It's miserable when you get a blocked nose. A head cold can really rot up your day and stop you sleeping at night. It's not much better when your nose starts to run… all that sniffing and blowing… the dirty hankies and used tissues. Nope. There's nothing good about having boogers - or to put it more politely - a nasal discharge. So what about your pet pal?
Dogs can suffer from nose nuggets. However, that runny nose is a symptom rather than a diagnosis. And guess what? The causes of boogers in dogs tends to be different from people. This is result of your fur-friend's habits… such as sniffing in long grass. This makes him more likely to inhale bacteria, fungi, or even sniff up a grass lawn.
So whilst you won't see a dog with a handkerchief (their tongue does the job instead. Yewh!), it is totally true to say they get boogers.
It may not always be obvious that your dog has boogers, because they lick them away. However, the tell-tale signs to watch out for include:
Excessive nose licking
A clear, purulent, or bloody discharge from the nose
Lack of appetite
Stained fur on the forearms (where the dog rests their nose!)
The cause of the nose nuggets can vary greatly:
Diagnosing the cause of the problem can be tricky. Your vet may need to run a number of tests, such as:
Imaging: This could be radiographs, a CT or MRI scan
Endoscopy: A fine, fiber optic camera is passed up into the nasal cavity
Culture: Swabs are taken to identify to bacteria present
Flush: A nasal flush to wash out debris or cells for analysis
You can make the dog feel more comfortable at home. Regularly bathing the nose to clear away any caked-on or dried discharge will help them breathe more easily. Putting the dog in a steamy atmosphere (such as a shower room) can also help break up any mucus.
Ultimately, if the boogers persist, the dog needs a proper workup and diagnosis, so the root cause of the discharge can be treated. For this, you need to visit a vet.
Treatments range from straightforward courses of antibiotics for a nasal infection, to complex nasal flushes for conditions such as aspergillosis. Follow the links below to the individual conditions to find out more.
Two of the most common causes of boogers in dogs are very similar to that in people.
Allergies: An allergy to an inhaled allergen, such as pollen, can result in a runny nose. However, dogs also have the added dimension of often having itchy skin in addition.
Irritants: You may love scented candles, but your dog might not. Artificial fragrances, aerosols, and perfumes all have the potential to irritate a dog's delicate nose and make it run.
Colds: Yes, dogs can get colds. And yes, this can cause boogers. Just be vigilant for signs that go on beyond a few days, and seek veterinary attention if the dog seems otherwise unwell.
That doggy lifestyle of sniffing and digging opens them up to a whole range of possibilities for boogers that people dodge.
Foreign Bodies: A dog gets a lot of suction with one sniff, and this can suck up small objects such as grass seeds. If these get lodged in the nasal cavity, this can set up a secondary infection and a nasal discharge.
Rhinitis: This is where the mucous membranes that line the scrolls of bone inside a dog's nose become infected. Again, sniffing has a lot to answer for!
Aspergillosis: This is a fungus that lives in the soil. You guessed it - dogs sniff it up and the fungus then colonizes the nose.
Neoplasia: Tumors of the nasal turbinates (the scrolls of bone inside the nose) are not uncommon, especially in breeds with long noses such as German shepherds or Labradors.
An active German shepherd that adores running through long grass, develops bright green boogers from one nostril only. The vet suspects an infection in the nasal cavity, but wants to investigate the cause as the discharge is on one side only, which is puzzling.
The dog is sedated, and the nasal cavity flushed with saline. Out pops a grass awn! With the cause removed, the dog then requires a short course of antibiotic to settle down the infection, and soon they're back on their paws and sniffing as normal.