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Dog Runny Nose: Cause, Symptoms, And What To Do

Last Updated - April 21, 2022

Our dogs become part of our family and world. Their well-being can be as important to us as our own, and so it is important to learn how to identify potential health issues and concerns so that you can catch them and treat them early.

One common symptom that something may be off with your furry friend is a runny nose with a dog nose discharge. Now there are a lot of reasons why your dog has a runny nose, some of which are normal and are nothing to be overly concerned about, and others could indicate something quite serious. In general, mild runny noses with clear nasal discharge and no other symptoms can be treated at home.

Let's take a look at a few of the most common reasons a dog's nose might be runny—what the cause might be, what the symptoms look like, and what course of action should be taken to remedy the situation. 

Dog Runny Nose: Cause, Symptoms, and What To Do

Allergies

Dog allergies are just like human allergies, and it is an immune response to the environment. Even healthy dogs can get allergies, and the most common reason for nasal discharge in dogs is allergies. Dogs can have seasonal allergies, food, and any number of things in or around your house. These include but are not limited to types of food, pollen, nasal mites, fleas, mold spores, certain drugs and chemicals, and even human dandruff. Dust and debris in the air can also cause nasal irritation.

Symptoms

If your pup's runny nose is due to allergies, you may also notice your dog sneezing, coughing, and itching more. There may be clear nasal discharge coming from its eyes, and it may have a harder time breathing. Nosebleeds are also common with dog allergies. If the nasal discharge is clear, you are most likely dealing with allergies. 

What to Do

An allergy test is necessary to determine what your dog may be allergic to. Limiting your dog's access to the triggering allergies will help stop your dog's runny nose. Boost your dog's immune system to help with seasonal allergies.

If you struggle to figure out what your dog is allergic to, a vet can help you with allergy tests and find a treatment method.

Foreign Object

Another reason that may cause your dog's nose to run is if foreign objects are lodged in a dog's nostril. This blockage can be anything from a small seed or blade of grass to something more serious. 

Symptoms

In addition to a runny nose, a sick dog's nose will have a discharge running out of one nostril or have nose bleeds. Pawing at the nose and seeming uncomfortable around the nose area can signify the dog is suffering from obstruction.

What to Do

If you can see what is blocking the nostril and remove it safely, you should do so. If the blockage is too far back in the dog's nasal passage, is large, or doesn't have the tools to remove it safely, you should take your dog to a vet. They will be able to provide antibiotics if there is an infection and can sedate your dog to remove an obstruction safely. 

Genetics/ Breeds

Sometimes, a runny nose is due to a dog's genetics, and some dog breeds are more predisposed to nose problems. Among these breeds are flat-faced dogs like pugs, bulldogs, and boxers. Dogs with loose facial cartilage are also prone to nose problems, breeds like bloodhounds and mastiffs. 

Symptoms

If the runny nose is genetic, the symptoms will often include mild runny nose, noisy breathing, and snoring. The nasal discharge should be clear.

What to Do

In some cases, there is nothing to be done. Some dogs require facial surgery or reconstruction if the issue interferes with their ability to breathe right or eat, but it is not generally something to be concerned about. If you have concerns, talk to your vet to make sure that your dog's health is not at risk and see what your options would be if your dog ever needed any procedures or surgery. 

Infections

If your dog's runny nose is due to fungal infections, viral infections, or bacterial infections, you will need to seek medical care immediately. They can become sick from infected insects, fungal growth, or wounds not being treated correctly.

For example, respiratory infections are one of the expected reasons your dog has a runny nose. Kennel cough, pneumonia, a cold, influenza, and other infections can be found in the respiratory tract and cause a runny nose.

Symptoms

If the nasal discharge coming from your dog's nose is yellow, green, cloudy, or has an odor, you may be dealing with an infection. Infections can also be accompanied by coughing, choking, nosebleeds, and a fever. Infected dogs also should be isolated from other dogs to prevent spread.

What to Do

You must take your dog to a vet if you suspect it may have an infection. You will want to catch it as early as possible to reduce the risk of more damage, so don't wait it out if the dog's nasal discharge is anything but clear. Vets will be able to treat infections with antibiotics, steroids for bacterial and viral infections, or anti-fungal treatments for fungal infections. 

Polyps or Nasal tumors

Polyps are overgrown mucus glands that can cause your dog's nose to run. Tumors, either benign or malignant, can also cause excessive nasal discharge. These lumps have to be examined by a vet to know which is it, so if you notice any of the symptoms, you should take your dog to the vet right away. 

Symptoms

The symptoms of growth in your dog's nasal passages are a runny nose, blood, pus, or discolored mucus, noisy breathing, and a noticeable lump or bulge in the nose. 

What to Do

You should take your dog to the vet right away if you suspect it has a nasal tumor. If it is benign, surgical removal may be necessary. If it is malignant, however, they will have to treat it with radiation since surgery won't be sufficient. Sadly nasal cancer has a poor prognosis, so you will want to discuss your options with your vet about the most humane way to proceed. 

Distemper

Distemper is a deadly disease that is very contagious among a number of mammals, including dogs, foxes, coyotes, skunks, and raccoons. Distemper does not affect humans. Dogs can recover from distemper once they begin exhibiting symptoms, but it all depends on the strength of the animal and the particular strain of the disease.

Symptoms

Symptoms of distemper include sticky, yellow nasal discharge, a fever, eye discharge, sneezing, coughing, vomiting, lethargy, twitching, and convulsing. 

What to Do

The best way to avoid dog distemper is to ensure the mother dog was vaccinated and to amen sure your puppy follows up on its vaccinations schedule, particularly in the first few months. 

If your dog is already exhibiting symptoms, take it to a vet immediately to start treatment right away. A runny nose is one of the fruit stages of distemper, so catching it early may help save your dog's life. 

Temperature Regulation

Dogs don't have the same temperature regulation as we do, and their bodies don't sweat like humans. They sweat on the pads of their feed and, sometimes, on their nose. A sign of a dog's runny nose could be a sign that it's trying to cool down.

Symptoms

If the runny nose started very recently and is hot out, it's most likely trying to cool down.

What To Do

While there is nothing to worry about, it is best to move your dog to a cooler location.

Dog Runny Tips

There is a good rule of thumb for a dog's runny nose. If the discharge is clear, the issue is probably not serious and will probably be removed on its own. However, if the discharge is cloudy, yellow, green, bloody, or has a bad odor, you should take your dog to the vet as soon as possible. 

The best way to tell when something is off with your dog's health is to know what is normal for your dog when it is healthy. Should your dog's nose become unusually dry, crusty, runny, or turn pale, there could be cause for concern. Become familiar with how your dog appears and behaves when it is healthy and happy so that you can more quickly notice when it is unwell and take action before a minor problem becomes a major one. 

And when in doubt, check with a vet. Better safe than sorry when it comes to these furry members of our family.

FAQs

Mild Runny Nose Vs. Severe Runny Nose

A mild runny nose is characterized by a small amount of watery discharge and can accompany sneezing or other symptoms. The severe runny nose will have thicker discharge, a color discharge, and may even have blood or pus.

When Should Dogs Be Isolated?

If your dog has a contagious infection like an upper respiratory infection, it's best to isolate the dog away from other animals.

lara grisko the pet staff

About the Author

Lara Girsko

Doctor of veterinary medicine with extensive experience in animal welfare with a strong interest in feline medicine and plans to pursue ABVP-Feline specialty board certification. A key member of many local veterinary associations and avid reader of animal related science journals and studies.

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