Diagnosing a Nasal Discharge in Dogs

Nasal discharges are typically paired up with sneezing in dogs. The type of nasal discharge may vary according to the cause of the discharge and may be transparent or thicker and colored.

Types of Nasal Discharges

Nasal discharges may be of several types:

  • Serous discharges (transparent)
  • Mucoids (thicker and colored)
  • Epitaxis (blood)

The dog may have one or a combination of these; the discharge may come from one or both nostrils. Nasal discharges may also be acute or chronic.

Possible Causes of Nasal Discharge

Nasal discharges may be caused by different conditions such as:

  • Allergies (typically inhalant caused by pollens, chemicals, dust, feathers)
  • Respiratory infections, which may be caused by viruses, fungi or bacteria
  • A foreign object trapped in the nasal cavity
  • A tumor or swelling in the nasal cavity

The cause of nasal discharge may influence the type of nasal discharge.

If the dog has a foreign object in the nasal cavity, allergies or a tumor in the nasal cavity, the discharge will be transparent.

If the nasal discharge is caused by a respiratory infection, the discharge may be more consistent and may also be colored. A yellowish nasal discharge may point to a viral or bacterial infection; a pink colored secretion may indicate the presence of a fungal infection.

Symptoms to Look Out For

In addition to noting the color and consistency of the discharge, you should monitor your pet for additional symptoms that may help the diagnosis.

The dog may have nose bleeds, caused by tumors or a foreign object that is trapped in the nose. If the dog has allergies, he may also sneeze and have rashes, scratch excessively and have respiratory problems. Respiratory infections may be manifested through sneezing, coughing or eye discharges.

The dog may also be lethargic and paw or rub his face to indicate that there is a problem in the area.

Diagnosing Nasal Discharges

A proper diagnosis can only be made by the vet; he will go through all the symptoms experienced by the pet and will perform a few tests.

The vet will consult the dog and establish if there are foreign objects or tumors in the nasal cavity.

Blood tests will be performed if the vet suspects an infection or a secondary disease. If bleeding is present, the vet will perform a platelet count and coagulation screen.

A nasal swab will be necessary to determine what type of cells lodge in the nasal cavity. A biopsy of nasal tissue may also be performed.

To determine if there are tumors or foreign objects that are not visible, the vet will perform a skull x-ray or a CT scan.

Treatment of Nasal Discharge

The vet will recommend a few treatment options based on the cause of the discharge. The treatment may consist of antibiotics, fungicides or antihistamines.

If the dog has a nasal tumor, this should be surgically removed.

Foreign objects lodging in the nasal cavity should be removed.

You should make sure your pet is vaccinated against common respiratory infections.