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Why is My Dog’s Nose Running? Reasons and Treatment For Canine Nasal Discharge

why is my dogs nose running

Healthy canines naturally have a moist nose, but you need to know why your dog’s nose is running if it’s too watery. A runny nose is normal every once in a while, but incessant discharge on a regular basis suggests something dire like tumors or infection.

A dog’s nose should be the perfect level of moistness, and any extremities of dryness or runniness indicate a problem. Remember the last time you had a blocked, running nose and promised never to take breathing for granted ever again? That’s probably exactly how your pup feels with a running nose.

Many instances of a running nose clear out themselves, but you can help fasten the process. In addition to long-term remedies for infections that cause this issue, like multivitamins, we cover other immediate solutions.

What Causes a Runny Nose in Dogs? 9 Reasons 

Allergies, irritants, viral or bacterial infections,  nasal mites, and dental problems are the most common reasons your dog’s nose runs. Occasionally, a nagging case of a watery nose can suggest a more sinister medical condition like cancer.

Luckily, clear nasal discharge that pops up occasionally will most likely clear on its own. The real concern is when the nasal discharge appears yellow, green, cloudy, or smelly since it implies an underlying condition. The discharge can be unilateral (from one nostril) or bilateral (from both). 

A dog’s nose is highly sensitive, with 100 to 300 million receptors compared to our 6 million receptors. Because of this sensitivity, any nasal issue is extremely inconvenient for your dog, so finding and solving the root cause is best. Here is a list of nine top reasons your dog’s nose is running. 

  1. Allergies 

Allergies are one of the most common causes of a running nose in dogs, called allergic rhinitis. You’ll notice either clear or cloudy discharge from both nostrils if allergies are the culprit. Dogs are allergic to pollen, certain foods, or even human dander—yes, your furbaby can be allergic to you.

If allergies cause your dog’s watery nose, you’ll also notice the following:

  • Sneezing
  • Itchiness
  • Swelling
  • Red, inflamed skin

A nose that runs due to allergies is typically short-lived until the allergen is removed. On the other hand, allergic reactions can be elusive, especially before a medical diagnosis establishes the allergen. You can also see our related article on dog eye allergies.

  1. Foreign Objects / Irritants 

Dogs explore with their noses, exposing them to multiple foreign objects that could irritate them. Nasal discharge due to the presence of discharge is often from one nostril where the irritant is lodged, such as grass awns Sneezing, pawing at the nose, and sometimes nose bleeding are other signs of a nasal irritant. 

A foreign object could be a seed, grass, or any other minuscule object. If it’s possible to see the object, carefully remove it with a tweezer if you’re confident. If you can’t spot the irritant, call your vet because even a minor nose trauma can cause a lot of bleeding.

  1. Bacterial and Fungal Infection of the Sinuses

All dogs are prone to infections of the sinuses, and they aren’t pretty. You’ll notice a colored green or yellow discharge from both nostrils if your dog has a nasal infection. Bad odor, coughing, and sometimes nose bleeds are other signs of an infection in your dog, 

  1. Viral Infection Like Dog Flu, Kennel Cough or Distemper

Dogs have their fair share of viral infections, some affecting their respiratory tract, causing discharge from either one or both nostrils.  All viral infections are extremely contagious, so your pet could have easily picked them up from parks, the vet, groomers, or anywhere.

  • Canine Influenza

Dogs can come down with the flu, just like humans, and it’s just as nasty. Canine influenza has several strains, and luckily, none are particularly lethal, but neither is a walk in the park. If your dog has influenza, you’ll notice a watery nose, fever, cough, reduced appetite, and lethargy.

  • Distemper

Canine distemper is a severe viral condition that’s much like a cold but way more severe and can result in pneumonia.  Distemper causes a sticky, yellow discharge accompanied by fever, twitching, eye discharge, vomiting, coughing, and even convulsions. 

While some dogs can recover from the condition, it’s best to vaccinate dogs at 8 to 16 weeks and offer boosters. 

  • Kennel Cough

Kennel cough or Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex is the common name for infectious tracheobronchitis. The disease is either viral or bacterial, resulting in nasal discharge, difficulty breathing, fever, snorting, coughing, and sneezing. Kennel cough is a misnomer to describe upper respiratory infections in dogs. 

  1. Dental diseases

Tooth abscesses, especially around the upper jaw, can cause nasal discharges due to the proximity of the teeth and the nose. Halitosis, reduced appetite, and chewing from one side often accompanies nasal discharge due to dental problems.

