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Nasal Foreign Bodies in Dogs

Nasal Foreign Bodies in Dogs: Causes, Signs, Types, and Treatments

Nasal foreign bodies in dogs are objects lodged in the dog’s nose. The most common foreign body is grass awns. Other forms of debris include grass blades, seeds, pebbles, sand, insects, and dog toy chunks. 

Dogs are susceptible to nasal foreign bodies due to their reliance on their nose for navigation. Long-nosed working dogs are at a higher risk of inhaling a foreign object. 

Nasal foreign bodies in dogs cause inflammation, trigger local swelling, and impair normal airflow, leading to bleeding if left untreated. 

Excessive sneezing, heavy nasal discharge, nosebleeds, nose or face pawing, breathing noise, and loss of appetite are telltale signs a dog has something stuck in nose cavities. 

Foreign bodies are treated with surgery or a minimally invasive procedure. Nasal flushing is a frequently used non-surgical approach. Performing a nasal flush for dogs at home is possible, but it is recommended to consult a veterinarian if uncertain about the method.  

What are Nasal Foreign Bodies in Dogs?

Nasal foreign bodies in dogs are any object or material lodged in the dog’s nose. Foreign bodies trapped in the nasal passages cause irritation and discomfort.

Grass awns are the most recurrent foreign body in dogs, accounting for over 90% of the retrieved objects, according to a study, “Nasal Foreign Bodies Identified by Rhinoscopy in Dogs: 42 Cases,” published in the Journal of Small Animal Practice in 2020. 

Other common nasal foreign objects in dogs include plant materials like twigs or chip barks, mineral bodies such as pebbles, sand, dirt, insects, and dog toy fragments. 

Foreign objects embed themselves into the mucosal lining of the nasal passages. Persistent and excessive sneezing is a standard sign there is something stuck in dogs nose.   

Nasal foreign bodies cause local infections or rhinitis if left untreated. Foreign bodies in the nose are one of the most common dog nasal problems

Why do Dogs Have Nasal Foreign Bodies?

Dogs have nasal foreign bodies because they enjoy sniffing. Canines are naturally curious and have an acute sense of smell, predisposing them to foreign body inhalation. 

Sniffing is an efficient mechanism for maximizing odor detection. The process consists of a series of rapid inhalations and expirations, and dogs take up to 30 inhalations and expirations per episode. 

The inhaling force in sniffing is significant and accidentally pulls a foreign body alongside the odor particles in some instances.   

What Particular Dog Breeds Are Susceptible to Nasal Foreign Bodies?

The particular dog breeds susceptible to nasal foreign bodies are listed below. 

  • Dolichocephalic Breeds: Dogs with long noses are more likely to get a nasal foreign body. Examples of long-nosed or dolichocephalic breeds are Greyhounds, Collies, and Dachshunds. 
  • Active Dog Breeds: Active breeds that require more exercise outside are significantly more likely to have nasal foreign bodies. Outdoorsy breeds include Labrador Retrievers, Weimaraners, and Vizslas. 
  • Working Dog Breeds: Working dog breeds, such as Retrievers, German Shepherds, and Belgian Malinois, are more susceptible to nasal foreign bodies while performing their work duties.  

Can Nasal Foreign Bodies in Dogs Cause Inflammation?

Yes, nasal foreign bodies in dogs can cause inflammation. Foreign bodies lodge in the nasal passages and trigger local inflammation. 

The inflammation spreads from the nose to the sinuses if left untreated. The medical term for nose inflammation is rhinitis. Inflammation affecting the nose and sinuses is rhinosinusitis. 

Nasal inflammation associated with foreign bodies is highly uncomfortable and causes nasal discharge, rhinorrhea, and excessive sneezing. 

What are the Different Types of Nasal Foreign Bodies in Dogs?

The different types of nasal foreign bodies in dogs are listed below. 

  • Grass Awns: The most common nasal foreign body is the grass awn. Awns, like foxtails and cheatgrass, have sharp bristles that lodge in the nasal mucosa. Sneezing does not eliminate grass awns because the direction of the bristles limits their movement.  
  • Various Plant Materials: Other plant materials include grass blades, plant seeds, small twigs, branches, chip bark, and wooden splinters. Plants decay in the nose, contributing to inflammatory and infectious processes. 
  • Mineral Materials: Dogs inadvertently inhale minerals like sand particles, pebbles, and small stones. Mineral materials do not decompose once lodged in the nose and cause continuous irritation.  
  • Dust and Dirt: Dust and dirt particles easily become lodged and cause irritation in the dog’s nasal passages, especially in dogs digging around or playing in dusty environments. 
  • Broken Toy Pieces: Dogs enjoy chewing and breaking toys into small pieces. The pieces enter the dog’s nostrils during chewing. Dog toys are plastic, and the broken chunks have sharp edges, causing severe nasal irritation when inhaled. 
  • Insects: Various insects, including flies or bees, get inhaled into the dog’s nose and act as foreign bodies. 

