Runny nose in dogs

A runny nose in dogs is a common symptom that is usually caused by disease in the upper respiratory tract. Some of these diseases can be mild and easy to treat, such as a viral infection. However, others may be more serious, such as a tumour in the nose.

The medical name for a runny nose is nasal discharge. The discharge can be anything from thick snot to blood or clear fluid. Any age of dog can be affected by a runny nose, however, some of the causes are more likely at certain ages. A runny nose is not normally a medical emergency unless your dog is losing a lot of blood or has breathing difficulties too.


What to do

What to do if your dog has a runny nose

If your dog develops a runny nose, try to monitor:

  • The colour and thickness of the discharge
  • If the discharge is from one nostril or both
  • If your dog has any other symptoms, such as runny eyes, sneezing, a reduced appetite, bad breath, swelling around the nose, or any other signs.

It’s important to let your vet know about these signs, as they can narrow down the potential causes of a runny nose.

Mild, clear discharge, in the absence of any other symptoms, may resolve by itself in a few days. For dogs that develop thicker discharge or bleeding from the nose, it’s always best to speak to a vet.


Our Joii vets are available via video call 24 hours a day for advice.



The most common causes of a runny nose in dogs

  • Allergies, especially environmental: usually clear discharge with sneezing and red eyes
  • Sweat: when the body is trying to cool itself down
  • Foreign objects stuck on the nasal passage, such as grass seeds
  • Dental disease
  • Mass or polyp in the nasal passage
  • Infections: can be viral or bacterial
  • Fungal infections, such as Aspergillosis
  • Blood clotting disorders, caused by toxins like rat poison or inherited conditions

When to worry

When you should be worried about a runny nose in dogs

Take your dog to a vet if they:

  • Are bleeding from the nose
  • Have a thick, green discharge from the nose
  • Have a runny nose and other symptoms like lethargy, vomiting or swelling around the nose

Call us and speak to one of our Joii vets if your dog:

  • Has a mild, clear discharge
  • Has started sneezing
  • Has runny eyes or symptoms of allergies



Tips on how to prevent a runny nose in dogs

Not all causes of a runny nose in dogs are preventable, but you can help your dog by:

  • Keeping them up-to-date with vaccinations and parasite preventatives
  • Making sure the house is as dust-free as possible
  • Avoiding smoking in the house
  • Avoiding other triggers, such as perfumes, incense, candles, and high pollen counts
  • Brushing their teeth regularly and getting dental work done when recommended by your vet



Diagnosis of a runny nose in dogs

Your vet will usually start by asking about your dog’s medical history and doing a thorough physical exam.

Diagnostic tests that may be needed:

  • Blood tests, including clotting factors
  • Testing for infectious diseases
  • Swab and culture of the discharge or from the nasal passage
  • Imaging, such as x-rays or a CT scan
  • Rhinoscopy and biopsy of tissues


Home treatment

How to treat a runny nose in dogs at home

While most cases of runny noses need prescription medication to resolve, you can also help at home by:

  • Using a humidifier or taking your dog into a steamy room
  • Gently cleaning any discharge around the nose to prevent crusting and build-up
  • Avoiding triggers where possible, such as strong scents (perfumes, cleaning products) and irritants  such as cigarette smoke
  • Making sure they have easy access to fresh water
  • Feeding a soft food can help improve the appetite, particularly if they have throat pain. Diets such as Hills Prescription Diet i/d or a/d are soft and palatable


Vet treatment

Vet treatment for a runny nose in dogs

Treatment of a runny nose in dogs will depend on the diagnosis. Possible treatments include:

  • Antibiotics
  • Pain relief
  • Anti-inflammatory medication or antihistamines
  • Antifungal tablets or solutions
  • Medication to reduce mucus in the respiratory tract (mucolytic)
  • Surgery, such as removing a foreign object, or dental work



Are some dogs more at risk of a runny nose than others?

Any age or breed of dog can develop a runny nose. Underlying causes can be more likely at certain ages or in some breeds:

  • Aspergillosis is more common in “long-nosed” breeds, such as Golden Retrievers and German Shepherds
  • Whippets and Dachshunds are more prone to inflammatory rhinitis
  • Dental disease is more common in middle-aged to elderly dogs
  • Flat-faced or brachycephalic breeds, such as French Bulldogs and Pugs, are more prone to long-term nasal discharge
  • Non-vaccinated dogs are at a higher risk of viral causes


Other causes of a runny nose in dogs

Nasal mites: these are not common in the UK but can be found in some areas of Europe

Cleft palate: puppies born with a hole between the mouth and nasal passage

Megaoesophagus: a condition where the muscle of the oesophagus (food pipe) is less mobile than normal

Trauma: leading to a nose bleed

Ciliary dyskinesia: a rare congenital condition

Nasopahryngeal stenosis: uncommon condition where there is narrowing of the nasal passages


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