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Nasal Problems in Dogs

9 Nasal Problems in Dogs

Nasal problems in dogs are common. The dog’s nose is an acute, intricate structure capable of detecting the faintest scents. 

The dog nose comprises the rhinarium, nostrils, nasal cavity, olfactory receptors, and a Jacobson’s organ.   

Nasal inflammation (rhinitis), polyps, tumors, trauma, foreign bodies, nasal congenital abnormalities, parasitic infections, and aspergillosis are common nasal problems in dogs. 

Some conditions occur more frequently than others. For example, a dog nose infection has a higher incidence rate than nasal mites. The telltale sign of nasal issues in dogs is nasal discharge or otorrhea. 

Nasal problems in dogs require prompt treatment, depending on the condition. Delayed treatment increases the risk of complications, like dog sinus infection. Sinusitis in dogs worsens the clinical manifestation. 

Prevent nasal problems in dogs through regular nasal inspections, keeping the dog up to date on vaccines, avoiding secondhand smoke exposure, and scheduling consistent veterinary appointments. 

1. Nasal Inflammation (Rhinitis)

Nasal inflammation (rhinitis) is inflammation of the nose’s mucous membranes. Sinusitis or inflammation accompanies rhinitis around the mucosal lining of the sinuses in many cases. Mixed inflammation is called rhino-sinusitis. 

Nasal discharge, frequent sneezing, snoring, nose pawing, and labored breathing are standard signs of nasal inflammation in dogs. The nasal discharge is clear in mild cases or thick and a green, yellow, or red color in severe rhinitis. 

Common causes of rhinitis are infections (bacterial, viral, fungal, or parasitic), allergies, cancer, polyps, foreign bodies, and head or nose trauma. 

Diagnosing a nasal or sinus infection in dogs involves blood tests, X-rays, rhinoscopy, nasal biopsy, and nasal cultures. 

Medications such as antibiotics or anti-inflammatories manage nasal inflammation (rhinitis) and sinus inflammation in cases of infection. Surgery is performed for dogs with trauma, and radiation therapy is recommended for dogs with nasal cancer. Allergy management treats allergic rhinitis in dogs

2. Nasal Polyps

Nasal polyps are noncancerous masses in the dog’s nose. Polyps do not invade other tissues and are not malignant, but they have the potential to turn into cancerous growths over time. 

Sneezing, nasal discharge, stertor, and asymmetrical deformation of the nasal region are telltale signs of nasal polyps. Stertor is a specific type of continuous snorting. Polyps close to the nostrils are visible as pink, fleshy masses. 

Polyp development is associated with chronic rhinitis due to foreign bodies and environmental factors like cigarette smoke. Long-nosed dogs, like Greyhounds and Setters, are prone to nasal polyps. 

Polyps are diagnosed through endoscopic nose examination, called rhinoscopy, and analysis of a polyp tissue sample or biopsy. 

The standard treatment for nasal polyps in dogs is surgery. Non-reachable polyps are treated medically with steroids and anti-inflammatories combined with radiation or antibiotics.  

3. Nasal Tumors

Nasal tumors are abnormal growths in dogs' noses, usually in the nasal passages. Most nasal tumors are malignant and locally invasive but generally don’t metastasize. 

Common tumor types include adenocarcinoma, sarcoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and transmissible venereal tumor (TVT). 

Symptoms of nasal tumors include nasal discharge, coughing, sneezing, reverse sneezing, bad breath, noisy breathing, nosebleeds, facial swelling, lethargy, and weight loss. 

A complex interaction of genetic and environmental factors causes nasal tumors in dogs. Urban pollution and cigarette smoke exposure increase the risk of nasal tumors.  

Diagnostic imaging, including X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs, is the golden standard for diagnosing nasal tumors. A biopsy determines the tumor type. 

Nasal tumors in dogs are treated with radiation. Some tumors require surgery or an anti-cancer pill called Palladia to reduce the tumor size and improve radiation success. 

