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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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Nasal Discharge Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Pit Bull

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Two Years

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Unknown severity

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4 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

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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4 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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2 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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2 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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