Why is My Dog’s Nose Running?

December 2, 2021

dog running nose

Key Takeaways: 

  • There is a difference between a dog’s naturally wet nose and a runny nose; a dog with a runny nose will constantly be producing discharge from their nasal passages, whereas a dog with a naturally wet nose will simply have a thin film of clear moisture all around their nose
  • The most common form of nasal discharge in dogs is clear, runny, and watery, is often caused by allergies, and requires no immediate medical attention
  • Nasal discharge in dogs is usually only a serious concern if the discharge is bloody, if it is unilateral, or if you,  it is preventing your dog from breathing well

 Sometimes when you look at dogs, you may notice that their typically shiny, wet nose looks a bit more shiny and wet than usual. In fact, it looks like there’s two streams of moisture running down their nostrils! What gives?! Well, just like you and me, your dog can develop a runny nose, too!

But is that such a bad thing? Is a runny nose in a dog a cause for concern, or should you just let them deal with the sniffles for a few days? Well, we’ll answer all that and more in the short blog below!

Why is a Dog’s Nose Wet anyway?

“Hey, wait a second,” we hear you say internally, “Aren’t dogs’ noses supposed to be wet?… like all the time? Isn’t that supposed to be a sign of health for them?”.

Well, yes! Dogs do have naturally moist noses. This is for two reasons:

  • Dog noses are coated in a thin layer of mucus that absorbs and holds scents to help them smell
  • Dogs’ noses are one of the few places on their body where they can sweat and cool down from (the other is their paws!)

However, we’re not here to discuss the natural state of a dog’s nose. We’re here to talk about runny noses. And, yes, there’s a difference. A big one.

A dog’s naturally wet nose will just look a bit shiny and moist. If a dog has a runny nose, their nose will, well…. run. It’ll drip. It’ll be kind of gross, if we’re being honest.

Why Do Dogs Get a Runny Nose?

dogs nose running

A runny nose in dogs, also called nasal discharge, is a relatively common occurrence.  It’s where they begin constantly producing substance and material from their nasal passages over a period of a few days.

However, most runny noses in dogs aren’t cause for concern. After all, how often do you rush to the ER just because your nose is a little bit runny? Not often, we hope….

Just like with humans, there are multiple reasons why a dog’s nose may run. Some of the reasons that your dog’s nose may become runny include:

  • Allergies
    Allergies are by far the most common reason for nasal discharge in dogs. Just like people, dogs can develop allergies of varying severity to things. It might be pollen, food, drugs, mites, spores, and even human dander! Dogs who are allergic to something in their environment are likely to exhibit other symptoms besides a runny nose.  This includes sneezing, coughing, eye discharge, or breathing difficulty. 
  • Irritants from the Ground
    Since dogs use their nose to sniff all around, it’s possible for their nose to pick up all sorts of irritating debris. This can include items such as dust, ash, flakes from soap or cleaning products, and plenty more.“Since canines are low to the ground and explore with their nose, they tend to inhale things that we don’t typically get exposed to walking at our level,” writes Stephanie Liff of Pure Paws Veterinary Clinic for PetMD. “Over time, some of these things can irritate their nasal cavities and cause a runny nose.”
  • Blockages
    Just like dogs can accidentally sniff things that irritate their nasal passages, dogs can also accidentally inhale something foreign directly into their nostrils! These can include things like bits of food, seeds, or even parts of plants.
  • Infections
    A variety of both bacterial, fungal, and viral infections can cause nasal discharge in dogs. If your dog is suffering from an infection, they’re likely to also present with other symptoms including nosebleeds or coughing. Your dog may also be suffering from rhinitis. This is a simple nasal infection caused by repeated irritation and inflammation of the nose.
  • Nasal tumors
    We hate to think about it, but it does happen: your dog can develop a tumor in his nose. Other signs of nasal tumors include noisy breathing or a noticeable bulge on one side of the dog’s face.
  • Dental Issues
    There’s an old saying that goes ‘Dental health is at the root of human health’. Well, it’s true for dogs too. If a dog has an unresolved cavity or infection in their upper teeth, it can quickly turn into an abscess. Over time, tooth abscesses can put pressure on the nasal passages and cause increased discharge.