4. Nasal Trauma

Nasal trauma is physical injury to the dog’s nose. The condition is painful and occurs due to blunt force trauma to the dog’s nose. 

Blood discharge from the nose, or epistaxis, is a telltale sign of nasal trauma. Visible facial deformity in the nose region and signs of pain like crying, whining, or whimpering accompany discharge. 

The most common cause of nasal trauma in dogs is physical injury. Injuries occur during play, such as when the dog runs around and hits its nose or in car accidents. 

Nasal trauma is diagnosed by clinical examination and diagnostic imaging (X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs). Mild trauma resolves independently, while heavy nasal trauma in dogs with bone fractures requires surgical correction.  

5. Nasal Foreign Bodies

Nasal foreign bodies are objects or materials lodged in the dog’s nasal passages. Dogs that enjoy examining their environment during walks are more prone to getting a foreign body stuck in their noses. 

Sneezing is the primary symptom of a nasal foreign body. Other signs include bloody discharge or epistaxis, excessive pawing at the nose, coughing, and difficulty breathing. 

Plant materials like foxtails, seeds, and small sticks are present in 81% of dog nasal foreign body cases, reports a study, “Nasal Foreign Bodies Identified by Rhinoscopy in Dogs: 42 Cases,” published in JSAP in 2020. Other foreign bodies include insects, pebbles, and small dog toy parts. 

Rhinoscopy and diagnostic imaging are the cornerstones of diagnosis. Treatment entails non-surgical (with forceps) or surgical retrieval depending on the size and location of nasal foreign bodies in dogs

6. Nasal Congenital Anomalies

Nasal congenital abnormalities in dogs refer to stenotic nares, which are pinched and narrow nostrils that impair normal airflow. 

Heavy breathing and snoring are telltale signs of nasal congenital abnormalities or dog stenotic nares. Panting and open-mouth breathing are common. 

Stenotic nares occur as part of brachycephalic airway obstructive syndrome (BOAS). The syndrome is common in short-nosed breeds, such as Pugs, Boxers, Boston Terriers, English Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, and Pekingese. 

Stenotic nares are diagnosed by visually examining the nose and considering the breed. The treatment for nasal congenital abnormalities in dogs is surgical correction. 

7. Nasal Parasitic Infections

Nasal parasitic infections in dogs are infections associated with canine nasal mites. Nasal mites reside in the nasal passages and sinus cavities, triggering painful infections. 

Symptoms of nasal mites in dogs include excessive sneezing, reverse sneezing, and bloody nasal discharge. Other signs are head shaking, nose pawing, facial itching, and impaired sense of smell. 

The canine nasal mite called Pneumonyssoides caninum causes parasitic infections. The mite is transmissible through direct and indirect contact with infected dogs. 

Nasal mites are diagnosed by flushing the nasal passages and analyzing the sample under a microscope. Treating nasal parasitic infections in dogs involves antiparasitic drugs, such as ivermectin, milbemycin oxime, and selamectin. 

8. Canine Nasal Aspergillosis

Canine nasal aspergillosis is a fungal infection of the dog’s nasal cavity and frontal sinuses. Canine sinonasal aspergillosis is a relatively common disease in dogs, reports a study “Canine Nasal Aspergillosis” published in CTSAP in 2006. 

The hallmark signs of nasal aspergillosis are heavy nasal discharge ranging from mucoid to bloody, facial region pain, and nostril ulcers or crusts. 

Nasal aspergillosis is caused by the fungus Aspergillus fumigatus. The fungus is widespread in the environment, particularly in soil. Dogs become infected when they encounter the fungal spores. 

Diagnosing the fungus requires a CT scan or rhinoscopy and a tissue biopsy. The treatment for canine nasal aspergillosis in dogs is flushing topical antifungals in the nose under general anesthesia. 

9. Nasal Dysplasia

Nasal dysplasia in dogs is congenital or acquired abnormal development of the dog’s nasal bones and cartilage. The abnormally developed nasal structures impede airflow and affect breathing. 

Standard signs of nasal dysplasia in dogs include discharge (rhinorrhea), snoring, troubled breathing, and facial deformities. 

