same temperature as the potential prey, over an object at room temperature. The results indicated that dogs can detect faint thermal radiation from a distance similar to hunting prey.

In the second investigation, which focused on the brain, scientists presented a box containing hot water and an insulated door to 13 pet dogs trained to lie motionless in a functional environment. Magnetic resonance scanner. The dogs’ brains had a higher response when the insulating door was open, revealing the warmer surface, compared to the neutral one. The region that lit up on the MRI was only in the left hemisphere. This side of the brain interests scientists because it tends to process responses to food, which in turn has been linked to predatory activity in many vertebrates, Bálint said. The specific region that lit up in dogs – known as the somatosensory association cortex – helps bring together different sensations such as sight, body position and warmth, he added. This part of the brain combines these senses simultaneously to plan an action towards a goal, such as targeting an object.

Because this left-sided neural region lit up when the tip of the nose was exposed to a hot surface, it is possible that dogs, and possibly other cold-nosed animals, use a sense of heat sensing along with other senses in their their hunting toolbox ‘when they are on the hunt for prey, the researchers said.

Although the recent study, published in February 2020 in the journal Scientific reports, it’s too small to close the case tightly on cold noses, Bálint said a cold nose may be more sensitive to temperature differences. “People think dogs follow their sense of smell [sense of smell], which is probably quite true, “Bálint said. But windy conditions or stormy weather can make it difficult for a working dog to follow scents.” A heat signal could help them. “

So why is a dog’s nose cold? Bálint and his team continue to search for answers to this question. Now, they wonder at what distance this type of heat sensing might be useful. For now, only the dog’s nose knows.

Originally published in Live Science.

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