Why Does My Dog Have a Runny Nose and What Should I Do?
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
• 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
Why Does Your Dog Have a Runny Nose?
Sometimes there is nothing to get excited about.
- 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. It is nothing to worry about. 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).
- 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 and are willing to spend the time, there are some alternative, natural remedies for allergies available.
- When the dog has a thick substance coming out of the nose, especially when it is a green or yellow discharge and 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 you find out what is wrong and 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.
- Some dogs with a yellowish discharge from their 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.
- If there is food, water, or discharge coming out of only 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. (This was in my clinic but the puppy´s family could have done this.) When the stick was removed from the puppy's mouth he was able to get better by himself.
- 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.
- If your dog is lethargic, panting excessively, or coughing or having any trouble breathing that indicates the problem has already become systemic. You need to have your dog examined by your local vet as soon as possible.
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.
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.
More About Your Dog´s Health
- Save Money on A Dogs Health Care
How you can save money on your dogs health costs by following a few simple steps. Why you should examine your dog regularly, keep you dog healthy and how to avoid excessive health costs.
- Do It Yourself At Home Physical Exam for Your Dog
You should be aware of what is normal in your dog. This is a physical exam you can do at home before taking your dog in to see your veterinarian.
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 usually be treated with antibiotics, 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.
When the runny nose is 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.
Questions & Answers
My 7 year old rescue Borzoi, which I’ve had for a month has a continual runny (clear) nose and sometimes eyes, but he is not itchy. Looking at previous vet records he’s had this for a long time, could it be allergies?
My dog is almost fifteen and has a green discharge from her nose. What would cause this?
A green discharge from the nose is most likely an infection, so with a 15 yr old dog I would assume it was an infection in the teeth. I would want to check her for cancer though, and there is always the possibility that it is just an infection in the nasal cavity.
My 16-month-old dog occasionally has a runny nose. However, the last few days it has been continuously running, and she has been sneezing a lot. She also has no interest in laying on the couch or bed which is not normal because she is always on the couch and bed. What could this be? What should I do?
My twelve-year-old Cavalier started coughing and has a cloudy white to yellow nasal discharge for nine months now. My vet has done blood tests and tried three different antibiotics. Do you have any ideas that can help?
If your local vet has not been able to diagnose your Cavs condition after exams, then I recommend you take him to the veterinary teaching college in your state. They have a lot better chance of figuring out what is going wrong, and will have access to better diagnostics than a regular practitioner. Your vet can give you a referral, or if this is not possible, he can refer you to an internal medicine specialist in the closest city.
© 2014 Dr Mark