It’s an old wives’ tale that a wet nose in dogs is an indicator of good health, but seeing a dog’s nose always dripping, is definitely not something we associate with optimal wellness in dogs. Indeed, a dog with a runny nose that is constantly dripping warrants investigation by a veterinarian to determine the underlying cause. There are several causes for a runny nose in dogs, but fortunately, the majority of them are nothing major and can be easily fixed with some changes and perhaps medications from your vet.
Types of Dog Nasal Discharge
If your dog’s nose is runny, be prepared to answer several questions by your vet, especially in case your dog’s nose stops running the moment you enter the clinic.
Is your dog’s nasal discharge coming from one nostril or both nostrils? Is it more prominent at certain times of the day? Does it happen more during certain seasons? Is your dog’s nose dripping constantly or just occasionally? Is your dog sneezing, coughing or showing a lack in appetite? Is he acting lethargic? Also, your vet may ask you the type of discharge you are seeing.
There are several types of nasal discharge in dogs. If your dog’s nose is runny and dripping, then most likely your dog’s nasal discharge is clear and colorless, just like water.This is the on the opposite side of it being thick and purulent.
Discharge that is clear and runny is often described by veterinarians as being “serous.”This type of watery discharge often contains proteins, dissolved proteins and antibodies. Watery discharge is preferable to snotty, mucus-rich discharge that is specifically green, yellow, or white which can be indicative of presence of opportunist bacteria, as often seen in bacterial infections.
A Matter of Volume
Many times, a dog’s runny nose goes unnoticed due to the fact that dogs have a strong tendency to lick the discharge away the moment they feel a trickle of it tickling their noses,-this is the doggy version of using a Kleenex, by the way.
However, once the volume of the nasal secretions increases, it becomes more apparent to dog owners since licking is not enough and the secretions keep dripping and get caught in the dog’s facial hair.
On top of that, the sensation of trickling fluids on the nostrils is a potent trigger for sneezing in dogs, which further brings the owner’s attention.
When dog owners start noticing nasal discharge in dogs, this is often indicative that the capacity for clearing such fluids has been exceeded. This happens when there is either an increase in secretion production or a decrease in the capacity for clearing fluids or perhaps a combination of both factors.
A Case of Allergic Rhinitis
A common cause of a dog with a runny nose is rhinitis, a simple nasal infection, explains veterinarian Dr. Gary. In this case, the clear, fluid is coming from both nostrils and it’s clear and watery.
With rhinitis, it is important to determine what is causing the irritation and inflammation of the dog’s nasal passages. Cigarette smoke, candles or incense, pollution are a few irritants that can cause trouble, explains veterinarian Dr. Kara.
If the vet suspects allergic rhinitis, mild cases cases can be managed with antihistamines. Allergic rhinitis is similar to hay fever in people and is the result of something that the dog is inhaling and irritating his nasal passages. Often triggers include pollen, grasses. molds, dust and dust mites.
A Viral Illness
Just like people, dogs can get upper respiratory infections that lead to annoying symptoms such as coughing, sneezing and a runny nose. In these cases, the nasal discharge in dogs can be indicative of the presence of infectious agents such as bordetella (kennel cough) or parainfluenza. Generally, a viral infection subsides after 7 to 10 days, but if bacterial organisms are present, then a course of antibiotics may be needed, explains veterinarian Dr. Gary.
While a runny nose in a dog can be due to a virus, when a dog is acting lethargic along with nasal discharge, it can be indicative of pneumonia. Pneumonia can be seen in puppies or dogs with weakened immune systems. Dogs with pneumonia typically have discharge from the eyes and nose, fever, loss of appetite and lethargy, explains Critical Care Vet. See your vet as soon as possible if you suspect pneumonia in your dog.
“he same infectious agents that cause coughing – Bordetella bronchiseptica, parainfluenza virus – indicative of infectious tracheobronchitis (kennel cough) – can also cause sneezing and nasal discharge.”~Dr. Michael Salkin
Concerns with One Nostril
If the nasal discharge affects only one nostril, this can be at times concerning, which is why it’s important to rule out certain conditions.
When the discharge is uni-lateral (affecting only one nostril) this can be indicative of issues with that specific nostril.
A possibility may involve the presence of a foreign item stuck in the nose such as fox tails, seeds and grass blades. These foreign items often trigger repeated bouts of violent sneezing and the affected dog may be pawing at the nose.
Other causes of unilateral nasal discharge in dogs include presence of nasal polyps, fungal infections and sometimes even tumors of the nose, and sometimes a tooth problem may be the trigger, explains veterinarian Dr. B.
What Happens at the Vet
What your vet will do for diagnosing the cause for your dog’s runny nose will vary. Your vet will likely check your dog’s teeth, listen to your dog’s heart and lungs and take your dog’s temperature.
Diagnostic tests may include x-rays of the nose and skull or a CT scan of the dog’s sinuses and nasal passages.
The dog’s nasal discharge can be examined under a microscope or it can be cultured to determine more about about its nature.
In some cases, more thorough diagnostics may be needed to be done under general anesthesia such as scoping the dog’s nose with a small camera to check for any tumors, presence of foreign items etc, and possibly, the vet may be taking a tissue biopsy.
Treatment for a dog’s runny nose may vary based on the vet’s findings and can range from medications such as antihistamines and antibiotics to surgery .
- Merck Veterinary Manual: Rhinitis and Sinusitis in Small Animals
- DVM360: Nasal disorders in the dog and cat (Proceedings)