The Nose Knows

Did you know…

Dogs can contract Lepto from the mucus membranes in their nose.

Lepto is a bacterial infection that spreads through the urine or other bodily fluids of infected animals (such as squirrels, raccoons, mice, etc) and this urine can leach into the soil or water. If this bacteria reaches broken skin, or the mouth, the eyes, or, the mucus membranes of the nose, your pet can get this infection. Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease, meaning your furry friend can pass it along to you and vice versa. If your dog contracts Lepto, they may exhibit fever, lethargy, lack of appetite, vomiting and diarrhea, abdominal and muscle pains, destruction to the kidneys and/or liver, and severe weakness among other symptoms, and perhaps death. Treatment is a long and arduous process, and in my experience, not often a good prognosis. So if you have a dog who uses their nose to sniff around in the backyard, on the patio, or in the garage, or even any place a mouse could get to (like inside your house), please consider getting them vaccinated against Lepto.

Did you know…

Some dogs can smell cancer.

Since 1989, studies have been conducted that test and confirm this theory. Cancer can leave specific odor signatures from their malignant organic compounds throughout the body and its secretions. Our very cells create these specific odors so dogs, usually if trained for this, can detect these odors in our sweat, excrement, skin, and breath.

Dogs can smell fear. In a 2018 article regarding “interspecies emotional communication” it is explained how we humans give ourselves away without even trying: our chemical signals, our body odors or chemosignals, betray our emotions. Dogs can pick up on these chemical signals and any secondary odors that follow. For example, if someone is afraid of a dog, their hands and armpits may sweat and dogs can smell this stress sweat as well other chemosignals. The two emotional states that a dog can distinguish are fear and happiness, which may be integral for a nervous pet parent to realize the next time they are with their pet at the vet. Dogs are attuned to us, especially the humans they live with and love. If you are nervous, this may very well make your dog or cat nervous and impede the exam or blood draws, etc. They feed off of our emotions.

How do dogs have such amazing nasal superpowers? Humans have about 6 million scent receptors in their nose; cats have about 45 to possibly 80 million; and dogs have over 100 million. That’s a lot of olfactory information compared to what we humans have! Dogs and cats also have a full functioning Vomeronasal organ (or Jacobson’s organ) whereas humans do not. This Vomeronasal organ, located underneath the nasal passageway, is used to detect many types of specific pheromones. There are more biological functions that give our furry friends an olfactory advantage. Humans have only two scent-distinguishing proteins in their nose whereas dogs have about 9 and cats have about 30 (as a cat mom I found this interesting). Dogs also have the ability to distinguish which of its nostrils detected a certain scent, which in turns helps the dog to follow that scent. It’s no wonder that dogs are employed to search out missing persons and sniff out drugs. Their noses are, by nature, simply superior to ours.

Did you know…

Brachycephalic (essentially meaning “short head”) refer to any breed of animal with short noses and/or squished faces.

They can have varying degrees of narrowed nostrils or, stenotic nares, which can of course impede their breathing and so they resort to heavy panting or open-mouth breathing. The Bracycephalic skull is so cramped that it is difficult for this breed’s thick tongue and elongated soft palate (tissue that separate the oral and nasal cavities) to all fit.

Brachycephalic breeds (Chinese Pugs, French Bulldogs, American Bulldogs, English Bulldogs, Pekingese, Lhasa Apsos, Boston Terriers, Persian cats, British shorthairs, Himalayans, Burmese cats, etc) require particular anesthetic protocol because they are typically more likely to have airway obstruction risks during the pre-anesthetic period, which is also why any anesthetic procedure done will cost more time and possibly particular medications (minimal sedative meds and required quick intubation) and which is why a pet like a French Bulldog probably cannot and should not have a surgery done with a “next in line” type of spay/neuter clinic. Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS) is a term which refers to the abnormalities of the Brachycephalic breeds like narrowed nostrils, elongated soft palates, thick enlarged tongues, hypoplastic trachea, and laryngeal collapse among other conditions and a term all parents of a Brachycephalic breed should know.

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