Why Does My Dog Have a Runny Nose and What Should I Do?

Updated on January 1, 2018
DrMark1961 profile image

Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He has been working with dogs for more than 40 years.

If your dog has a clear runny nose, and it clears up quickly, do not be concerned.
If your dog has a clear runny nose, and it clears up quickly, do not be concerned. | Source

If your dog has a runny nose, it may be nothing to worry about.

The most common cause of a clear nasal discharge is just nervousness. Allergies also be the cause of some runny noses. Neither of these problems will require a trip to the vet's.

What are some of the other causes you need to be concerned about?

Reasons Dogs Have Runny Noses

• Nervousness/excitement
• Allergies
• An infection of the lungs/respiratory tract (bacterial, viral, or fungal)
• Cleft palate, or other hole between the mouth and the nose
• A foreign body (like a grass awn)
• Abscessed teeth
• Cancer
A dog with an oronasal fistula will have a runny nose from one side whenever he eats or drinks.
A dog with an oronasal fistula will have a runny nose from one side whenever he eats or drinks. | Source

Are You Worried About Your Dog's Runny Nose?

Sometimes there is nothing to get excited about.

  1. If your dog has a clear nasal discharge when he is nervous but it clears up as soon as he calms down, your dog is healthy. When the runny nose goes on for several hours, however, even if it is clear, you should be concerned since it may be from a viral infection (like canine distemper or parainfluenza).
  2. Most dogs with allergies will develop skin problems, unlike people who have symptoms like a runny nose and watery eyes. If your dog has a clear runny nose and is itching, taking care of the itching will probably resolve the runny nose. If you are interested in taking care of this yourself, there are some alternative, natural remedies for allergies available.
  3. When the dog has a thick substance coming out of the nose, especially when it goes on for several hours, your dog may have an infection and you need to do something about it. You can take a warm cloth to remove the discharge from your dog's nostrils and make him more comfortable, but he is only going to be okay when he is treated. If you do not want to put your dog on antibiotic therapy, you can try an immunostimulant like cat's claw, Echinacea, or Reishi mushrooms, but I recommend you do so after having your dog's runny nose diagnosed at your vet.
  4. Some dogs with a yellowish runny nose will also start coughing, have problems breathing, and even be reluctant to move around. These problems might let you know that your dog has canine influenza and really needs to be treated.
  5. If there is food, water, or discharge coming out of one nostril, open your dog´s mouth and take a look. You might find the abscess, tumor, or signs of the trauma that is causing the runny nose. Usually there is not much to do about it, but years ago I found a rotting stick that had caused an abscess. When the stick was removed from the puppy's mouth he was able to get better by himself.
  6. You do need to do something right away if your dog has any blood coming from the nose. A little blood can be the first sign of a tumor in the nose. It can also tell you that your dog has a grass awn in the nose, an infection that has been going on for a while, and even problems with his teeth. A bloody nose can be something serious, or it may happen from nothing more than an accident.

A runny nose can be caused by an abscessed tooth. A diet of raw meaty bones will keep your dogs teeth in good shape.
A runny nose can be caused by an abscessed tooth. A diet of raw meaty bones will keep your dogs teeth in good shape. | Source

Are Some Dogs Predisposed to Having a Runny Nose?

Some dogs are more prone to have a runny nose:

  • Brachycephalic breeds (flat-nosed dogs like English bulldogs, boxers, pugs, and others) are more likely to develop infections and have a thick nasal discharge.
  • If you have a hunting dog and he is out running in the fields, there is a lot more likelihood of him getting a grass awn in his nose and developing a runny nose.
  • Hunting dogs may also suffer from trauma and end up with a fistula (a hole) between the mouth and the nose.
  • Small dogs without dental care are more likely to develop abscessed teeth.
  • Dolicocephalic dog breeds (dogs with really long noses, like the borzoi) are more likely to develop nasal tumors.

Your vet might need to do blood tests to figure out why your dog has a runny nose.
Your vet might need to do blood tests to figure out why your dog has a runny nose. | Source

Should I Take My Dog to the Vet?

Not all runny noses require a trip to the vet's clinic.

If your dog has a thick nasal discharge or blood coming from the nose, however, you need to find out what is going on, and help your dog as soon as possible.

Your vet will first do a good physical exam to look for any lumps or dental problems, but will then want to do a blood test (CBC) and find out if your dog has an infection. He will also want to x-ray the nose and lungs to see if your dog has pneumonia or tumors in his lungs.

A lot of times this is all that will be needed to figure things out.

More testing will be necessary if your dog is bleeding from both nostrils. A clotting time will tell the vet if your dog has been poisoned or has a bleeding disease, and a blood test can be done for tick-borne diseases like Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

Will My Dog Get Better?

It really depends on what is causing your dog´s runny nose.

If your dog has a grass awn, it can usually be removed without problems. An infection can be treated, and even a runny nose secondary to an abscessed tooth can be taken care of by pulling the bad tooth and treating the infection with antibiotics.

The runny nose may be secondary to cancer, and not all of them are as easy to clear up. Some tumors can be removed, some can be treated with chemotherapy or alternative methods, but if the tumor is already spread through the lungs it will be hard to deal with.

If your dog has a runny nose, get him checked out right away. Treating a problem early, before it becomes serious, may mean the difference between life and death.

