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Nasal Parasitic Infections in Dogs

Nasal Parasitic Infections in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

Nasal parasitic infections are upper respiratory infections due to parasites invading the nose. 

Common causes of nasal parasitic infections include nasal mites and nasal worms in dogs. Nasal mites are tiny parasites that make their way and latch onto nasal mucosa. 

Symptoms of nasal worm like mucus in nose are sneezing, nasal discharge, open-mouth breathing, lethargy, nose bleeding, head shaking, and weakness. Nasal parasites cause respiratory malfunction due to irritating the lining of the nasal cavity. 

Treating parasitic infection in dogs requires manual extraction via endoscopy, systemic antiparasitic medication, and antibiotics. Persistent irritation causes rhinitis and sinusitis that remain chronic until the parasite is identified and exterminated.

What is a Nasal Parasitic Infection in Dogs?

A nasal parasitic infection in dogs originates from a parasite that makes its way inside the nasal cavity. The parasite wreaks havoc inside the nasal passages by burrowing, biting, and migrating, causing an inflammatory response. The dog nose problems begin with a persistently runny and itchy nose, progressing to breathing difficulties and nosebleeds if left untreated. 

How do Dogs get Nasal Parasites?

Dogs get nasal parasites when they use their nose to sniff around the ground. Nasal mites (Pneumonyssoides caninum) and nasal worms (Capillaria boehmi) are the most common variety found on the ground. Nasal mites of the species Pneumonyssoides caninum are transmitted through contact with another infected host. 

The adult worms of the genus Capillaria inhabit the urinary tract, specifically the bladder. The eggs are released into the environment via urination. An unknowing dog sniffs the contaminated soil, leading to inhalation of the eggs that later become the source of nasal infection. 

How can Nasal Parasites Affect Dogs?

Nasal parasites affect dogs by causing respiratory malfunction. Parasites disrupt the nasal cavity by causing inflammation, pain, and irritation. The body recruits inflammatory cells, such as eosinophils and neutrophils, to eliminate the foreign parasite. 

The process results in inflammation of the nasal cavity epithelium (rhinitis). Infection, polyps, and tumors are consequences of persistent rhinitis due to unresolved nasal parasitic infection. Chronic rhinitis damages the olfactory epithelium inside the nasal cavity, causing a poor sense of smell and changes in behavior such as lethargy, weakness, and inappetence due to discomfort. 

Can Nasal Parasitic Infections cause Nose bleed in Dogs?

Yes, nasal parasitic infections cause nose bleeds in dogs. Epistaxis is a common sign in parasitic infections with nasal mites and occasionally in nasal worms. The nose bleeds are caused by the frequent movement and irritation of the parasites inside the nasal cavity, which damage the mucosa. Nose bleed in dogs occur with other diseases such as blood disorders, hemolytic anemias, nasal tumors, and traumatic injury. Take the dog to the veterinarian to identify the cause of epistaxis in dogs. 

Can Nasal Parasites invade Dog's Brain?

Yes, nasal parasites can invade a dog’s brain. There is at least one report of an irregular mixed infection of different species of the genus Capillaria in the dog. The autopsy of the dog revealed three thin and slender nematodes embedded in the mucosa from the nasal sinuses. 

The nematodes were identified as the species C. aerophila and C. boehmi. Further histologic inspection showed that “portions of the brain were molecularly positive for C. boehmi,” according to Morelli et al., in a case study entitled “An Unusual Case of Mixed Respiratory Capillariosis in a Dog,” 2021. C. boehmi is contracted via inhalation of eggs shed in the ground through urination, which then migrate to different body parts. 

What Are Nasal Parasitic Infection in Dogs Symptoms?

The nasal parasitic infection in dogs symptoms are listed below.