  1. Genetic Predisposition

Some dogs are more naturally more likely to suffer from nasal problems like breathing difficulties and discharge than others.  It’s not unusual to encounter running noses in Brachycephalic (flat-faced) breeds like Pugs, Frenchies, Boxers, Boston Terriers, and the like. 

Brachycephalic airway syndrome affecting flat-faced dogs also causes heavy breathing, snorting, difficulty exercising, and collapsing in severe cases. Dogs with soft, floppy cartilage are also susceptible to nasal discharge. Cleft palates, occurring when the two sides of your dog’s palate don’t fuse,  are another likely genetic cause of the continuous nasal discharge.

  1. Tumors

Persistent watery noses can suggest neoplasia or cancer in some instances. Although rare (affecting 1 to 2% of all dogs), tumors can cause one-sided, thick green mucoid discharge. Other accompanying symptoms are extreme weight loss, fatigue, and a bulge on one side of the nose.  

  1. Nasal Mites

Dogs sometimes suffer from a parasite infestation, specifically affecting their nasal regions. Nasal mites dwell in the affected dog’s sinuses and nasal passages. The irritation these parasites cause results in nasal discharge and bleeding if the mites remain uncontrolled. 

  1. Temperature Regulation 

Unlike people who can sweat, dogs lose excess heat through their paw pads, tongues, and sometimes nose by convention. When it’s too hot, you’ll likely see your dog’s nose as unusually moist as they try to regulate their temperature. 

Nasal discharge due to heat is typically clear and thin and quickly subsides when the dog moves to a cooler area.

Help! My Dog’s Nose Has a Running Nose and is Sneezing

Help! My Dog’s Nose Has a Running Nose and is Sneezing

Allergies are the biggest reason for a runny nose with sneezing due to exposure to allergens. Pollen and food allergies are the most common cause of reactions, while others have contact dermatitis. Sudden sneezing and runny nose can also result from your dog breathing in a foreign object like a grass blade.

Sneezing and a watery nose also imply canine respiratory disease (Kennel cough). Kennel Cough is a broad name for various viral and bacterial microbes that cause issues with the respiratory region. These include Bordetella bronchiseptica (bacterial), Canine Influenza, Canine distemper, and adenovirus (viral).

Help! My Dog Has a Running Nose with Green Discharge

The severity of running noses in dogs depends on the discharge color, with green resulting from respiratory infections. This could be a bacterial, fungal, or viral infection, and the discharge is often foul-smelling and can escalate to nosebleeds. 

Accompanying signs along with green discharge include coughing, fever, difficulty breathing, fatigue, and weight loss. Some cases are minor, while others result in full-blown pneumonia, but either way, medical attention provides necessary relief. 

How is a Running Nose Diagnosed?

As you have seen, most signs of different causes of nasal discharge overlap, necessitating medical diagnostic tests. Earlier treatment shortens recovery time, so it’s time to see the vet as soon as you see colored discharge. 

Your vet will examine the teeth to ensure that dental problems aren’t the cause of discharge from the nose. They will then examine your dog’s medical history to determine whether they are allergic to food or pollen. 

If allergies are ruled out using skin and blood tests, your vet will thereafter perform tests to confirm non-allergic rhinitis. These tests include a nasal endoscopy, where the dog’s nasal passage is viewed with a thin endoscope. Other tests include CT scans and X-rays to produce an image of their sinuses. Your vet will also examine the nasal discharge for bacterial or fungal infections.

How to Treat A Dog’s Runny Nose

Upon successfully diagnosing the cause of discharge from the nose, you can start treatment. Your vet will prescribe a wide range of medication depending on whether the issue is bacterial, viral, fungal, or allergic. Running nose treatments in dogs include:

  • Removing the foreign object by the vet
  • Antihistamines for nasal fungal infection
  • Antibiotics for bacterial issues
  • Removal of the allergen once it’s rightly established
  • Anti-parasite medications eradicate nasal mites
  • Dental issues need cleaning or complete removal under anesthesia
  • Nasal cancer requires surgical removal (benign) or radiation therapy

Final Thoughts

A runny nose is quite common in canines and can result from allergies, bacterial or viral infections, foreign objects, dental disease, and mites. Clear discharge almost always goes away on its own. However, yellow or green discharge and other symptoms like reduced appetite and lethargy require medical attention.


Tamsin De La Harpe


Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions.

Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

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