What Causes Nasal Foreign Bodies in Dogs?

The causes of nasal foreign bodies in dogs are listed below. 

  • Investigative Sniffing: Sniffing is a series of forceful inhalations and expirations during which the normal breathing patterns cease. Sniffing is powerful and causes foreign bodies. 
  • Curious Nature: Dogs are inquisitive and rely on their noses to navigate the world. Keeping the nose on the ground and other surfaces causes foreign body inhalation.  
  • Playing Accidents: Dogs play with toys and other items, putting them at risk of inhaling fragments that become lodged in the nasal passages. 
  • Time Outdoors: Spending time outdoors is a primary cause of foreign bodies in dogs. Most foreign objects, like plant and mineral materials, are in the environment. 
  • Self-Grooming: Dogs frequently self-groom and accidentally inhale dirt and miscellaneous debris lodged in their coats during the routine. 

What Are the Signs My Dog Has Something Stuck in His Nose?

The signs your dog has something stuck in his nose are listed below. 

  • Excessive Sneezing: The first sign of a nasal foreign body in dogs is forceful sneezing. Foreign bodies irritating the sensitive nasal mucosal lining causes sneezing. 
  • Heavy Nasal Discharge: Foreign bodies in the nasal passages lead to mucus buildup, resulting in unexplained, heavy, and persistent nasal discharge. 
  • Nosebleeds (Epistaxis): The nasal discharge progresses into nasal bleeding due to forceful sneezing and foreign body trauma to the small blood vessels in the nose. 
  • Nose or Face Pawing: Excessive nose or face pawing is typical with nasal foreign objects, as the dog attempts to eliminate the source of irritation. 
  • Breathing Noises: Foreign objects obstruct airflow and cause changes in breathing sounds. Common sounds include snoring and wheezing. 
  • Loss of Appetite: The pain and discomfort caused by the nasal foreign object reduce the dog’s interest in food. 
  • Visible Foreign Object: Certain foreign bodies are partially visible or stick from the dog’s nose, depending on size, type, and location. 

How are Nasal Foreign Bodies in Dogs Diagnosed?

Nasal foreign bodies in dogs are diagnosed through physical examination, rhinoscopy, and imaging techniques. 

Rhinoscopy is the diagnostic standard for nasal foreign bodies. The procedure entails inserting a small-diameter endoscope into the nostrils to visualize the dog’s nasal passages in real-time. General anesthesia is administered during rhinoscopy. 

Veterinarians employ imaging, such as X-rays or advanced techniques like MRI and CT scans, to view foreign objects not visible through rhinoscopy or to assess the damage. 

Computed tomography or CT scans are useful in the investigation of nasal foreign bodies, according to a study, “CT Findings in 20 Dogs and Six Cats with Confirmed Nasal Foreign Bodies,” published in Veterinary Radiology & Ultrasound in 2019. 

Do Nasal Foreign Bodies Cause Bleeding in Dogs?

Yes, nasal foreign bodies cause bleeding in dogs. Lodged Foreign bodies in the mucosal lining of the nasal passages damage the local blood vessels. Broken blood vessels result in bleeding. 

Foreign bodies trigger violent sneezing. Excessive sneezing damages the nasal mucosa and causes nosebleeds. The medical term for a dog nose bleed is epistaxis. A bloody nasal discharge is a telltale sign of foreign bodies in the nose.  

How is the Surgical Treatment for Dogs with Nasal Foreign Bodies?

The surgical treatment for dogs with nasal foreign bodies is a standard or endoscopic procedure performed under general anesthesia. 

The standard surgery is rhinotomy, which involves an incision that opens the nasal cavity. A study, “Rhinotomy for Chronic Rhinitis by Nasal Foreign Body in a Dog,” published in the Journal of Veterinary Clinics in 2011, indicates that it is recommended for foreign objects that are difficult to remove with an endoscope. 

The endoscopic approach uses an endoscope with an attached grasping tool. An endoscope is inserted into the nostril, and the grasping tool extracts the foreign body. Endoscopic surgeries are minimally invasive.