  • Head Shaking: A common sign of nasal discomfort is head shaking or tilting. Shaking is a way to alleviate pain caused by the nasal parasite. The dog tries to shake its head to remove parasites as they move or migrate around the body. The persistent head shaking interferes with daily activities, leaving the dog uneasy and stressed. 
  • Sneezing: Sneezing is a physiological mechanism that occurs whenever there are irritants in the nose. The gust of expired air forces out foreign objects in the nasal cavity. Dogs with nasal parasitic infection persistently sneeze to push out the parasite. The movement and migration trigger the nasal receptors to respond with sneezing. 
  • Nosebleeds: Parasites are live organisms in the nose that burrow through tissue. The parasitic movements damage nasal tissue, causing epistaxis. Dogs with nasal parasitic infections have mucopurulent discharge during a bacterial infection.
  • Difficulty Breathing: Nasal parasites affect breathing anatomically and physiologically. The size of the nasal cavity lumen is smaller when there are parasites. A smaller space means less airflow. The parasites illicit an immune-mediated response that triggers inflammatory cells. The inflammation tightens the airway and is able to affect the proceeding respiratory structures. 
  • Weakness: Nasal parasitic infections are highly uncomfortable. Dogs experiencing the disease are likely to be lethargic due to stress and pain. Nasal problems cause difficulties in olfaction that interfere with the dog’s ability to perceive the environment. 

How are Nasal Parasites Diagnosed?

Nasal parasites are diagnosed with the use of a tool called an endoscope. A routine physical exam and hematology are performed to assess for other differentials like nasal tumors, polyps, and foreign bodies before endoscopy. 

An endoscope is a long tubular organ with a camera at the end. The veterinarian uses the endoscope to manipulate and scope the nasal cavity for abnormal pathogens and growths while the dog is under anesthesia. 

Some parasites are hard to diagnose even with an endoscope, so radiologic imaging is done. X-rays rule out nasal foreign bodies and check for nasal parasitic infections, although not all are visible. 

What are Treatments for Nasal Parasitic Infection in Dogs?

The treatments for nasal parasitic infection in dogs are listed below:

  • Antibiotics: Dogs with nasal parasitic infection often develop secondary bacterial infections. Nasal epithelial trauma, nasal discharge, and inflammation allow pathogenic bacteria to thrive. Antibiotics are prescribed that are used to treat the infection and support the healing process. Common antibiotics include co-amoxiclav, cephalexin, or clindamycin.
  • Antiparasitics: Macrocyclic lactones and avermectins kill Nasal mites and nematodes. Drugs such as ivermectin, selamectin, and milbemycin oxime kill the nasal parasites effectively. The medication blocks the transmission of neuronal signals of the parasites, causing paralysis and eventual excretion.
  • Steroids: The nasal cavity lining is typically inflamed due to parasitic invasion. Severely affected dogs are prescribed steroids for potent and fast-acting relief. Common steroid medications are prednisone and prednisolone. Steroid medication reduces the inflammatory response by suppressing the migration of polymorphonuclear leukocytes.
  • NSAIDs: The nasal cavity lining becomes inflamed due to parasitic invasion. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs decrease the inflammation. NSAIDs inhibit the cyclooxygenase enzyme, which stops the arachidonic acid cascade that is responsible for releasing pro-inflammatory substances. NSAIDs reduce pain associated with the infection.
  • Surgical Removal: Parasites that are able to be visualized are removed surgically. The dog is sedated to facilitate a comfortable extraction. An endoscope is used to visualize and carefully extract the nasal parasites. 

How do you Prevent Nasal Parasites in your Dogs?

You prevent nasal parasites in your dogs by staying on top of antiparasitic medications. Over-the-counter antiparasitic medications are highly effective against a broad spectrum of ectoparasites. The medications typically last a month and must be given throughout the year, especially to dogs with high outdoor exposure. Common medications are milbemycin oxime, ivermectin, furalaner, and sarolaner, or a combination of these, which come in chewable tablets. 

Are nasal mites fatal in dogs?

