Runny Nose In Dogs – What You Should Know

Written by: Bojana Radulovic
Runny noses and sneezes are not exclusively reserved just for humans. Dog's can go through these conditions as well and for several reasons. Read on and discover if you should be worried when you feel dog's sticky nose.

When you have a runny nose you probably don’t see it as a big deal, right? Now, imagine that you have 220 million smell receptors as dogs do. In general, humans have just 5 million receptors. That being said, if you had 220 million smell receptors and a runny nose, you would be in big trouble.

Runny nose in dogs usually means two things: the first one is usually just a sign of dog’s excitement, and the other one is usually linked with some serious health condition, like cancer.

Runny Nose In Dogs

If your canine comes to you for some petting time and you sense something wet, the chances are that your canine has a runny nose. This is a common occurrence in healthy dogs. A healthy dog may have a mild runny nose from time to time with no cause for alarm, while severe nasal discharge or chronic nasal discharge shouldn’t be excluded.

In general, a mild runny nose is common by small amounts of watery discharge and can be accompanied by sneezing and in most cases is a sign of nervousness. On the other hand, the situation is completely different when your dog demonstrates a severe runny nose.

A severe runny nose is constant with thicker discharge, a color other than clear, and may contain blood or pus. Also, a runny nose in dogs is characterized by nasal discharge that goes from watery to thick and may contain pus or blood. Upper respiratory organs produce nasal discharge. Bear in mind that nasal discharge and sneezing are normal for dogs, and it should be a concern once it becomes chronic or severe.

Symptoms Of Runny Nose In Dogs

As mentioned earlier, you shouldn’t worry too much if your dog has a runny nose here and there, because nose discharge is common in dogs. But, if the runny nose in your dog becomes excessive and discharge shows to be green, yellow, cloudy, or even smelly, you should react. Furthermore, if you are in any kind of doubt, talk to your veterinarian.

Most common symptoms of runny nose in dogs:

  • Bad breath
  • Swollen or puffy eyes
  • Trouble breathing
  • Deterioration in dental health
  • Reduction in nasal respiration
  • Secretions on the fur of the dog’s face and/or arms

Fast fact: Mild or common runny nose is not a concern, while chronic or severe runny nose is.

Top 8 Most Common Causes Of Nose Discharge In Dogs

Chronic runny nose or severe runny nose may be a clear indicator of one of the following:


If there is a clear nasal discharge from your dog’s nose, chances are it’s caused by allergies. This is the most common reason for abnormal nasal secretions in dogs. This may come as a shock, but dogs can be allergic, just like humans, to foods, drugs, pollens, spores, and chemicals. Moreover, they can be even allergic to human shed skin, known as human dander. If your dog is allergic to something, his allergy symptoms don’t stop at a runny nose.

Additional allergy symptoms may include also coughing, eye discharge, breathing problems, sneezing, itchiness, and even nosebleeds. The best way to treat allergies is to avoid the allergy trigger, which is easier said than done, especially when you don’t know what’s behind your dog’s symptoms.

Make sure that you talk to your veterinarian, who may suggest an allergy test or/and treatment with drugs that may include steroids, biologicals, immunosuppressants, and antihistamines.

A Blockage

Runny nose in dogs may occur due to a hard blockage. A discharge from just one of the dog’s nostrils is a sign that there’s something stuck in that nostril.

In most cases, it’s a blade of grass or a seed. Some other signs may include nosebleeds, pawing at the nose, and sneezing. If you can easily see what is stuck in your dog’s nose, try to remove it with gentle moves and careful approach.

If you don’t feel comfortable or you’re afraid that you might hurt your dog, call your veterinarian. Dog’s nose can bleed a lot with minor trauma, and your veterinarian will probably sedate your dog first to dislodge the blockage and prescribe antibiotics to avoid infection.


Runny nose in the dog could indicate your dog has a viral, fungal, or bacterial infection. This symptom might be followed with bad odor, choking, a nosebleed, or coughing from postnasal drip. How this health condition will be treated depends on the cause. For example:

  • Bacterial infection – for this cause your veterinarian may prescribe several weeks of antibiotics
  • Fungal infection – this may require special treatments using anti-fungal drugs
  • Chronic infection – in this case a surgery may be necessary


If your dog has a yellow nose discharge in dogs, that is also sticky, the chances are that he is infected with distemper. Distemper can cause pneumonia, convulsions, fever, and twitching.

Treatment for this condition depends on the symptoms, and in most cases can include sedatives, painkillers, antibiotics, and anticonvulsants. Luckily, distemper can be prevented. How? By demonstrating responsible ownership and having a mandatory puppy vaccination three times, between the ages of 8 to 16 weeks, and by vaccinating breeding females several weeks before mating.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

One of the signs of this bacterial disease is having nosebleeds, which is transmitted by infected ticks. Some of the other common symptoms include high fever, coughing, pain, inflammation of the eyes, and lethargy.

