dog with runny nose

Dog with a Runny Nose : Causes & Treatment

There is a popular misconception about determining if your dog is in good health. It says that if a dog's nose is wet and cold, it is perfectly healthy.

However convincing the argument sounds, a dog owner should monitor their dog for abnormal discharge. Clear discharges typically don't mean bad news unless accompanied by other symptoms.

A dog has about 220 olfactory receptors in contrast to a human's 50 million, meaning a runny nose can be quite a big deal for them.

Healthy dogs experience runny noses once in a while with causes as mild as excitement to see their owner and allergies to severe illnesses like nasal cancer.

Below is some enlightenment on dogs' causes of runny noses and possible treatments.

What does it mean if your dog has a runny nose?

People are always aware of the causes of their runny nose, crying, allergies, cold, environmental litter, spicy foods, and general illnesses.

It is a different case for dogs because they can't talk, so pinpointing the exact cause of their runny nose can be hectic. Dogs have no specific age linked to runny noses since it affects both puppies and adult dogs.

Trapped foreign objects in the nasal passage, allergies, genetics, illnesses, and infections are a few causes of runny noses in dogs.

As normal as this condition is (small amounts of watery discharge and sneezing), a runny nose regularly with unusual discharge (may be watery or thick with pus or blood) is a cause for concern.

Should I be worried if my dog has a runny nose?

Most runny noses for dogs don't threaten the dog's life (periodic or mild); therefore, a dog owner shouldn't be worried sick for their dog's health.

Suppose the dog's nasal discharge is clear. In that case, it could be a reaction to heat or an allergy, but if it is bloody, has pus, or is discoloured (chronic or severe), seek a veterinarian's attention immediately.

Different causes of runny noses in dogs show different symptoms. Here are the most common ones:

  • Nasal discharge
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Bloated or swollen eyes
  • Reduced nasal respiration
  • Decaying dental health
  • Bad breath

Correct diagnosis depends on how early the dog's condition is presented to a vet for examination, which should be as early as possible to ensure prompt treatment.

The medical history presented to the vet is analysed, and tests including x-rays, lab work, and rhinoscopy (inserting a tube called an endoscope in the dog's nasal canal for examination while the dog is under anaesthetics) are suitable for diagnosis.

The dog's blood pressure is most likely recorded in addition to a test determining the dog's coagulation profile.

If dental health is the cause, vets may carry out an oral exam. Sampling the dental discharge for bacterial or fungal elements is also essential.

Other possible exams are upper respiratory exams (for bacterial and viral infections) and clotting and tick panels to determine the causes of nosebleeds.

What causes runny noses in dogs?

Allergies: Clear nasal discharges from a dog's nose are often signs of allergies. The dog may be allergic to pollen, dander, drugs, candles, spores, chemicals, and foods.

Some symptoms are; sneezing, itching skin, coughing, excessive licking or grooming, inflamed or red skin, eye discharge, ear infections, and digestive issues.

Temperature regulation: Dogs can also control their temperatures like people but not as skillfully. Their runny nose could be a way of trying to cool down because dogs sweat through the pads on their feet and noses.

Nasal tumours and polyps: Nasal tumours account for 1-2%of overall tumours in dogs and are malignant. A dog discharging pus or blood may exhibit nasal tumours or polyps (overgrown mucus-producing glands). They lead to increased density of the nasal cavity and bone distraction, ultimately affecting airways.

Other symptoms are; facial deformation, swelling on one side of the nose, sneezing, decreased appetite, nose bleeds, and breathing problems.

Nasal mites: These parasites inhabit the dog's nasal passage and sinuses, causing irritations that lead to runny noses. Both direct and indirect contact with an inhabiting dog spreads the mites, which affect all kinds of dogs.

They cause symptoms like; noisy breathing, head shaking, sneezing, nosebleeds, and itchy face.

Genetics: Some dog breeds are genetically more prone to runny noses than others because of flat faces and narrowed nostrils called stenotic nares. These breeds encompass Frenchies, Shi Tzus, Pugs, Boxers, and Boston Terriers.

Cleft palates or oronasal fistula: If your dog experiences discharge after meals, it can be a sign of a cleft palate (a congenital abnormality where the two palates of the mouth don't fuse) or an oronasal fistula (an opening between the mouth and the nose primarily due to dental infections or tooth loss)

Nasal blockage: Dogs are genetically curious canines with a powerful sense of smell. They sniff almost everything to understand more about their physical environment. Grass awns, foxtails, weed splinters, and seeds can get stuck in their nasal canals during the theatrics causing runny noses.

