Dog Breeds, Health, Training & Nutrition

New Research Finds Dogs Can Detect Heat with Their Noses

dog's nose sensitive to heat

Dogs have extremely powerful noses with 220 million olfactory receptors (compared to humans, who have just 5 million).

However, new research has discovered that dog’s noses are even more impressive than it was first thought.

Scientists from Lund University in Sweden and Eötvös Loránd University in Hungary found that dog’s noses can actually detect weak heat signatures from a distance, thanks to the rhinarium — the tip of the nose filled with nerves, which is able to sense distant heat sources.

Dogs share this special ability with a few other species, including beetles, snakes and vampire bats, who rely on the power of heat detection to hunt their prey.

A Look at the Study

To begin the experiment, the scientists trained three dogs (Charlie, Kevin and Delfi) to identify objects roughly twelve degrees warmer than room temperature.

Next, the researchers covered all the objects and moved them a couple of meters away, meaning the dogs could neither smell nor see them.

All dogs successfully identified the hotter objects. Additionally, the brain scans of 13 dogs were taken to study their response to warm objects compared to room temperature ones.

When exposed to warm objects, the scan showed the part of the brain connected to the noses lighting up.

This response was absent for the room temperature objects.

dog nose up close

Advanced Sense of Smell

Another recent study in the Journal of Comparative Psychology shows us just how advanced a dog’s sense of smell really is.

When following a specific scent, the study found dogs actually create an expectation in their brain of the source of the scent and the object they’re expecting to find.

In the study, dogs were given the scent of one of their favorite toys.

They followed it, and upon encountering an object which wasn’t what they expected to find, the dogs exhibited hesitation and surprise before continuing to search for the expected object that matched the scent.

This tells us a dog’s sense of smell is way more complex than simply categorizing smells as good or bad.

Protecting Your Dog’s Nose

Since canine noses are so sensitive, it’s important for owners take sensible steps to protect them and keep them moist and healthy, Happiest Dog advises.

In particular, it’s important to moisturize and protect your dog’s nose from extreme weather conditions.

Sunlight, allergens and other substances may also commonly cause your dog’s nose to dry out, chap and crack.

In this case, rubbing a little shea butter, olive oil, almond oil, or coconut oil can work well to soothe, heal and protect dry noses and relieve any irritation.

It’s also important not to keep your dog outside for too long in cold weather, which can irritate sensitive noses and also  cause hypothermia and frostbite.

Dog’s noses are truly amazing.

It’s thought their powerful sense of smell and ability to detect heat may stem from their ancient wolf relatives.

However, researchers say much more study needs to be done in order to understand how exactly these powers work.


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