My Dog Has a Runny Nose

picture of a dog outside

A dog’s runny nose can mean a lot of things. It could be a viral disease such as Canine Influenza or Canine Distemper, a bacterial disease that might cause a runny nose besides a productive cough, or your dog might have simply gotten a foreign object in their nose.

In today’s article, we’re looking at everything you should know about dog runny noses – from the causes and additional symptoms to how it is diagnosed and treated.

Causes of a Runny Nose

As you probably know if you have had a runny nose before, the causes of this health issue can be very, very diverse. Local irritation could be one of them, but so could other factors, such as whether your pet came in contact with a sick animal and has managed to contract an infection as a result of that.

Here Are Some Why Your Dog Has a Runny Nose

Allergies

Some dogs are more sensitive than others when it comes to allergies, which is why they will be allergic to a variety of things in their environment.

From your household cleaners and the substances in them to pollen and anything else, a dog can quickly develop an allergy in the form of hives, respiratory distress, and intense itchiness.

Not all of these symptoms have to be noticeable on the same pet, though. An occasional sniffle might be tolerable, but when your dog’s starting to experience a runny nose every day and several times a day to the point that their breathing is affected, veterinary assistance is definitely necessary.

Viral infections

We’ve already mentioned Canine Influenza and Canine Distemper as two viral diseases that can also cause nasal discharge – but the worst part about them is that this is not the only clinical sign that they lead to.

Dogs can quickly develop severe manifestations, especially related to Distemper, so we strongly urge you to vaccinate your dog against these highly contagious canine conditions.

Viruses are pathogens that cause havoc inside a dog’s body, and they do not function based on the same mechanism used by bacteria. Sometimes, there might not even be specific antiviral medication available for certain diseases, so your best bet would be to prevent these diseases instead of having to treat them.

Distemper can lead to dog runny nose and diarrhea and even symptoms that their nervous system has been affected, too.

Foreign bodies

Nasal foreign bodies are usually more common in dogs that are younger than 7 and slightly heavier than 10 kg.

If your dog’s sneezing a lot and a runny nose is another symptom you noticed immediately after taking a walk, your pet might have inhaled something that may have gotten stuck in their respiratory tract (whether their nostrils or in the first part of their pharynx).

A common culprit could be grass awns. If you suspect that this is what happened to your dog, it’s better to take them to the vet clinic to have the foreign body removed by a medical professional rather than attempting to stick a pair of tweezers down your pet’s nostrils and risking producing severe damage.

Growths

No one wants to think about it, but dogs get cancer just as much as people and other animal species do. In fact, the rate of cancer in our canine friends and its clinical manifestations can help us learn more about cancer in people.

Nasal cancer can be diagnosed through a number of different techniques and might even be treatable depending on what your vet finds out about the growth. Radiation therapy is the most common type of treatment, but surgery can be another option.

Dental disease

Dogs can get anything from stomatitis to gingivitis and periodontal disease, and sometimes, the pathogens from their mouths (especially in severe infections) can be transmitted through the pharynx and end up in their upper respiratory tract.

As a consequence, besides dog runny nose lethargy could be an extra sign you might notice – also depending on the pathogen that has led to the infection.

Mites

Although they are less common compared to other causes, mites can also be at the root of your pet’s nasal discharge.

Some symptoms that you might notice in this case would be constant sniffling and sneezing, but also nasal bleeding. Some dogs also experience facial swelling and itching, as well as a very peculiar type of sneezing (also known as reverse sneezing, where the dog tries to inhale quickly through the nostrils).

While specific treatments for this health issue do not exist at this time, some antiparasitic medications seem to be effective in more than 80% of all cases.

Fungal infections

A fungal disease always takes us by surprise, whether in humans or pets, and the reason for that is that they are not the most common pathogens out there. However, some strains can be particularly dangerous for our canine companions, especially Aspergillus species.

To make matters worse, Aspergillus can be found in a variety of foods, including peanuts and it sometimes makes its way into peanut butter, too.

Naturally, the clinical signs can differ from one pet to the next, but a dog runny nose and cough are the most common ones you can expect. Lethargy, sneezing, and actual lesions around and in your dog’s nostrils are also common.

Bacterial disease

Also known as canine infectious tracheobronchitis, kennel cough is one of the most contagious bacterial diseases that dogs can get from one another. It is far more common in boarding facilities and shelters.

So, if you intend on going on vacation and you want to use a boarding facility, make sure that your dog is vaccinated against kennel cough at least one month prior to your trip. Ideally, your dog should get two doses of the vaccine in order for their bodies to build a good immunity against the pathogen.

Nasal discharge is a symptom caused by this condition, but there are many more – a strong cough, sneezing, lethargy, a complete loss of appetite, and a recurring low fever. Also, if you see your dog sneezing and runny nose after boarding, they might have developed this respiratory complex, kennel cough.

