Even the best canine swimmer sometimes ends up slipping its head below water and I was wondering if they know to exhale or close off their nose to prevent the water from entering their nose?

1 Answer 1


As far as I know dogs cannot physically close their nostrils, among mammals only the aquatic ones possess such mechanisms.

But completely sealed nostrils are not actually that necessary because water entering just the nose itself is not that dangerous - it's the deeper parts of the respiratory system that must be protected - and such protection mechanisms preventing the water from entering the bronchi and the lungs exist.

An involuntary response called diving reflex exists in mammals and, among other things, causes cessation of breathing in response to wetting nostrils and face regions with cold water - and the colder the water is, the more pronounced is the response. And even if some water passes through or is somehow aspired, immediate coughing would be provoked, expelling the water from respiratory system.

  • Obviously they can't reach around and close off their nose, but humans can do this by simply breathing out of their mouths. Do you have anything to backup the claim that water entering the nose is not that dangerous? These are mucous membranes that I'd expect would be susceptible to bacteria and viruses similar to the human mucosa in the human nasal passage. It sounds like you're implying that dogs are unlikely to get sick if they swim in contaminated water that enters their nose or mouth.
    – cfx
    Apr 29, 2020 at 12:52
  • @cfx All right, but breathing out of one's mouth does really prevent water from entering the nasal cavity because it does not physically close the nostrils. Reffering to my claim of water entering the nose not being that dangerous - what I meant in that context was "not dangerous compared to water entering the bronchi and the lungs", I think the context is clear. Also, it is inevitable that water will go into contact with mucous membranes while swimming - unless one's using some kind of auxiliary equipment or if we're considering an idealized setting with perfectly still water and [...]
    – lila
    Apr 29, 2020 at 14:11
  • @cfx [...]that's just not how swimming works in practice. Regarding the infection risk: no, my answer does not address this issue at all because I think it is a bit beyond the scope of your question as it is. And I tried to be as direct as possible with my answer so any "implying" is not the original intended implicit content of it, but just at best a creative misinterpretation.
    – lila
    Apr 29, 2020 at 14:12
  • @cfx "[...] does really *not prevent water from entering the nasal [...]" I mean in my first comment.
    – lila
    Apr 29, 2020 at 14:17

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