A Pet's Nose

Mar 8, 2014

A dog's nose - so functional, and so unique!
Credit jarapet [Flickr]

Large or small, round or pointed, long or short - a pet's nose is a finely tuned instrument that  the animal uses to gather a wealth of information about its surroundings.


I watched my cat the other day as he ventured outdoors – eyes wide, ears up, whiskers spread out and nose twitching. He was using his senses to get a first reading about his surroundings. We think of our pets as having very sensitive ears. Cats also have a pretty good sense of smell, about 14 times better than humans. But as good as a cat’s nose might be, it can’t compete with that of a dog.

The area inside a human’s nose that actually handles detection and analysis of scents is only about one square inch, maybe the size of a postage stamp.

For a cat, that area (with all its twists and folds) is about the size of a three-by-five index card. The inside of the average dog’s nose has a scent-detecting area of about sixty square inches, just a little smaller than a sheet of notebook paper.

Of course, scent detection varies depending on the animal; a long-nosed dog will usually have a better sense of smell than a stubby-nosed canine. For example, a Dachshund nose has about twenty-five times the number of scent-receptor cells that you or I have. A German Shepherd or Beagle has about double that of a Dachshund. That’s why we often see larger, long-nosed animals trained to sniff out bombs, drugs, and lost or trapped people.

If you take a good close look at your pet’s nose, dog or cat, you might notice dimples and ridges that form a pattern. That pattern is as unique to each animal as your fingerprint is to you. In fact, noseprints can and have been used for identification.

If you would like to take your pet’s nose print, use food coloring which is nontoxic and easily removed. (Do not use ink.)

Gently dab your pet’s tender nose dry with a clean soft cloth, then dab with a paper towel that has your choice of food coloring on it. Press a clean sheet of paper gently against the animal’s nose, and you should have a great nose print, suitable for framing or posting on the fridge. Finally, with a wet wash cloth gently dab your pet’s nose again to remove the food coloring.

If you have more than one pet, compare nose prints to see just how unique each one is. Each nose print can remind you of your best friend’s extraordinary ability to sense the world around it, when you’re speaking of pets.