But you won’t have to rely on intuition alone to determine what’s causing your dog’s nose to run. Dogs’ nasal discharge can have several unique characteristics that can give you a better idea of what’s causing their nose to run. This is important to know since uncovering the root cause of why your dog’s nose is running is the first step in getting them treatment …if they need it.

Types of Nasal Discharge in Dogs

why is my dog's nose drippingNasal discharge in dogs will either be unilateral (occurring in one nostril) or bilateral (occurring in both nostrils). Typically, vets are more concerned when nasal discharge is unilateral since that can be indicative of issues with that specific nostril. Bilateral nasal discharge is often viewed as indicative of problems with a larger system.

There are several types of nasal discharge in dogs. Some of these types of nasal discharge are listed below.

  • Serous Discharge
    Clear, watery, and runny, contains dissolved proteins and antibodies; the least serious and most common form of discharge which usually subsides within a few days of onset
  • Mucoid Discharge
    Mucoid discharge is often white or yellow in color and is common when there is chronic, underlying inflammation
  • Purulent Discharge
    Yellow or green in color, often seen when there is a secondary bacterial infection, though the infection may also be primary
  • Mucopurulent Discharge
    A combination of purulent and mucoid discharge, can be seen for any of the reasons described above
  • Sanguineous Discharge
    Occurs when red blood cells are present in the discharge and implies that there is enough damage within the nose that it affects vascular integrity

    • This type of discharge may be seen with neoplasia, fungal infections, foreign bodies stuck in the nose, or trauma to the nose

Luckily, not all forms of nasal discharge require treatment and will likely subside within a few days. However, some forms of canine nasal discharge should be cause for further examination. This is especially true if you notice blood in the dog’s nasal discharge, or if the discharge continues unabated for more than a week without cession.

How to Treat a Dog’s Runny Nose

vet treat dog running noseIn order to properly treat a persistently runny nose in your dog, you will need to take her to a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis.

Once at the vet’s office, they will quickly get to work trying to get to the bottom of what’s causing your dog’s nose to run. They will check your dog’s teeth, listen to their heart and lungs, and take their temperature to look for signs of infections. They may also decide to take x-rays of your dog’s nose and skull to look for potential inflammation around the nasal passages or blockages.

However, if this test is unsuccessful at finding anything, your veterinarian may also order a scope on your dog’s nose. This test will have the veterinarian stick a small camera up your dog’s nose to look for tumors or foreign items that may be causing the discharge.

Finally, the vet may ask to take a culture of your dog’s nose. This is so that they can gain a clear understanding of what chemicals or living organisms are present inside your dog’s discharge.

The treatment that your veterinarian will recommend will depend entirely on what they deduce as the root cause of your dog’s nasal discharge. If they suspect simple rhinitis, they will likely prescribe antihistamines to reduce inflammation in the area. If they have reason to believe a bacterial or fungal infection is to blame, they may prescribe a course of antibiotics or antifungal medication.

If they believe something more serious is to blame such as a nasal polyp or tumor, they may recommend surgery. Thankfully, most forms of nasal discharge are not harmful and will not require any type of serious medical intervention. However, it’s always important to pay attention to how your pet is feeling and know when it’s time to seek veterinary attention.

“Every dog is different, just like every person,” writes Dr. Jenna Sansolo of Ardsley Veterinary Associates for PetMD. “Whenever you notice something out of the ordinary for your dog it is never wrong to have your veterinarian take a look.”

Of course, we know that you’re likely to go the extra mile to make sure your Best Friend is happy and healthy. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be reading our blog to gain insights on how to be the best pet parent that you can be!

So, after you’re done reading about how to keep your dog’s sniffer working well, give yourself some time to read about how to prevent them from stinking up your house in the event they get sprayed by a skunk! Or how long can a dog go without peeing or just a page about… dog health care issues.



Share this Post