A dog’s sense of smell is an amazing thing. Originally used for survival, people now use the power of dog noses in emergency situations and to improve the quality of life for pet owners by detecting cancer cells or oncoming seizures.

But what allows dogs to have this unique ability? This power of super smell has a lot to do with those tiny slits on the sides of a dog’s nose. If you’ve never noticed them, you may be surprised to learn what dog nose slits are and the purpose they serve.

Small, but Mighty

Dog nose slits may be small, but they’re vitally important. When humans breathe, we inhale a mix of smells along with air. When we exhale, all those smells go back out along with the air we expel.

In dogs, the air that gets inhaled is directed to two locations. One path circulates about 12% of the air at the back of the nose for scent analysis. The remaining air goes into the lungs for respiration. Exhaled air is expelled through dog nose slits. The slits prevent scents from exiting with the air, and keeps them inside the nose instead.

When air flows out of the dog nose slits, it also creates a swirling effect that helps with the sampling of new odors. This swirling effect can take place over several respiratory cycles.

Puppy Love

Those little slits may also play an important role during a puppy’s first few days of life. When they’re born, puppies are equipped with heat sensors around their nose slits and the opening to their nasal passages. It’s been reported that these sensors are capable of detecting infrared energy that’s associated with warm objects. This may allow a newborn puppy who can’t yet see or hear to find their way back to their mother.

Amazing Dog Nose Slits

A dog can tell which nostril is taking in a specific scent, which helps them locate the direction of the smell. Breathing out the side slits helps release air while holding scents inside the nose. This is why once a dog has picked up a trail, they’re unlikely to lose it.

Once a dog has been trained to identify a scent, they can find it regardless of other scents that may be around. Dog nose slits help them to distinguish between 30,000 to 100,000 different scents (in comparison to humans who can identify 4,000 to 10,000).

Because a dog’s nose is so sensitive, it’s important to keep it healthy. Regular preventive wellness exams are the best way to ensure your dog’s health. There are many diseases that can affect a dog’s ability to smell, so don’t wait to bring them in. If you notice any discharge or other abnormalities, please don’t hesitate to give us a call.