Kennel cough: This is a highly contagious upper respiratory infection mainly affecting the trachea. It spreads quickly, especially in pet-shared common spaces, with symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, and nasal discharge.

Respiratory Infections: Bacterial, fungal, or viral infections can lead to a dog's runny nose. Discharge can be colored or include pus. Other infections may include influenza, cold, and aspergillosis.

Symptoms are nosebleeds, odour, reverse sneezing, coughing, and choking.

Distemper: This contagious canine infection affects a dog's respiration, central nervous system, and gut causing sticky yellow nasal discharge in dogs.

Its symptoms are; vomiting, lack of appetite, pneumonia, seizures, and worse, death!

What can you give a dog for a runny nose?

Treatments for a dog's runny dog depend on what is the diagnosed cause.

(Allergies) The simplest way to treat allergies is to avoid problematic allergens. A blood test may be required or an elimination test to help identify the allergen. The vet may prescribe certain antihistamines for allergy relief.

(Foreign objects) Nasal blockages should be removed as soon as possible to avoid further complications like irritation, pain, or bacterial infections. The vet may need to anaesthetise the dog while tweezing the object out because the nasal passages are sensitive.

(Kennel cough) There is a vaccine for kennel cough administered yearly from when a dog is a puppy, but like all vaccines, it is not 100% guaranteed, and a dog can still catch the cough. A vet may prescribe antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, and cough suppressants to help clear it up.

(Polyps and Tumours) Chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and surgical excision are recommended. If left untreated, dogs may die 3-5 months after the onset of the infection, so regular vet checkups are essential. 

(Nasal mites) There are no approved drugs for treating nasal mites, but a vet may prescribe antiparasitic medications to help the situation.

(Temperature regulation) Ensure that the dog has plenty of fresh water to drink to keep them hydrated and move them to a cool area, mostly indoors, for them to rest.

(Distemper) Unfortunately, distemper is incurable, but it can be remedied through vaccines and boosters. A dog owner must give the dog attentive care to help it build immunity and fight off the infection. Meantime, the vet may prescribe antibiotics and airway dilators.

(Cleft palates or oronasal fistula) These abnormalities often lead to a severe nasal infection that can only be remedied through surgery.

(Respiratory Infections) Antibiotics and antifungals may be prescribed by a vet depending on the cause of the infection.

(Genetics) A simple plastic surgery remedy can be done to widen the dog's nostrils to ease their breathing. It is essential to check with a vet first.

What should I do if my dog has a runny nose?

Dogs' home remedies for runny noses are almost similar to what humans would prefer done for them while being treated.

  • Use humidifiers around the house to help with the dog's stuffy nose. Breaking up the dog's nasal congestion keeps them breathing, reducing unhealthy bacteria that may lead to other infections.
  • To avoid reinfections, keep the dog's environment clean, especially the dog's food, dishes, blankets, and toys.
  • Recovery from infections or surgeries takes out energy from dogs. Ensure your dog gets plenty of rest but if they are restless, take them for a less tiring walk.
  • Maintain giving the dog plenty of fluids and a quality, balanced diet. The fluids hydrate the dog and keep the nasal fluid, making breathing easier. You may talk to a vet for a nutrition plan, preferably brown rice, low sodium chicken soup, and vegetables.

Adding probiotics to help with the dog’s gut and organic mushroom for their immunity may be recommended.

  • Quarantine infected dogs because most conditions are highly contagious, and more cases would be hard to handle.
  • In case of nosebleeds, report the situation to a vet immediately for early diagnosis and prompt treatment measures.

Final Thought

Sense of smell is crucial for all dogs as it makes them more aware of their environment.

Runny noses cause significant impacts on dogs' lives, whether mild or chronic. As long as the nasal discharge is clear and odourless, there is no reason to worry.

However, discharge with pus or blood accompanied by other symptoms may be caused by severe underlying problems.

Not all nasal discharges deserve a trip to the vet but to be on the safe side, if your dog shows unusual signs of infections, seek a vet and find out what is going on. Frequent vet checkups are recommended.

Follow through with all vet instructions and medical plans while monitoring the dog's recovery and general health.