Runny Nose In Dogs – Why Does It Happen & What Does It Mean?

By Michael Tarran

October 20, 2021

dog, nose, runny nose, runny nose in dogs, sneezing
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Dogs having a runny nose is an incredibly common situation. However, for a new dog owner, seeing your pooch with a runny nose can be very disturbing and even scary.

So, what does it mean to see a runny nose in dogs? Is it something dangerous or nothing alarming at all?

Luckily, I'm here to help - I'm going to talk about everything regarding a runny nose, from symptoms to causes.

Continue reading to find out why your dog has a runny nose!

What Are The Most Common Causes For A Dog's Runny Nose?

A closeup of a dog's nose

The truth is, there are many reasons why your dog has a runny nose or some kind of nasal discharge. Usually, nasal discharge is nothing to be worried about - but it's always better to stay on the safe side and check it out.

Some causes could be severe if not treated on time, and that is precisely why you need to find out what you're dealing with here.

In this section, I'll cover all the potential reasons why your dog has a runny nose, so let's start!

Nervousness

If your dog is coming down with a mild runny nose with a clear nasal discharge when nervous or excited - sit back and relax. If it's not followed by any other symptoms, and it clears right up when your dog calms down, you truly have nothing to worry about whatsoever.

On the other hand, if the watery discharge continues for several hours and doesn't seem to stop - it's probably not due to nervousness. It could be a viral infection or influenza. So, keep an eye on any other symptoms to rule out those things - or visit the vet, plain and simple.

Canine Influenza

Canine influenza is not incredibly common, but it can happen to your pup sometimes. If your pup has a clear runny nose, though, it's not influenza because this condition is characterized by yellow discharge.

Also, influenza comes with coughing and even some breathing problems like noisy breathing, but be careful - it could be an upper respiratory infection. If you notice that your dog's health is not great and you see these symptoms, visit the vet immediately.

Allergies

Allergies are a very common reason why your dog could experience a runny nose. Dogs are more likely to experience skin issues like itching and red spots when having an allergic reaction - but they could experience nasal discharge and watery eyes, too.

So, if you notice that your dog has a runny nose along with some itchiness, it's likely that it is irritated by something. Treating the allergic reactions with allergy medications will get rid of the itching - and the runny nose.  

Infection

Sometimes, the nasal discharge is not clear and runny, but yellowish or greenish, and very thick. If that is the case, with the discharge going on for at least a few hours, it could mean that your dog caught an infection - and it might be viral or bacterial infections or fungal infections.

We advise you to take a warm cloth and clean the discharge as much as you can to make your pooch feel a bit more comfortable and able to breathe properly. However, you should also tackle the issue of your dog being ill - since the warm cloth will only treat the consequence rather than the cause.

Viral infections are usually associated with reverse sneezing, kennel cough, and a raised body temperature.

But don't be worried yet!

Take your dog to the vet and see what's up. If the pup is diagnosed with a fungal infection or a bacterial infection, the vet will prescribe antibiotics or antimycotics.

Abscess/Trauma

Rarely, the nasal discharge is not the only thing coming out of your dog's nasal cavity. If you can see that some water and food is coming out of one or both nasal cavities, open the dog's mouth gently and look for a foreign body.

If there is an abscess, tumor, or a sign of trauma, you will probably be able to see it. The same goes for a foreign object stuck somewhere in the mouth.

Of course, it's still better to take your pooch to the vet for a professional opinion because the vet will be able to help your pet feel more comfortable. Also, your dog will have better chances of recovery if seen by the vet.

Tumor

If your dog has nasal tumors, it will not have a runny nose but a bloody nose instead. And if you ever see your dog with a bloody nose, you need to take action immediately. 

Even just a drop or two of blood from the nose could indicate that your dog has a tumor in the nose or nasal adenocarcinoma. On the other hand, a bloody nose could be a sign of infection due to a grass awn in the nose, blood clotting disorders, or teeth and gum issues. 

Before panicking, try to remember if your dog got into a bit of a fight or an accident. The skin is very delicate inside the dog's nose, and bleeding could appear from some light trauma, meaning nothing serious.

Dental Problems

Among many other issues, your pooch could get a runny nose because of a bad tooth. The runny nose, in this case, will leak pus rather than nasal discharge and can come out of both or only one nostril.

These dental problems could be due to abscessed teeth, a cleft palate or a foreign object stuck in the gums.

All these things cause a bad odor from the mouth and nose - and they can cause a bad infection. Please visit the vet as soon as possible if you spot pus coming out of your dog's nostril.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

Rocky Mountain spotted fever, or RMSF is a rare disease that could hit your pup when you least expect it. It's characterized by a bloody discharge, and it's a bacterial infection.

Infected dogs are bitten by ticks, and aside from a runny nose, the dogs will usually experience a raised temperature, kennel cough, and eye discharge, along with other symptoms. This disease is treatable with antibiotics, so make sure to take your dog to see a pro.

Canine Distemper

Canine distemper is a very serious disease that attacks the dog's respiratory and nervous systems. It can hit even puppies as young as four months old, and a viral infection causes it.

One of the things that are associated with canine distemper is eye discharge and a runny nose. It is a severe condition, and it includes other symptoms like muscle twitches, head tilts, convulsions, excessive salivation - and even paralysis.

This viral infection can be fatal, so it's crucial to see a vet as soon as possible to help your dog.

Systemic Issues

If your dog has a runny nose alongside other serious symptoms like lethargy, panting, coughing, and not being able to breathe, it could be a sign that your dog is experiencing systemic issues. Treat these symptoms seriously and take your pet to the emergency vet.

So, When Is The Time To Go To The Vet?