The most common and efficient treatment includes several weeks of antibiotics. Use anti-tick products and reduce exposure to ticks to prevent this serious disease.

Nostril Problems

Just like humans, some dogs are prone to certain conditions than others, meaning that some dogs are more prone to nasal discharge than others.

Nostril problems are common in flat-faced breeds and dogs with floppy and soft nose cartilage. One of the most common representatives of the breed and dog with numerous breathing issues is Pug. In addition, noisy breathing can be another sigh of nostril issues.

In dogs with small nostrils, surgery is sometimes necessary. The same applies to dogs with cartilage problems. In most cases, surgery is often delayed until the dog is an adult.

Polyps And Tumors

Pus, mucus, or even blood can be a sign that your dog has nasal polyps or even nasal tumors. Other common signs may include heavy and noisy breathing or even a bulge on one side of the nose. You can expect for dog’s appetite to decrease, as well.

In most cases, treatment for polyps involves surgery. Polyps have a strong habit of reappearing, so additional treatment might be necessary. Treatment options for nasal tumors are variable, so benign tumors may be easily removed with surgery, while the cancerous ones are commonly managed with radiation. Cancerous tumors can’t be managed with just surgical removal.

Cleft Palate Or Fistula

Cleft palate is a condition when the two sides of the dog’s palate don’t fuse or even an oral-nasal fistula. In this case, the most common treatment for cleft palates and oral-nasal fistulas is a surgery.

Diagnosis Of Runny Nose On Dogs

Just like with any other health condition in dogs, proper diagnosis is halfway of recovery. You need to take your dog for veterinarian check-up so concrete action steps could be performed. If possible, try to schedule an appointment within 24 hours. Testing your dog will involve the full scope of different tests that may be used to diagnose the cause of dog’s runny nose. The most common tests will include rhinoscopy.


Rhinoscopy implies putting your dog under general anesthetic and examining the nasal passages through the insertion of a tube called an endoscope. Overall, this is a safe examination, because the anesthetic is used to prevent the dog from sneezing the tube out.

There is a tiny camera on the end of the tube that allows the veterinarian to see inside to spot abnormalities. Additionally, it features delicate surgical tools and can remove foreign bodies or take a sample of a suspicious growth.

Other tests may include a thorough dental exam. The practice showed that dental health is often major issues and a potential cause. That’s why veterinarians always talk about maintaining dog’s gums and teeth healthy. Moreover, the nasal discharge may be sampled and examined for bacteria and fungal components. Plus, the dog’s blood pressure may be recorded, as well as a test to determine your dog’s blood coagulation profile.

Treatment Of Runny Nose In Dogs

This is actually where the diagnosis matters the most because treatment will vary depending upon the diagnosis.

Allergies – if your dog suffers from allergies, it may be just a seasonal occurrence, or you should just eliminate something around the house.
Foreign object – if a foreign object is stuck into your dog’s nose, your veterinarian will remove it and advise you further on dog’s recovery. In some cases, it may involve an anti-inflammatory drug.
Bacterial infection – a bacterial infection will be treated with antibiotics, while a fungal infection will try to clear on its own, or veterinarian may prescribe antifungals. This will depend on the severity of the infection.
Dental diseases – this condition will be treated directly, via tooth cleaning or, if necessary, removal of teeth. This procedure is always performed under anesthesia.
Nasal cancer – this is by far the most serious cause of runny nose in dogs. Truth being told, this is a slow-growing but invasive form of cancer and it doesn’t respond well to chemotherapy. The treatment may involve surgical removal of cancerous tumors, which can be very complicated. Surgical procedure may be complicated due to the dog’s nasal passages. In addition, treatment may include radiation therapy if diagnosed early.

Recovery Of Runny Nose In Dogs

Recovery of a runny nose is as much important as treatment and early diagnosis. Make sure that you follow veterinarian’s instructions, to stick to the medications, and to follow by monitoring the dog’s recovery. Make sure that if sneezing or discharge continues, clean your dog’s nasal passages by wiping with a soft cloth or tissue.

Also, make sure that the dog’s environment is clean, that water is easily accessible and clean and monitor the dog’s dental health regularly.

Runny Nose In Dogs – Summary

Runny nose in a dog is not always a reason for immediate concern. In the case of a dog with no other symptoms and clean nasal discharge, a runny nose is a regular occurrence. But, when and if your dog develops other symptoms such as sneezing, fever, watery eyes, lack of appetite, or even a lethargy a trip to the veterinarian is warranted. If your dog gets a special treatment make sure that you follow through with treatment and follow up on veterinarians advice after the recovery.

If you are not sure why your dog suddenly has a runny nose, you should talk with your veterinarian. Reasons behind this are usually seen in allergies, nosebleeds, eye discharge, and even breathing problems.