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What is Nasal Discharge?

If your dog is showing other signs such as increased body temperature, lack of appetite, excessive sleepiness, or other abnormal behavior, you should see a veterinarian right away. In most cases, nasal discharge is found to be an allergy or upper respiratory infection such as bronchitis or pneumonia. Less frequently, lower respiratory issues can involve the bronchi or trachea.

Other causes such as dental disease, neoplasia, trauma, foreign bodies in the nasal passage, and fungal infection are not as common, but possible. Nasal infections and other upper respiratory infections affect brachycephalic (flat-faced) dogs more than others. Some of these dogs include Shih Tzus, Pugs, French or English Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, and Pekingese.

Nasal discharge is a common condition in dogs, and may not be a condition at all. Some dogs just get runny noses once in awhile. However, if the discharge is any color besides clear or if he has other signs or has a hard time breathing, you should make an appointment for your dog to see a veterinarian as soon as possible. Nasal discharge may be caused by allergies, respiratory virus (parainfluenza, adenovirus, or distemper), parasitic infestation, or even dental problems.

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Symptoms of Nasal Discharge in Dogs

The signs of nasal discharge in dogs vary depending on the cause of the discharge. Many dogs can have a runny nose for no reason whatsoever at times and you may not even notice anything except a wet nose. In that case, there is no need to contact a veterinary professional. However, you should make an appointment if your dog also has any of these signs:

  • Wet, runny nose for longer than 24 hours
  • Red, swollen or puffy eyes
  • Loud breathing
  • Panting
  • Bad breath
  • Rubbing or pawing at nose and face
  • Head shaking
  • Trouble breathing through nose
  • Coughing
  • Appetite loss
  • Agitation
  • Depression
  • General malaise

 Types

The type of nasal discharge can be helpful in determining the condition so you should tell the veterinarian if your dog’s runny nose looks like any of these:

  • Hemorrhagic (bloody) is usually caused by trauma or dental disease
  • Serous (watery, thin, clear) is usually just an allergy
  • Mucous (thick) may be yellow or white and is accompanied by inflammation
  • Purulent (green or yellow) is usually caused by bacterial infections
  • Constant or intermittent
  • Both nostrils involved or just one
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Causes of Nasal Discharge in Dogs

  • Allergies usually do not cause any other signs besides clear nasal discharge, runny eyes, sneezing, and coughing; this condition usually happens seasonally from allergens like pollens, grass, or mold
  • Infections are usually more noticeable due to the color of the discharge (yellow or green) and the other symptoms such as malaise, fever, and general ill behavior
  • Foreign bodies can include anything from a stick to a rock, or even a bug or other strange items
  • Tumors usually only occur in older dogs that are over eight years of age. There is usually a bloody discharge and deformity, weight loss, and overall weakness
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Diagnosis of Nasal Discharge in Dogs

To diagnose nasal discharge in dogs, your veterinarian will need to do a complete physical examination including vital signs, weight, general coat condition, palpation, and auscultation. In addition, a sample of the discharge will be taken for microscopic evaluation and cultures. The veterinarian may also use an endoscope to look into your dog’s airway through the nasal passage.  Also, laboratory tests may be performed such as a urinalysis, fecal exam, and blood tests. Finally, chest x-rays might be done to check the lungs, and the veterinarian may also want to get a CT scan, ultrasound, and MRI if needed.

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Treatment of Nasal Discharge in Dogs

The treatment for nasal discharge will first include oxygen therapy if your dog is having trouble breathing. Further treatment depends on the cause of the condition.

Allergies

Allergies are typically treated with antihistamines, corticosteroids, and eliminating the allergen as much as possible. There are many options for treating allergies medically.  

Infections

Bacterial infection is usually treated with antibiotics, fungal infection is treated with antifungals, and parasites are treated with anti-parasitic medication. If your dog has pneumonia or another serious lung infection, the veterinarian may decide to keep him overnight for breathing treatments and observation.

Foreign Body

Depending on the item in your dog’s nasal passage and how far it is embedded in his nose, surgical removal may be necessary.

Tumor

A tumor in a dog’s nasal passage may be benign, or malignant (cancer). The treatment might include surgical removal of the tumor.  

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Recovery of Nasal Discharge in Dogs

Most cases of nasal discharge have excellent prognoses. The sooner you get treatment the better, so it is always important to see the veterinarian right away if your dog has a discharge from the nose.