Another closeup of a dog's nose

Like I said, not all nasal discharge is the sign that you need to run off to the vet right now. If the nasal discharge is clear and lasts only a short while - less than a couple of hours - it's probably nothing.

On the other hand, when your pooch has a thick, yellow, greenish discharge, or worse, blood and pus - this is a sign of a more serious health condition. If that is the case, you should take your dog to the vet to determine what's up and begin treatment.

How Will The Vet Determine The Cause Of The Dog's Runny Nose?

First of all, the vet will go through your dog's medical history and ask you about your pup's recent visits and actions. It's also essential to see if your puppy was in contact with other dogs in the dog park and whether it's up to date with the vaccinations.

The vet will likely ask about some visits to the grooming facilities because your poor pup could have got infected there. Lots of things from the dog's environment could cause runny noses or changes in the nasal passage.

Next, the vet will do a physical exam, looking at your dog's nasal passages, looking up the dog's nostrils and the entire dog's head - because, as we all know by now, there are plenty of causes for runny noses. They might also check for nose bleeds and trouble breathing to get the dog diagnosed.

They'll likely opt for blood tests to rule out some of the potential causes, like a fungal infection.

That being said, if there are foreign objects or an abscess found, the vet will likely opt for the surgical removal of the object to make your pooch comfortable.

Are Some Dog Breeds More Prone To A Runny Nose?

A bulldog laying on the floor

Well, yes - some dog breeds are more prone to getting a mild runny nose than others. The pet owners of these breeds should know this to avoid getting worried every time they see discharge from the dog's nostril.

Commonly, flat-faced breeds can experience various nose and nasal passages-related issues because of their anatomy. The most popular flat-faced breeds are pugs, bulldogs, French bulldogs, and Boston terriers, and because of the flat face, they experience runny noses more than other breeds.

Also, these breeds tend to experience noisy breathing and heavy snoring more often than, for example, hunting dogs.

Flat-faced dogs will have almost a chronic-like case of a runny nose, but it's usually harmless. If your dog's nose has a clear discharge, don't be worried about it. Just clean it up when you see it with a warm cloth - and that's it.

If the nasal passages are too short or deviant, though, it could affect your dog's health in general. The vet may even advise operating on the nose while the dog is still young to make their life a bit easier.

How To Take Care Of A Dog's Runny Nose At Home?

A dog's nose sniffing the ground

Not all runny noses require the vet's attention because some instances of a dog's runny nose can easily be treated at home. And since most cases of a dog's nose running are due to excitement, you don't need to do much to treat the symptoms, either.

Clear discharge is usually nothing; all you could do as pet owners is make your pup a bit comfortable by clearing the nasal passages:

Use a soft cloth to wipe the dogs runny nose, and that's it. Repeat if necessary from time to time - and watch if the discharge subsides after a while.

Allergic reactions can cause a dog's runny nose, and they are widespread in dogs. If this is the first time your dog has got an allergic reaction, you should go to the vet, but you can treat it at home for each subsequent time it happens.

If your dog develops seasonal allergies, it's good to have some allergic medications at home to treat it as soon as it spikes up. What's more, you could make some lifestyle changes during allergy season to make your pup feel better and to reduce the discharge in dogs.

For example, take longer walks around noon because the pollen count is higher in the morning and evening. Also, if your pup has an allergy to grass or other plants, it might be best to avoid parks but stick to pavement and walking on beaches.

Something that works rather well to soothe that reverse sneeze is to wipe your pooch with pet wipes - the wipes can help remove the allergens from the fur and help him breathe better. Using air filters and airing rooms out during the day can do wonders for the allergies of many dogs, too.

Of course, if the allergy flares up quite a bit, give your pet an allergy med to soothe the reaction and help them feel better. There are currently many great supplements on the market that boost the immune system and help your dog fight off allergies better in the future.

As for the dogs with food allergies - it's much easier to treat these conditions.

When the allergic reaction does happen, use a cold compress to calm your pup down and give it an antihistamine. Of course, that is if you know already what the food allergen was.

Stick to diets with limited ingredients to avoid the most common food allergens like dairy or certain types of grains. I strongly advise you to avoid commercial dog food brands that claim they produce hypoallergenic dog kibble - because, in reality, there is no hypoallergenic kibble. Dogs can be allergic to anything, just like humans.

Another thing you can do yourself is removing a foreign object from the dog's nose. If you see that your dog has a runny nose, but the discharge is clear and coming out of only one nostril, the cause could be something your dog stuck inside on accident.

Take a look inside each nostril and use a flashlight to check if you see anything. Then, use tweezers or a small pair of pliers to remove the said object. Make sure you remove the entire thing from the dog's nose and watch them closely afterward to see if any other signs develop.

If you cannot remove the object, take your pup to the vet - and give them lots of cuddles.

Many dogs will get upset with a runny nose, let alone an obstructed nose, which is why you should aim to make them feel as good as possible, given the situation.

Runny Nose In Dogs - Bottom Line

A dog with a runny nose

To conclude, a runny nose in dogs is probably nothing you should be worried about. When dogs get excited, they get a nasal discharge - it's a natural reaction in dogs. Pups can get a runny nose when they are nervous, and it should go away within an hour or two.

However, if the nasal discharge is yellow, thick, or bloody - this is truly a cause for concern. Going for a vet exam as soon as possible is the key to ensuring your dog doesn't get serious consequences.

Remember - a healthy dog is a happy dog!

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Michael Tarran

About Me

I'm a devoted pet parent to two lovely creatures – Charlie the Cat and Jimmy the Dog – a full-time assistant pet store manager, and an animal shelter volunteer. I've gathered knowledge about pets for almost a decade, and it all started in a small store called Jack's Pets.

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