The causes of nasal dysplasia are still being researched. Genetic and acquired factors, such as congenital problems, unusual growth patterns, and trauma, are believed to contribute to the condition. 

The diagnosis of nasal dysplasia is based on physical examination and imaging studies, primarily X-rays and CT scans. 

Mild cases of nasal dysplasia in dogs do not require treatment. Severe forms of dysplasia are surgically corrected to allow normal breathing. 

What Are the Key Components of Nose Anatomy in Dogs?

The key components of nose anatomy in dogs are listed below. 

  • Rhinarium: Rhinarium is the tip of the dog’s nose. The rhinarium in healthy dogs is cool and moist to the touch. 
    • Nostrils (Nares): The two nostrils are the nose’s openings divided by cartilage and a bony septum. Nostrils operate independently and change shape when the dog sniffs to redirect odor particles to the upper section of the snout toward the olfactory area. 
    • Nasal Cavity: The nasal cavity is an air-filled space above and behind the dog’s nostrils. A nasal septum divides the cavity into two portions, each continuing the nostril. The olfactory receptors and Jacobson’s (vomeronasal) organ are located on the nasal cavity’s roof.  
    • Olfactory Receptors: Olfactory receptors (ORs) are a unique type of G protein-coupled receptor critical for capturing and recognizing odor molecules. 
    • Jacobson’s Organ: The Jacobson’s or vomeronasal organ is called a second nose. The second nose anatomy in dogs is special. The Jacobson’s organ is wired to a part of the brain that detects specific compounds like pheromones.
    • Sinuses: The sinuses are empty spaces in the head directly connected to the nose. The sinuses improve voice, humidify inhaled air, buffer the nose from outside temperatures, and are lined with mucosa that fights infections. 

      Why do Dogs Have Nasal Problems?

      Dogs have nasal problems due to their anatomy and function. A dog’s nose is a delicate structure that interacts with countless outside elements. 

      Dogs are olfactory-driven and investigate through scent, which increases the risk of nasal problems. Living in urban settings and exposure to cigarette smoke adds to the high incidence of nasal conditions. 

      The most common nasal problem in dogs is nasal cavity inflammation or rhinitis. The second widespread condition is nasal tumors. 

      Nasal problems occur locally but impact the dog’s overall health. Some nose issues are life-threatening and require prompt veterinary care. 

      What Causes Nosebleeds in Dogs?

      The causes of nosebleeds in dogs are listed below. 

      • Trauma: Trauma is the main cause of nosebleeds in dogs. Dogs injure their noses when playing with other dogs or in a state of hyperactivity. 
      • Nasal Tumors: Squamous cell carcinoma, malignant melanoma, mast cell tumors, and nasal forms of transmissible venereal tumor (CTVT) are nasal tumors causing nosebleeds. 
      • Foreign Bodies: Dogs love sniffing and get foreign bodies stuck in their nostrils. Common examples are spiky plant materials like foxtails or cheatgrass. 
      • Bleeding Disorders: Bleeding problems in dogs are genetic (von Willebrand disease or vWD), immune-mediated (immune-mediated thrombocytopenia or ITP), or toxin-related (rodenticides). 
      • Tick-Borne Diseases: Ehrlichiosis, babesiosis, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever are widespread tick-borne diseases manifesting with nosebleeds. 

      Manage nosebleeds in dogs by performing first aid. First aid involves applying pressure to the nose from the outside and placing an ice pack to constrict the blood vessels and slow the bleeding. Long-term management of nosebleeds in dogs requires treating the underlying cause. 

      Are Nasal Discharges Normal in Dogs?

      Yes, nasal discharges are normal in dogs. A periodically small amount of clear nasal discharge is expected. 

      Nasal discharge in dogs requires veterinary attention if it has no apparent cause, lasts for a long time, and is accompanied by problematic symptoms. 

      Examples include runny eyes, coughing, persistent sneezing, nose pawing, nasal congestion, difficulty breathing, loss of appetite, lethargy, and fever. 