The veterinarian prescribes analgesics and antibiotics after the surgery to manage pain and prevent secondary infections in the recovery period. 

What are Non-Surgical Treatments for Dogs with Nasal Foreign Bodies?

The non-surgical treatments for dogs with nasal foreign bodies are listed below. 

  • Manual Removal: Manual removal is attempted when the foreign body sticks out of the nose or is easily accessible. The veterinarian removes the object by hand or with a grasping tool called a forceps. Manual removal of a nasal foreign body in dogs must be performed by a professional and not attempted at home. 
  • Nasal Flushing: Nasal flushing or irrigation is a procedure in which large amounts of fluid are forcefully inserted into the nasal passages to dislodge and remove the foreign body. The procedure requires sedation or anesthesia, depending on the dog. 
  • Medications: Anti-inflammatories and antibiotics are administered when the foreign body is not visible. Medication helps control infections, reduce swelling, and support healing while the body is left to dissolve naturally. Careful monitoring is necessary to ensure the nasal foreign body dissolves properly. 

How to Prevent Nasal Foreign Bodies in Dogs?

Prevent nasal foreign bodies in dogs through environmental control and behavioral training. Foreign bodies are not fully avoidable, but preventive measures reduce the risk. 

Environmental control entails securing the yard and house. Remove tiny objects, June grass, or other spiky plant material from the garden, and keep toys and beads in the house outside the dog’s reach. 

Behavioral training for nasal foreign body prevention includes the “leave it” command and leash training. The “leave it” command reduces the risk of sniffing hazardous items, and walking on a leash keeps the owner in control. 

Can I flush my dog's nose with water to Remove a Nasal Foreign Body?

No, you cannot flush your dog’s nose with water to remove a nasal foreign body. Tap water is not sterile and should be avoided for nose flushing. 

The recommended nasal flushing liquid is saline solution. Saline is commercially available and easy to find. 

An alternative to a store-bought solution is to make nasal flush for dogs at home. Prepare saline solution by mixing a quarter to half a teaspoon of salt with one cup of water while stirring until the salt dissolves. 

How to Flush a Dog's Nose that Has Foreign Bodies?

The instructions on how to flush a dog’s nose that has foreign bodies are given below. 

  1. Prepare the Equipment: Buy a commercial or homemade saline solution and a large syringe. Have the tools at hand for easy maneuvering. Prepare a towel to wipe the dog’s nose after the flushing.  
  2. Hold the Dog’s Muzzle: Hold the dog by the nose for stability and tip its head backward slightly to ensure proper positioning. Having an assistant to hold the dog is beneficial. 
  3. Squirt the Solution: Use the syringe to squirt the saline solution into the dog’s nostrils gently. Repeat the procedure several times and with the other nostril. The dog swallows some solution, and the rest drips from the nose. 
  4. Ask for Veterinary Help: Flushing saline solution for dogs nose is not always straightforward, and have a veterinarian perform the procedure in most cases. Flushing does not guarantee removal, and veterinary consultation is recommended. 

Is Nasal Flush for Dogs Safe?

Yes, nasal flush for dogs is safe. A nasal flush is safe to perform when done correctly. Consult a veterinarian if unsure how to do the procedure. 

Do not attempt to do a nasal flush in dogs at home if there is severe bleeding or the dog is too distressed. Flushing adds to the irritation and intensifies bleeding, while a distressed dog is a risk for itself and others. 

Is a Nasal Foreign Body an Emergency?

Yes, a nasal foreign body is an emergency. The dog’s nose is well-vascularized and rich in blood vessels. Heavy bleeding accompanies the presence of a foreign body. 

The foreign body causes local tissue swelling and obstructs normal airflow, impairing breathing. See a vet immediately if the dog is dealing with heavy bleeding or has breathing affected by the foreign body. 

Can Nasal Foreign Bodies in Dogs Cause Inhalant Allergies?

No, nasal foreign bodies in dogs cannot cause inhalant allergies. Allergies are immune system overreactions. 

Inhalant allergies in dogs occur when the immune system misidentifies airborne particles as a threat. Airborne allergens are pollens, seeds, dust, mold spores, mildew, dander, and feathers. 

The causes of foreign bodies and inhalant allergies overlap in some cases. For example, a grass seed acts as a foreign body and an allergen for sensitive dogs. 

The foreign body, however, is a distinct problem and does not cause inhalant allergies in dogs