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Written by Darlene Stott

Veterinary reviewed by: Michele K.

Published: 05/26/2017, edited: 03/22/2021

Nasal Discharge Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Pit Bull

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Two Years

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3 found helpful

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Unknown severity

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Nasal Discharge

Hi! I’ve noticed that my dog gets white almost foamy liquid around the corners of her nose when I walk her and she sniffs the ground. I don’t notice it any other time but I’m not sure if it’s coming from her or something she’s picking up off the grass. I’d like to gauge whether or not this is serious before I have to take her to a vet and pay the vet fee.

Dec. 20, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Linda S. MVB MRCVS

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3 Recommendations

It is possible that this is simply saliva and it is transferring to the nose when licked when out and about. In the absence of other symptoms (such as altered breathing, mucus discharge, coughing, sneezing etc), I wouldnt be overly concerned but would keep an eye on things. Do ensure you provide water during and after walks and avoid over exercising in the heat.

Dec. 20, 2020

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Staffordshire Bull Terrier

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Twelve Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Random White Nose. Discharge. Watery Eyes. She Has Many Alergies And Gets Cytopoint Shots Every 6-8 Weeks

What to do. Cannot take her in. Not working due to Covid.

Sept. 25, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I apologize for the delay in my reply, this venue is not set up for urgent emails. With out being able to see her, I cannot say what might be going on or what might help her Since your veterinarian has treated her in the past, if you call them, they may have some suggestions, as they know more about her situation.

Oct. 19, 2020

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Pug

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Seven Weeks

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Nasal Clear Drainage

She started to have a lot of clear drainage from her nose to the point where she begins to choke on it.

Sept. 7, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. Pug puppies can have a very short nose, they are known for that. The discharge that you're describing might be normal for her, and her nose may grow to the point where it is not a problem as she gets older. However, since she seems to be having a problem now or she is choking on the discharge, I think it would be best to have her seen by a veterinarian as soon as you can, as they will be able to examine her and see if she is okay. It may be something that she needs to grow out of, or she may have an infection or a problem that needs to be fixed. They will be able to tell you more once they see her, and let you know if any treatment needs to happen for her. I hope that all goes well for her.

Sept. 7, 2020

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Border Collie

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Ten Years

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4 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Nasal Discharge

Hello there, My dog has been sick for the last year and a half now. It started with kennel cough, which went away. Ever since then she hasn't been the same dog. She's still coughing quite a bit, constant oozing nose-thick, creamy, greenish discharge, only the left eye gets super red. She has been to our vet so many times now and NOTHING works. We've tried several rounds of different antibiotics, an anti-fungal, allergy meds, and prednisone(which made things even worse). I'm at a lost, my bank account is being drained because of the lack of results. Vet also did a scan which revealed nothing.

Sept. 1, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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4 Recommendations

Hello, So sorry to hear about all the issues that you are having with your dog. See if your vet can take a culture of this discharge to see what antibiotics will help with the infection. While this may be pricy it will help your vet figure out exactly what is causing this infection and what antibiotics your dog needs to be on to clear this infection. Upper respiratory infections can sometimes be tricky to treat. I hope your dog starts to feel better soon.

Sept. 2, 2020

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Labrador Retriever

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7 months

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3 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Nasal Discharge

Constant green discharge that is thicker more so than watery coming from only left nostril. Hacked up mucas 2-3 over past 24 hours. Expressing fatigue which is unusual

Aug. 28, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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3 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I would be concerned for a fungal or bacterial infection, or a foreign body in the nostril of your dog. If this is something that is not getting better and he seems to not be feeling well as well, I think it would be best to have him seen by your veterinarian. They will be able to examine him, that you know what sort of Diagnostics might be needed, and see what treatments might be appropriate. I hope that all goes well for him and he feels better soon!

Aug. 28, 2020

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Jake

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German Shepherd

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3 Years

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Short Of Breath
Mouth Breathing
Fast Breathing
Clear Discharge
Scratching Nose

Jake, our 3 year old 90lbs GSD has been having clear discharge from his nose, along with fast breathing, mouth breathing both while at rest, and he scratches at his nose often. Took him to the vet about this once and the vet didn’t do more than listen to his lungs. He seems like he iis short of breath often. It seems like he will sit up sometimes to catch his breath. Keep in mind this will be hours after exercise has occurred. Looking for advice on if I should be taking him to a new vet or if I’m an over worried dog parent. Thanks

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Ginger

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Chihuahua

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5 Years

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Sneezing
Gurgling
Clogged Sinuses

We moved within the past month, and our dog Ginger, a 5 year old chihuahua, has been having sinus issues. She constantly makes wet gurgling noises, especially when licking her paws or bathing, and one nostril is fully blocked according to our vet, causing her to breath heavily. She also sneezes occasionally, though not too frequently. She does not have any visible nasal discharge, and she is energetic and behaving normally. Based on our vet's advice, we have been giving her Benadryl daily, and she went through a course of antibiotics, but she hasn't gotten any better. Any idea what might be going on?

