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Dog runny nose: Causes and treatment

Dog with runny nose
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Everyone knows the torture and the pleasures of a runny nose, but dogs don’t quite get it. Your dog can’t blow her nose, or wipe it. She doesn’t even know how to sniff back that snot properly

By G. John Cole

Updated on the 08/02/2021, 13:53

And as for dog sneezing, it’s torture just to watch. Every sneeze looks like the first time she’s experienced it – and she doesn’t know what it is. Let’s take a look at some of the causes and treatments for a dog with a runny nose.

What are the causes of dog runny nose

Just like with the human nose, the causes of discharge from a dog’s nose are manifold.

A runny nose is also very common. Some dogs just have a runny nose from time to time, and it will pass. But if your dog’s nasal discharge is not ‘clear’-coloured, or her runny nose comes with other symptoms, you should take her to see her vet. (It is especially important to act quickly if there is blood in her snot).

A runny nose happens when the mucous membranes in the dog’s nose produce mucus and other fluid to wash out a contaminant. That might be germs, or something to which she is allergic, or parasites. It could be something that she has ‘snorted up’ in the garden or mites. It could even be a tumour that provokes this reaction.

Dogs can get flu at any time of the year. If she has flu, that runny nose may contain pus, and she may sneeze and have runny eyes at the same time. She may have a cough. In fact, the symptoms are very similar to kennel cough, so you should take her to the vet just in case.

A runny nose, eyes, and lethargy can also indicate that your dog has a common cold, respiratory (breathing) problems, or even Canine Distemper. This is what makes it so tough to determine the cause of your dog’s runny nose. If it is combined with any other symptoms, it is best to take her to a vet.

Dog runny nose and dog flu

Dog flu is spread through the air when an infected dog barks, coughs, or sneezes, just like with human flu. The virus can also be spread through infected water bowls or other objects, or through people who’ve had contact with an infected dog.

It takes two to four days for the virus to go full-blown. Around a quarter of infected dogs won’t show any symptoms. Those who do may suffer a runny nose, sneezing, or pus from the nose, as well as coughing and difficulty breathing. It’s rarely serious, but it can be – or, as mentioned, the symptoms could actually point to something else more serious.

It is also important to keep your dog isolated from other dogs if she has flu. So go to a vet.

Your vet won’t be able to ‘cure’ dog flu but he can help you to make your dog more comfortable throughout her illness and minimize symptoms, such as that runny nose. He may also prescribe drugs to prevent your dog’s flu from getting more serious, or progressing to pneumonia – which can be fatal.

Your vet will also advise you on how to decontaminate your house.

But make sure to call in advance of taking your dog in. There may be special instructions for bringing a pet with such a contagious illness.

Dog runny nose and allergies

Yes, dogs get pollen and dust allergies, just like you! Your dog is also susceptible to mite allergies, or food allergies. This may be the case if she has a bad tummy as well as a runny nose. As with a human, working out a way to manage your dog’s allergies can significantly improve her quality of life.

Your vet may prescribe antihistamines or corticosteroids to counter the allergy. And/or he might give suggestions on how to eliminate the allergen from your dog’s environment.

Tests for a dog with a runny nose

Dog experts Kristiina Ruotsalo and Margo S. Tant suggest that a vet will begin by studying your dog’s complete history, and carrying out a physical examination. So you should keep a diary of your dog’s illness. Make a note of when it started, how the runny nose looked, and how often he’s sneezing. Your dog’s vet may look at the ears, nose, and mouth of your dog, as well as listening to her heart and lungs. If the cause of your dog’s runny nose is not immediately apparent, your vet may carry out further diagnostic and screening tests. He might test her blood, urine, or snot.

A runny nose on a dog is often no cause for alarm, but for the sake of your pet and others around her it is a good idea to get her checked out if you are worried.