      Normal nasal discharge in dogs is thin and transparent, while abnormal discharge is thick and cloudy or colored green, yellow, or red. 

      How can I Determine if my Dog has a Smell Disorder?

      You can determine if your dog has a smell disorder in the following ways. 

      • Observe the dog’s food preference. Dogs with impeded smell are reticent when offered their favorite foods. Other dogs become picky and refuse to eat altogether unless the food is warmed up, intensifying its smell.  
      • Consider changes in the dog’s sniffing habits. A sudden disinterest in sniffing mailboxes, bushes, and fire hydrants during walks is a telltale sign of a diminished smell ability. 
      • Test the dog’s smelling skills with a treat. Hide the treat and do not let the dog see where its location to ensure it relies solely on its smelling abilities. An inability to find the hidden treat indicates smell disorders in dogs

      How to Prevent Nasal Problems in Dogs?

      The instructions on how to prevent nasal problems in dogs are listed below. 

      • Nose Inspection: Check the dog’s nose regularly. Observe changes such as discharge, lesions, asymmetry, or discoloration. Nasal problems are not always visible from the outside, but regular inspections are sometimes beneficial. 
      • Avoid Cancerogens: Do not smoke in the house if living with a dog. Research indicates a correlation between secondhand smoke exposure and an increased risk of nasal cancer in dogs. 
      • Vaccinate the Dog: Keep the dog up to date on vaccines. Vaccination is vital for preventing infectious diseases. Bacterial (Bordetella bronchiseptica) and viral (canine distemper) conditions covered by vaccines cause nasal problems.  
      • Schedule Regular Vet Visits: Consult the veterinarian at least once or twice a year for routine checkups. Veterinary examinations are the perfect time to catch nasal problems before they become severe.   

      What Dog Breeds Are Prone to Nasal Problems?

      The dog breeds prone to nasal problems are listed below. 

      • Brachycephalic Breeds: Brachycephalic breeds are dogs with flat noses, such as Pugs, Boxers, and Bulldogs. Flat-faced breeds are more prone to nasal discharge and congestion. 
      • Dolichocephalic Breeds: Dolichocephalic breeds are dogs with very long noses, like Greyhounds, Great Danes, and Irish Setters. Long-faced breeds are susceptible to nasal cancer. 

      Can Environmental Factors Impact Nose Health in Dogs?

      Yes, environmental factors can impact nose health in dogs. Environmental allergens, air pressure, and moisture affect a dog’s nose. 

      Airborne environmental allergens irritate the dog’s nose, causing allergic reactions. The nose responds by creating discharge. 

      Dry air provokes cracking of the surface of the nasal mucosa. Air pressure changes trigger an expansion and contraction of the nose blood vessels. 

      How Does Aging Affect the Olfactory System in Dogs?

      Aging affects the olfactory system in dogs by decreasing its effectiveness. The olfactory system is lined with epithelium with millions of olfactory receptor cells (ORC). Each ORC has hundreds of cilia with odor receptors on the surface. 

      Older dogs show a decrease in the number of ORCs and the number of cilia on ORCs,” reports a study, “Age-Related Changes in the Olfactory System of Dogs,” published in Neuropathology and Applied Neurobiology in 1996. 

      Nose (olfactory system) changes are present in dogs over the age of 14 and prominent in dogs older than 17. 

      Surveys report that owners notice an olfaction decline in aging pet dogs, according to a study published in 2018, “Owner Reported Sensory Impairments Affect Behavioural Signs Associated with Cognitive Decline in Dogs.” 

      When Should I Seek Veterinary Attention for My Dog's Nose Problems?

      You should seek veterinary attention for your dog’s nose problems if they are persistent or accompanied by other signs and symptoms. The underlying nature of the nasal problem must be considered. 

      For example, minor clear nasal discharge is common. Bleeding from the nose is concerning and warrants immediate veterinary attention. 

      See the vet promptly if loss of appetite, lethargy, lack of facial symmetry, or fever the nasal accompanies the nasal problem.