A runny nose can be an unpleasant and annoying experience for dogs as well as people. But if a dripping or blocked nose has ever caused you some discomfort, imagine what it must be like for your dog, who has a sense of smell that's up to 100,000 times stronger than your own.
The good news is that it's entirely possible for a healthy dog to suffer from a runny nose from time to time and there is no cause for alarm for this. However, nasal discharge could also indicate a wide range of serious health problems, so it's important to know when you should seek veterinary attention.
Signs and Symptoms of a Runny Nose in Dogs
Let's face it: a runny nose on a dog is often easy to spot. Whether you notice it just from looking at your dog or your dog's nose feels a little wetter than normal when they squeeze in close for a cuddle, the signs of nasal discharge are often as plain as the nose on your face.
If your pet is simply suffering from a small amount of clear nasal discharge, it's usually nothing to worry about. However, there are other situations where there may be cause for concern, such as if the discharge is accompanied by blood or pus, or if it's cloudy, yellow or green rather than clear. Discharge that has a noticeable odor is also a worry and needs to be checked out by your vet.
There are a number of other symptoms to watch for which may indicate that your dog is experiencing a more serious problem. These include:
- Discharge from the eyes
- Swollen, puffy or red eyes
- Difficulty breathing
- Mucus or other secretions in the fur of their face or legs
- Dental health issues
- Bad breath
If you notice nasal discharge accompanied by any of the above symptoms, book your pet in for a trip to the vet to get to the bottom of the problem as soon as possible.
The Science of Runny Noses in Dogs
There are many potential factors that could be behind your pet's runny nose. Some are relatively harmless and others can be very serious, so it's important to work out what the problem is and whether there's any cause for alarm.
Common causes of a runny canine nose include:
- Anxiety or excitement: Ever notice your dog's nose dripping before a trip to the vet or maybe your local dog park? If the dripping goes away once your dog calms down, there's a good chance nerves or excitement could be the cause.
- Allergies: From dust and pollen to a range of other substances in their environment, dogs can have an allergic reaction to a wide variety of things. However, in many cases, nasal discharge will also be accompanied by itching.
- Blockage: Discharge from just one nostril could indicate that a foreign object, for example, a blade of grass or a seed, could be stuck in there.
- Infection: A bacterial or fungal infection of your dog's sinuses could also cause a bad smell, nosebleeds, and coughing.
- Polyps and tumors: Blood, pus, and mucus can all indicate polyps or tumors, but you should also watch for noisy breathing and the sign of any bulges on the side of the nose.
- Dental problems: From abscessed teeth to periodontitis and gingivitis, oral health issues can cause a runny nose.
- Distemper: Sticky yellow discharge can be a sign of distemper, which can be an extremely serious problem.
It's understandably quite difficult for the average dog owner to work out what's causing their dog's nose to run, so you'll need expert help to reach an accurate diagnosis.
Caring for Your Dog's Nose
There's a widespread belief that a wet nose means a dog is healthy, but the reality is a little different. While a dry nose can be a symptom of dehydration, it can also be perfectly normal for your pooch to have a dry snout, particularly if you don't live in a humid area. A sick dog's nose can be wet or dry, hot or cold, so the most important piece of advice to remember is to know what your dogs looks and feels like when they're perfectly healthy — that way, you should quickly be able to realize when something is wrong.
If you notice nasal discharge that doesn't go away, that includes blood or pus, or that's discolored, these are surefire signs that you need to get your pooch checked out by a vet. A quick examination is often all it will take for your vet to discover what's wrong, and can provide some much-needed peace of mind. Treatment options vary widely depending on the underlying problem, but make sure to follow your vet's advice to get the problem cleared up as soon as possible.
In terms of home care, the best way to prevent most of the causes of a runny nose is simply to generally look after your dog's overall health and wellbeing. Feed a balanced diet, give plenty of exercise, and stay up to date with vaccinations. Also, make sure that you keep a close eye on your dog's dental health, and that you book your pet in at the vet for annual check-ups.
Your dog's nose is a remarkable sniffing machine that's thousands of times more powerful than your own schnoz. By taking the best possible care of your pooch and keeping an eye out for any warning signs, you'll be able to help it function as well as possible, and ensure that your furry friend avoids the discomfort and annoyance of a runny nose.
By a Labrador Retriever lover Tim Falk
Published: 04/20/2018, edited: 04/06/2020