When it comes to bacterial infections and a dog runny nose cold weather almost never has any involvement whatsoever. And colds are usually viral, not bacterial.

Genetics

Flat-faced breeds such as pugs or boxers might experience a runny nose more often compared to their counterparts. Their respiratory tract has a different type of anatomy, and since their canals are also narrower, any kind of allergen or small foreign object can cause a massive issue.

These dogs can also experience sneezing and snorting, which are mechanisms that they use in an attempt to regulate their breathing and get enough air in their lungs.

Other Symptoms You Might Notice

We might have mentioned some of the other signs that could be associated with nasal discharge in dogs, but they actually depend on the exact disease your dog has or if they have any condition whatsoever (since mechanical irritations and foreign objects don’t exactly classify as being diseases).

If your dog has a runny nose and cough and the symptoms stop there, your pet might have caught any kind of infection, whether fungal, bacterial, or viral.

What about dog runny nose green discharge? Well, green is never a good color no matter where it shows up – your dog’s urine, feces, or eye or nasal discharge. It’s usually a sign that the infection has progressed to a point where certain types of bacteria, especially pus-producing ones, have also been added to the mix.

What about dog runny nose yellow discharge? In this case, too, an infection is the most possible cause, especially a bacterial one. However, yellow nasal discharge also shows up in dogs that might have contracted Canine Distemper.

Here are some general signs that your pooch might show beside them having a runny nose:

  • Fever (whether high or low)
  • Vomiting
  • Lack of appetite for either food or water
  • Diarrhea
  • Eye discharge
  • Lethargy
  • Being withdrawn and looking for warm, quiet, and dark places

If you see any of these in your pet, get to the animal hospital as soon as possible. Time is of the essence when it comes to treating any condition regardless of its cause.

Diagnosis

As you might have noticed, the causes of this health issue can vary a lot, so the vet needs to rely on several different tests and diagnostic techniques to be able to find out exactly what’s going on with your dog.

Regular lab taste, along with a physical examination, might not be enough. Some of the discharge will be collected and sent out to a lab to see whether your dog has a viral, bacterial, or fungal infection. Your vet might also collect some to examine it under the microscope and see whether your dog doesn’t have nasal mites.

When everything else fails, your vet will recommend some type of diagnostic imaging technique such as an X-ray or a CT scan. Depending on your dog’s size, investigative endoscopy might be an option.

As uncomfortable as sticking a fiberoptic endoscope into your dog’s nostril might seem, the procedure is going to be performed while your dog is sedated and will also lead to you finding out whether your pooch has a foreign object or a growth in their nasal cavity.

Your veterinarian will then recommend the appropriate treatment depending on your pet’s specific condition.

Dog Runny Nose Treatment

If you’re trying to find home remedies for dog runny nose, we’d like to note that very few actually get the job done. What’s more, you might not know which one is appropriate because it’s impossible for you to tell if your dog has an infection or if they’ve inhaled grass awns or have a growth in their nostrils.

The best way of going about things is to take your dog to the veterinary clinic. Get pet insurance early on in your dog’s life to make sure that you do not end up in debt because of an emergency.

As for the actual therapy, it depends on what exactly has caused the nasal discharge. Mites can be eliminated by using antiparasitic medications, in most cases.

General antifungal drugs can also cure any fungal infection, but your dog could suffer from long-term damage to the tissue of the nostrils, for example, not to mention that they could also experience a cough over a period of months to come.

Antibiotics should always be administered after a bacterial culture, and an antibiogram has been performed so that your dog receives the right treatment.

If your dog was not vaccinated against viral conditions and they were unlucky enough to catch one, the treatment could vary depending on their clinical manifestations. Symptomatic therapy is typically utilized in such cases, mostly because antiviral drugs aren’t that common, and they are also rarely effective against these pathogens.

Surgery can be used for nasal cancer, as can radiation therapy.

Foreign bodies can be extracted using special instruments while your dog is sedated.

Your veterinarian will recommend the appropriate therapy depending on your dog’s clinical signs and the exact cause of the nasal discharge.

That is how to help a dog’s runny nose in a nutshell.

Final thoughts

Make sure that you follow your vet’s instructions with regard to your pet’s treatment to make sure that the health problem is completely treated and fully resolved. Try to keep an eye on your pooch’s behavior in general.

If you notice both nasal discharge and another symptom, take them to the animal hospital right away. Get your pup vaccinated against all the diseases that your vet notes – there could be different dangers for your dog depending on the area you live in. For example, a vaccine against kennel cough does exist, but not all pet owners decide to give it to their dog until they get them boarded.

References

When to Get a CT Scan and Rhinoscopy for Your Pet: Nasal Signs & Symptoms, Ethos Veterinary Health https://www.ethosvet.com/blog-post/ct-scan-and-rhinoscopy/

Radiotherapy of malignant nasal tumors in 67 dogs, W.M. Adams et al, 1987 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/3654292/

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