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08.25.11

Know the Nose…of Your Pet

A gentle nudge … an inquisitive sniff --- your dog or cat's nose can be used to communicate as well as inquire.  But what other telltale signs can your pet's nose convey?

"Some cat caregivers worry about black spots on the nose of their cat," notes Dr. Adam Patterson, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. 

"The concern is if these black spots are cancerous, but in reality the spots are a normal finding in young orange cats," explains Patterson.  "These black spots can appear on your cat's nose as well as lips, eye margins, gums and mouth."

 "Usually orange tabbies are more prone to these black spots which is a condition known as lentigo simplex," notes Patterson.  "These spots are somewhat comparable to freckles in humans and are not itchy or painful."

"However, there should be concern if you find raised or inflamed spots that cause soreness and pain," says Patterson.  "Always have these types of spots examined by your veterinarian."

Dogs can lose pigment on their nose, explains Patterson.  This is not much of a concern as long as the surface of the nose retains its cobblestone appearance.  If the nose begins to crack, scab or smooth over, then veterinary assistance should be sought.  Nutritional disorders, autoimmune diseases and cancer cause these types of signs and often warrant a biopsy of the nose to make a diagnosis.

"Cats and dogs are prone to sunburn and subsequent skin cancer on noses, ears and around the eyes," notes Patterson.  "Fair-skinned animals with light-colored hair coats are at the most risk.  Limiting sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. during the summertime here in Texas can reduce the risk for solar damage."

Your pet's runny nose may indicate other medical conditions are lingering, states Patterson.  Respiratory infections may manifest themselves as nasal discharge, sneezing, coughing and difficult breathing.  Foreign bodies or tumors in the nasal passages may cause these same signs.  If your pet exhibits any of these health problems, it should be seen by your veterinarian as soon as possible.

"Remember that wet or dry noses are not a sign of illness per se," explains Patterson.  "Whether your pet's nose is dry or wet is largely related to the temperature and humidity in their environment.  Lethargy, little or no appetite, weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea and inappropriate urination are some signs that better reflect illness."

So … know the nose of your pet … it can be a messenger as to the health of your cat or dog in addition to a wet and warm greeting.

 

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