Apple cider vinegar is an alternative treatment that is helpful in many cases of runny nose. As I have emphasized above however, if you are not sure what is going on you need to have your dog diagnosed by a veterinarian before you start treatments.

© 2014 Dr Mark


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      Juanita 2 months ago

      Hi Dr Mark

      We just came back from Hiking , My companion has had all the immunizations but now he has been tired like us and has a runny nose thoughts on benadryl?

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      Michael 4 months ago

      My dog is very active, 2 years old. We go to the dog beach almost daily to swim. He never runs out of energy.

      I recently noticed the reverse sneezing. I had heard him do this a long time ago, but chalked it up to him maybe itching his throat (heck, i do it sometimes). Now he coughs like a person and gags at the end and nothing comes out. To me it sounded just like kennel cough. I notice his nose running and it sounds "stuffed". It has only been about 4 days since I first noticed the cough and it has decreased but the nose running and reverse sneezing continue. He eats and eats and plays and plays but I know he cannot feel good. After reading about the awns I am not freaking out lol. My dog rolls through grass and barrels through nose first. There are no obvious signs on his visible body but how would I know if one is inside him, somewhere? And do all internal awns require surgery or can some work their way out?

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      CharterDux 11 months ago

      Thank you Dr Mark!

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 11 months ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Jeff, the antibiotics are just covering up the problem. If the runny nose is from one nostril, it may go away for awhile but it is just going to come back.

      I hate to disagree with your regular vet, since he has seen Charter and is familiar with his case, but I do not think the $1000 is really going to help. Find a vet that has an endoscope (are you anywhere close to a vet school?) and let them take a better look into the affected nostril. If they find the problem, and take care of it, the antibiotics might help the problem go away for good. If you do not find the problem, the antibiotics are just going to help for a little while.

    • profile image

      CharterDux 11 months ago

      Hi Dr Mark

      My yellow lab Charter has had a persistent runny nose for the last 2 months. We brought him to the vet in December and they put him on a 14 day course of clindamycin (150mg) with Benadryl as needed. While his bouts with "reverse sneezing" seemed to have subsided, unfortunately there wasn't much improvement in his runny nose.

      His nasal discharge is only coming from his right nostril. More often than not it is just clear, but occasionally it is an off white. Only once did it seem reddish in color. When I massage the soft tissue of his nose, it usually ends in a good sneeze.

      Our vet recommended putting him under so they can take X-rays, perform cultures and flush his sinuses. That would cost $1000. They have been very helpful and understanding of my concerns around the cost. They said that clindamycin was the low-cost option and have kindly offered to put him on something stronger to see if that clears him up.

      So...with all that being said, do you think it makes sense for me to try one more course of antibiotics before shelling out $1000, particularly knowing I'll likely have to get those antibiotics anyway?

      Also, my vet does not have a scope so if they visualization to locate a foxtail, that would need to be done elsewhere, which would end up costing me double.

      I appreciate your advice Dr Mark!


    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 14 months ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Soshna, your vet probably gave your dog antibiotics because his discharge appeared to be an infection. If they did not work, you really need to get him back there as soon as possible to try something else. It may not be an infection and some diagnostics should be done to find out what is wrong.

      Good luck.

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      soshna 14 months ago

      My pup is suffering from cold n fever...vet gave him antibiotics (inimox inj) but now there is blood in his mucus coming from nose.. what should i do? Plz help me...

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 16 months ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Moises, is your chi scratching a lot? Most allergies become skin problems. Is the discharge clear or yellow and thick? From your description t is hard for me to tell if she is infected or just has a runny nose.

      If you want to try the organic apple cider vinegar, add a small teaspoonful to each bowl of water. If you add to much she will not like the taste and not drink, so monitor her closely and make sure she is drinking. DO NOT let her get dehydrated, ok?

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 3 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Thanks, Elizabeth. Last night I read your hub on resource guarding.


      I am usually able to teach this to puppies, but your story of training "leave it" to an older, rescue dog was very interesting.

      I am glad you write for this site.

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      Elizabeth Parker 3 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      Very informative hub and great for anyone to refer to should their dog show signs of sickness or a runny nose!

    • Bob Bamberg profile image

      Bob Bamberg 3 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      No, I didn't get a photo, or get to talk to him at length. There were other people at my booth and I had to try to get samples in their hands, too. I've had many instances where pet owners swear by situations that defy science. I don't argue with them, either.

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 3 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Hmm, I´ve seen a lot of dilated pupils lately---I wonder if I should be thinking about that cocaine habit. Probably a lot more likely than a grass awn. (I also see more holes in the mouth, like in the picture: the dog was in a fight with an anteater. Guess who won?)

      I kind of doubt 21 too, but I learned years ago to just say "wow" and let them put down the age they want. (I wonder how many years the guy has had the dog.) He must be doing something right! Did you get a photo of him?

    • Bob Bamberg profile image

      Bob Bamberg 3 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      A dog with a cocaine habit might have a runny nose, too :) I never heard the term awn...had to Google it. We just lump it all into the term plant debris. I don't think you've written a hub yet that I haven't learned something new from. They're always interesting reads. Voted up, useful and interesting. BTW, had my first outdoor event of the season today and met a retired/rescued greyhound that the owner claimed was 21 years old. Was pretty grey and lame, but I don't know if I believe 21.

    • Solaras profile image

      Solaras 3 years ago

      Great hub Dr. Mark! Sharing with my Facebook friends!

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