sneezing in dogs

Sneezing and Nasal Discharge in Dogs

Overview of Sneezing and Nasal Discharge in Dogs

Sneezing is a reflex of the upper airways, activated to explosively discharge irritating material from the nasal cavity. It is usually caused by the irritation of sensitive nerve endings in the mucous membrane that lines the nose. Nasal discharge is another sign of nasal disease or irritation.

Although normal dogs may occasionally sneeze or have nasal discharge (similar to human beings), severe, chronic or recurrent bouts of sneezing or nasal discharge suggest a more serious problem. Sneezing and nasal discharge often occur together and may be accompanied by postnasal drip, gagging, and/or reversed sneezing (an explosive, almost sucking noise).

What to Watch For

Diagnosis of Sneezing and Nasal Discharge in Dogs

Veterinary care should include diagnostic tests to determine what is causing the sneezing or nasal discharge and to direct subsequent treatment.

There are several potential diagnostic tests. Recommendations will depend upon the likelihood of the potential diagnosis. The tests may include:

Treatment of Sneezing and Nasal Discharge in Dogs

Treatment depends on the cause of the nasal discharge or sneezing. There is no “general” treatment for these symptoms.

Home Care

Recommendations for home care will depend upon the underlying cause of the problem.

Monitor your pet for any abnormalities so that you can discuss them with your veterinarian. If general treatments do not clear up the symptoms, a diagnosis must be sought using appropriate tests.

Administer all treatments as recommended by your veterinarian. You may clean discharges from the nose, but do so only if you are confident you will not be bitten. Many pets eat based on their sense of smell. Often if your pet cannot smell the food, he will not eat it. You can warm food in the microwave or feed a canned food that may be smellier to encourage your pet to eat.

Preventative Care

Vaccinate your pets against upper respiratory infections.

In-depth Information on Sneezing and Nasal Discharge in Dogs

The following list emphasizes the most important causes of nasal discharge.

Sneezing and/or nasal discharge may occur with many diseases or conditions and are symptoms of upper airway disease (nasal cavity, paranasal sinuses). Nasal discharge may not be obvious, due to the tendency of dogs to lick secretions from their noses. Discharge is more noticeable as the volume increases, character of discharge changes, other physical abnormalities occur or secretions accumulate on the nostril, over surrounding hair or nasopharynx (causing retching or reversed sneezing).

Nasal discharge comes from several sources, including mucous cells and glands in the nose. Secretions usually move caudally (away from the nostril) by the mucociliary apparatus (small hair-like projections) and when they reach the nasopharynx (where the nasal cavity meets the throat) they are swallowed. When secretions accumulate to the exterior, it suggests that there is an increased production of secretions or an obstruction to drainage.

Veterinarians know that certain types of discharges are more likely with certain diseases, but there is overlap. Nasal discharge is not specific for any one problem but can actually be related to a number of different diseases or disorders.

Unfortunately, in older dogs, nasal neoplasia (cancer) is a very common cause of recurrent and progressive (becomes more severe with time) nasal discharge. Predisposed breeds include: Airedale terrier, basset hound, collie, German shepherd, German short-haired pointer, keeshond, Old English sheepdog and Scottish terrier.

Diagnosis In-depth

Diagnostic tests used to determine the cause of nasal discharge will be considered by your veterinarian based on findings from the physical examination, prior test results, or lack of response to empiric therapy. Most tests for evaluation of nasal discharge are best accomplished with sedation or general anesthesia. The evaluation for nasal discharge may include an oral examination, nasal examination, cytology (examination of cells), biopsy, culture, radiography or computerized tomography.

Treatment In-depth