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How to Treat and Unclog Your Dog’s Stuffy Nose

We all know how awful having a plugged-up nose is, and the last thing that you want is to watch your dog struggling with one.

If your dog has been having difficulty breathing through their nose, there could be several causes, so it’s important to first understand why their nose is clogged up. Is it a cold or allergies? Or is it something else?

We go over the causes and symptoms of a stuffy nose, how to treat it yourself, and when it’s necessary to take your dog to the vet.

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Symptoms of Nasal Congestion

Nasal congestion is typically a form of sinusitis, which is the inflammation of the dog’s nasal passages, and rhinitis, which is an inflammation of your pup’s nose. If both the nasal passages and the nose are affected, it is called rhinosinusitis.

Sick French Bulldog
Image Credit: Mylene2401, Pixabay
Rhinitis and sinusitis symptoms to look for include:
  • Sneezing: All dogs sneeze on occasion, but this will occur more frequently.
  • Reverse sneezing: This is when your dog will appear to suck in air, which pulls the mucus from their nasal passages down into their throats.
  • Excess nasal discharge: It can be from one or both nostrils.
  • Pawing at or rubbing face: The dog might also sit with partially closed eyes and a hanging head.
  • Watery eyes: There might also be discharge on and around the eyes.
  • Loss of appetite: This can include weight loss.
  • Change in the face: The dog might experience facial pain or swelling.
  • Difficulty breathing: The dog might breathe through an open mouth, and the breathing might be labored.
  • Restlessness: This might include difficulty sleeping but can also be lethargy.
  • Coughing and gagging: Your dog’s breath might also be worse than usual.

There are several causes of nasal congestion in dogs, some of which are serious, but others can be treated at home.

Causes of Nasal Congestion

These are common causes of sinusitis and rhinitis.

Allergies

Just like humans, if your dog has nasal congestion along with itchy, watery eyes, runny nose, and sneezing, your pup might have allergies. Allergies can also trigger asthma attacks. It’s important to take your dog to the vet to determine if this is the cause, but treatment can be done at home with advice from your vet.

Your dog could be allergic to the same things as us humans: dust, mold, mites, and grass.

dog smelling flowers outside
Image Credit: Mylene2401, Pixabay

Infections

Viral, bacterial, and fungal infections can cause your dog to have a stuffy nose. Distemper is a viral infection that can be fatal if not treated right away, and aspergillosis is a fatal fungal infection. Some bacterial infections will occur after the initial viral infection.

With an infection, the dog will usually have pus-like or bloody discharge from their nose, and it may affect one or both sides. It’s typically accompanied by a fever, lethargy, loss of appetite, and difficulty breathing.

Your dog could also have a combination of these infections, so if you suspect that your dog has more than just a stuffed-up nose, you should take them to the vet as soon as possible!

Depending on the infection, your vet may treat it with antibiotics or an anti-fungal treatment.

Parasites

Botflies and nasal mites can cause many of these symptoms, including a stuffy nose. Reverse sneezing is a common symptom with nasal mites, which your vet can treat with an antiparasitic.

Botflies lay eggs that hatch into maggots, which if they become attached to your dog, can migrate to their nasal passages (in addition to other areas). Your vet will treat your pup with an anti-parasite and remove the maggots once they have finished migrating.

If you suspect maggots at all, take your dog to your vet immediately because they can cause severe neurological damage if left on your dog for too long.

Foreign Object

Unsurprisingly, hound and hunting dogs are more prone to foreign objects becoming embedded in their nasal cavities. Things like grass awns (a bristly-looking type of grass) are easily inhaled by any dog actively sniffing through long grass.

When a dog has inhaled something foreign, they often start violently sneezing and will start pawing at their nose, and they might have a nosebleed.

If you can’t see the object or safely remove it with tweezers, your dog will need to be seen by your vet and possibly sedated so the foreign body can be extracted. Sometimes, surgery might be necessary.

dog eating icing
Image Credit: Manfred Richter, Pixabay

Dental Problems

It’s possible that your dog might be having issues with their teeth, which can actually cause a blocked-up nose. Abscesses and infected gums can lead to an infection in your dog’s sinus cavities, which will then cause sneezing and a runny nose.

Your vet will do a complete dental exam and a thorough cleaning of your dog’s teeth. You should have their teeth checked every year. If you brush your dog’s teeth at least once a week, this will help prevent problems.

Breed Specific

Specific breeds of dogs are more susceptible to stuffy noses than others. Particularly, flat-faced dogs, such as Pugs and Bulldogs, are prone to breathing problems, also known as brachycephalic airway syndrome.

Your vet will run tests and will recommend either surgery if it’s an ongoing and serious problem or keeping your dog inside on hot days and away from any allergens.

Nasal Tumors

One of the first symptoms of a nasal tumor is bleeding and discharge from the nose. The nose may become clogged, and your dog might start snoring every time they’re asleep. Senior dogs are more prone to nasal tumors.

Your vet will sedate your dog so they can have a better look inside the nasal cavities, and a CT scan might be recommended. Depending on the tumor and whether it is cancerous, your vet might perform surgery to remove it if it’s small enough, or radiation therapy might be in order.

dog laying on surgery table
Image Credit: Jaromir Chalabala, Shutterstock

 

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Home Treatment

Depending on the underlying cause and the severity of the stuffy nose, you can use a few methods at home to help relieve the symptoms.

Humidifier

A humidifier will help increase the moisture in the surrounding environment and loosen the mucus. This does mean confining your dog to the same room as the humidifier. Using a vaporizer near where your dog sleeps is another effective method.

Take a Shower

Run a hot shower, and take your dog into the bathroom with you. This is an alternative if you don’t have a humidifier. The warm and moist air from the shower will help loosen the excess mucus.

Dog taking a bubble bath in grooming salon
Image Credit: Masarik, Shutterstock

Nasal Aspirator

It might be a little gross, but using an aspirator that is designed for babies can be a quick way to clear out the excess discharge. This isn’t the most effective method, however, as it won’t work for that long.

Homeopathic

There are products available that are designed to be completely natural and safe for dogs. You administer the drops into your dog’s food or water or directly into their mouth. However, always speak with your vet before you give your dog any kind of medication, no matter how natural it is advertised as being.

Human OTC Medicine

It’s okay to give your dog Benadryl, but do speak to your vet first. It can be quite effective in treating your dog’s allergic reactions, but it will make them drowsy. Some vets might recommend Zyrtec if the Benadryl isn’t as effective and if it’s safe for your particular dog.

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When to See a Vet

Most mild cases of a stuffy nose should clear up within 24 hours. However, if you’re seeing any of the listed symptoms in addition to the blocked nose, you’ll need to take your pup to the vet as soon as possible.

Many of the causes of a stuffed-up nose can be signs of serious infections and illnesses that require medical treatment.

If your pup has symptoms that last more than a few days and are accompanied by blood and/or a thick greenish-yellow discharge, do make an appointment with your vet.

Your veterinarian will run various tests to help determine the cause, and they might prescribe medication and send you home with a treatment plan.

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Conclusion

While a stuffy nose for us usually isn’t anything more than an annoying inconvenience, it can have more serious ramifications for a dog. If you’re worried, don’t hesitate to bring your dog to the vet. Even if it ends up being a mild case of allergies, at least you’ll know and can treat the problem accordingly.

Your dog’s health and comfort are among the most important parts of dog ownership. We know how upsetting it can be when your dog isn’t feeling well, so go with your gut instincts for treating them — after all, you know your dog better than anyone.

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Featured Image Credit: RonaldPlett, Pixabay