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Saint

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Siberian Husky

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6 Months

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Mild severity

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1 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Gagging
Head Shaking
Coughing
Green Nasal Discharge

I noticed my puppy was “coughing” (sounded like choking) quite a bit I thought maybe he wasn’t chewing his food and was choking on some of the kibbles and then I started noticing he was gagging but he would never throw anything up and it continued for a little bit. Now I noticed he has thick slimy green mucus coming out of both his nostrils and started shaking his head and scratching at his ear and also rubbing his paw on his face. He hasn’t really lost his appetite (at least not that I’ve noticed) and he is still very playful and active he just keeps coughing and gagging and his nose is nasty. What do you think could be wrong with him. Someone told me he could have kennel cough and now I’m beginning to get worried but no vet can see him for weeks I’m just wondering if someone could give me an idea of what could be wrong? Could he have kennel cough or could it just be like an infection or something more serious?

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Lyle

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Great Dane Mix

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12 Weeks

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Nasal Discharge

We just adopted a puppy from a shelter. A few days after adoption, they told us our dog may have been exposed to a dog that has since been diagnosed with distemper. We are so scared that our puppy has it too. He has some white milky discharge from his nose, but only when he is sleeping. He doesn’t seem to have a lot of the other symptoms that come with distemper, and I am hoping he could just have some other problem. His energy level is great and he definitely has no loss of appetite. He just seems to have some trouble breathing while he’s asleep and has some nasal drip while sleeping as well.

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Bailey

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Beagle

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Eight Years

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Serious severity

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4 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Sneezing
Reverse Sneezing
Snotting

Please help -- My dog is 8 years old, almost 9. About 5 months ago she started having sneezing episodes that consisted of: sneezing and snotting on the floor (or wherever she is at that moment, which has included our bed and our furniture many times), she'll usually sneeze about 5 small times and then she'll have one or two big ones that shoot mucous all over. She also has episodes of "reverse sneezing" over and over. If she's not sneezing outright, she's reverse sneezing and it is very loud and makes it so we can't sleep at night (she will get up 5-10 times throughout the night to sneeze or reverse sneeze). The mucous was clear from the beginning, but it was always a thick mucous and now it seems to be turning more of a greenish hue. Of course we went to our trusted veterinarian, who gave us three medications, one for allergies, one for sneezing, and an antibiotic. None of them worked. So we went back. He was confused as to why this might be going on since there is no sign of blood or infection and her overall demeanor has not shifted whatsoever. She is still happy and energetic, doesn't seem sick. So our next option is to do a nose scope, however that is INCREDIBLY expensive just to find out what is wrong, let alone the cost of whatever treatment is necessary afterwards. We will have to do this soon, but we are trying to explore every possibility beforehand. SO, we went to another vet to get a second opinion. That vet was very helpful, but still at a loss for what could be going on. That vet did say that they have scoped dogs before and in the cases that it wasn't cancer, it ended up being nasal mites. So the vet gave us treatment for nasal mites. It was a 3 week treatment and at first we thought she seemed better (we were getting more sleep at night and picking up a lot less snot), but at the end of the three weeks the issue has only gotten worse. We are now at a loss of what it could be, and so we took her to another vet in our hometown to see if the sneezing could possibly have to do with her teeth, since she needs a couple pulled. They assured us that it shouldn't be that. BUT. The assistant at that vet clinic happens to HAVE a dog of her own that has been doing the exact same thing, but for FIVE YEARS. We cannot do this for five years. It is wearing on us heavily right now and she is miserable when she's in the act of sneezing/reverse ". At this point, we are planning to scope her nose, but we are afraid the results will come back inconclusive and it will be a massive waste of money. We just want to know if anyone else has experienced this exact issue and how was it resolved? If there is ANY insight that ANYONE can give me, please please do. We need help! Thank you in advance.

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