Thursday, May 3, 2018

Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog: Nasal Discharge

Generally put, a dog should not be leaking anything from anywhere. Tell that to the parents of the droolers, right? Drooling, within what is normal for your dog, is an exception.

Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog: Nasal Discharge

A dog's nose is usually moist--for a reason. 


Dog noses secrete a thin layer of mucus from membranes within the nose which helps to absorb scent chemicals.

On top of that, besides their foot pads, dogs also secrete sweat from the surface of their noses. And the base of the nose is drainage for superfluous tears.

Plenty of natural reasons for a wet nose.

What about a runny nose, though?


Just like any other cavities exposed to the outer world, the nasal passages are lined with mucosa. I explained what mucus does in the article on mucus in the stool. The purpose of the mucus is to trap foreign particles and infectious agents; it makes me think of the Cinderella story where the prince had put glue on the steps so she couldn't escape.

A runny nose then is generally a result of increased production of mucus.


A small amount of clear discharge, unless it is chronic or comes with other symptoms to hint you're might be having a problem on your hands, is usually not too worrisome.

A dog’s nose will temporarily get runny for many of the same reasons ours do--exposure to dust, high winds, strong fragrances--basically anything that is irritating to delicate nasal tissues. If my dog's nose kept running constantly, though, I would not dismiss that.

Cloudy, smelly, yellow or green discharge is a different story.


I have seasonal allergies and my nose can run like a faucet. In dogs, though, allergies usually present themselves through skin problems. I would be very slow to dismiss my dog's nasal discharge as a result of allergies. It does happen but it’s not as common as you’d think. An infection is a much more likely culprit, particularly if the discharge is anything but clear and odorless.

Nasal infections can be caused by bacteria, fungi, and/or viruses. For example, the viral disease distemper can cause sticky, yellow nasal discharge.

Dental disease and a runny nose?


You won't find it so weird once you think about it. Infections can spread. Just because it starts at the gums, doesn't mean it's going to stay there. In fact, these bacteria can spread not only into the nasal cavities but even systemically, such as to the heart.

Other potential causes of nasal discharge include mites, foreign objects, polyps, pneumonia, immune-mediated disorders, trauma, and tumors. Problems outside the respiratory system that can lead to a runny nose include swallowing disorders, facial nerve damage, or a disease of the digestive tract.

When you see pus, make a fuss.


If your dog's nasal discharge cloudy, yellow, green, smelly or with blood in it. Do see a vet. Particularly with nose bleeds, I would be extremely concerned about nasal cancer or a serious infection.

If the discharge is clear and doesn't smell, I would see a vet if it was excessive or chronic.


Do you know what your dog is telling you about their health?


Learn how to detect and interpret the signs of a potential problem.


Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog now available in paperback and Kindle. Each chapter includes notes on when it is an emergency.

Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog is an award-winning guide to help you better understand what your dog is telling you about their health and how to best advocate for them. 

Learn how to see and how to think about changes in your dog’s appearance, habits, and behavior. Some signs that might not trigger your concern can be important indicators that your dog needs to see a veterinarian right away. Other symptoms, while hard to miss, such as diarrhea, vomiting, or limping, are easy to spot but can have a laundry list of potential causes, some of them serious or even life-threatening. 

Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog is a dog health advocacy guide 101. It covers a variety of common symptoms, including when each of them might be an emergency. 

Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog has won the following awards:

26 comments

  1. I always enjoy your posts, I learn a lot from them. I'm not familiar with nasal discharge, never had a dog with that issue but I appreciate you calling attention to it so I know how to handle it should it ever happen.

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    1. Jasmine had a bit of a runny nose when she had dental issues. Otherwise our own dogs didn't have much problem with that either. But it can happen.

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  2. I always love your posts as I learn so much from them and they are such eye openers especially for a Jewish Mom. Thanks so much for this information

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    1. Now I'm really curious - why especially for a Jewish Mom?

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  3. wow this is so enlightening, sometimes I care of and elderly dog that stays with us while his parents go on vacation and he alwasy has a runny nose. I need to share this with the owners. Time for a Vet visit.

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    1. Always runny nose? Yes, should be checked.

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  4. I've never dealt with nasal discharge or dogs however always amazed at the different things we may brush off as "not a big deal" could really be a big deal! Thanks for educating and sharing this important post to help dog owners keep their pets healthy.

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    1. Our dogs are always better of with "worry warts," than things being brushed off.

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  5. I always learn something new here! I haven't ever noticed any of my dogs having a very runny nose (except on windy days), but it is good to know what to look out for.

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    1. Thank you, Beth. It's not really that common but it can happen.

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  6. I had not realized that dogs could get nose bleeds - good to know! My dogs' mucous is usually eye goop during seasonal changes. I try to keep a close watch for how long it lasts. Sophie has more allergies than Rufus, but since they are always up in each others' faces, her goop will end up on him.

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    1. That is kind of what is important about it - they are not as prone to nose bleeds like we are because of their anatomy. So when a dog does get a nose bleed, it is something one should never shrug off.

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  7. I didn't realise that was why a dog had a wet nose but, when you explain it well 'duh' of course it's a natural thing! It must be similar for cats, hence a dry not not being a really good thing (?) When people get a blocked nose something is wrong, now I know for a dog it might be something bad as well.

    Thank you.

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    1. Yes, I imagine it's quite similar for cats.

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  8. Thanks for this warning, very good info. We've never had that issue but I'll keep on top of Icy & Phoebe's runny noses. The Prince in Cinderella put glue on the steps!? I've never heard that version - what an idiot! Didn't he know she could break her ankle that way, LOL!!
    Love & Biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

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    1. LOL That was the original version, I believe. He didn't want her to disappear at midnight again, so he had the steps smothered with glue. She lost a shoe but got away anyway. But he was able to find her having the shoe :-)

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  9. When you see puss, make a fuss made me chuckle! We have not had any kind of issues with a bloody nose or mucus with Ruby. So, if we did, I think we would take her right to the vet.

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    1. LOL I was not sure whether I should leave it or take it out as too cheesy. But I hoped somebody a) might have a chuckle b) gonna remember it easier :-)

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  10. I knew of a dog that had nose bleeds due to nasal cancer...felt so badly for his elderly owner. It turned out that she later suffered from brain cancer and passed away not long after her companion. I have heard many stories of pets having the same afflictions as their owners...do you know of any studies on this?

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    1. Wow, what a sad story. Yes, unfortunately, nose bleeds in dogs always warrant cancer consideration.

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  11. Thank you for sharing this information! I think many people don't know that dental disease and nasal discharge can be related.

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    1. Does not seem logical, really, since the mouth is below the nose. However, there is a connection.

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  12. As I sit here with bronchitis and some of the above-mentioned symptoms, thank you for sharing this excellent information ( you always have great info). I am also Pinning it on my "Bark About" board to share with others.

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  13. I'm sitting here with reactions from all of the pollen I encountered when getting back to SC from Kansas City. I watch my cats very closely, especially Brulee, because Persians are prone to upper respiratory infections.

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    1. We are still waiting to get hit by pollen up here as we just about lost all the snow. But sometimes everything can be covered in yellow.

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