No, nasal mites are not fatal in dogs. Nasal mite infections are treatable when managed with proper medication. The veterinarian administers antiparasitic medication that exterminates the mite population on the dog. Infection is managed through the appropriate antibiotics and anti-inflammatories. Chronic nasal mite infection leads to persistent rhinitis, leading to more severe problems such as sinusitis, nasal polyps, or nasal tumors. 

Are nasal mites curable?

Yes, nasal mites are curable. Nasal mites are successfully treated with antiparasitic medication such as ivermectin, selamectin, and milbemycin oxime. Secondary infections are treated with antibiotic medication such as co-amoxiclav, cephalexin, or clindamycin. The post-inflammatory response is managed with NSAIDs that help resolve rhinitis and reduce associated pain. 

Can CBD Oil Help Dogs Recover from Nasal Parasitic Infection?

Yes, CBD oil helps dogs recover from nasal parasitic infection. CBD acts on the ECS or endocannabinoid system, a complex mechanism that regulates primary bodily functions. The ECS influences metabolism, stress, memory, pain control, and inflammatory and immune responses. CBD oil for dogs helps relieve pain and reduces anxiety. Consult a veterinarian for the proper use of CBD in dogs with parasitic infections. 

How is Nasal Parasitic Infection Different from Nasal Foreign Bodies in Dogs?

Nasal parasitic infection is different from nasal foreign bodies because nasal foreign bodies are usually inanimate objects. The problem level is greater with a parasitic infection than with a nasal foreign body. Grass, seeds, small stones, and twigs are common sources of nasal foreign bodies in dogs. Parasites obstruct to a certain degree but primarily cause damage through active migration and movement. 

Nasal foreign bodies are more easily cured than parasites as they are inanimate objects that require extraction. Parasites are alive and move in the nasal cavity, creating greater harm and requiring immediate treatment. Large parasites that die are considered foreign body obstructions that require surgical removal. Dogs are able to remove minor nasal bodies, such as grass, through sneezing, but larger objects require surgical extraction by a veterinarian. A parasitic infection is treatable at home using antibiotics prescribed by the vet after consultation. 

What are Long-Term Effects of Parasitic Infection in Your Dogs' Nose?

The long-term effects of parasitic infection in your dog’s nose are listed below. 

  • Loss of Sense of Smell: Olfactory sensors are present in the nasal epithelium of the nasal cavity. Nasal parasitic infections cause the inflammation of the nasal epithelium, otherwise known as rhinitis. Chronic rhinitis leads to damaged olfactory sensors that dull the dog’s sense of smell.
  • Nasal Trauma: Head shaking, nose rubbing, and face pawing are commonly observed in dogs with nasal parasites. Persistent nasal abrasion predisposes the dog to develop traumatic sores that further complicate the condition. Tissue damage from parasitic movement and migration damages nasal structures. 
  • Sinusitis: Rhinitis is a common side effect of nasal parasitic infection. Rhinitis develops into sinusitis or inflammation of the sinuses. The sinuses are chambers that secrete mucus to humidify and filter the air before it reaches the lungs. Sinusitis is painful and predisposes the dog to lower airway infection. 
  • Brain Involvement: Certain nasal worms have been reported in the brain tissue of a dog. Nasal parasites begin at the olfactory structures but have the capacity to migrate further. The migration to the brain causes central nervous system compromise, a severe and life-threatening concern.
  • Lower Respiratory Infection: Nasal parasitic infections are able to lead to rhinitis and sinusitis. The nasal epithelium and sinuses filter out and humidify inspired air before entering the lungs. Compromised filtration mechanisms predispose the dog to lower airway infection. The increased exposure of microbes to the lower airway leads to infection. 

Can Nasal Parasitic Infections go away?

Yes, nasal parasitic infections go away with proper medication and management. The veterinarian prescribes antiparasitics to eliminate the underlying parasite causing the inflammation. The infection is managed with painkillers, antibiotics, and manual removal when necessary. Nasal parasitic infections are highly manageable with proper care and management. Consult a veterinarian to treat nasal parasitic infections in dogs.