- Dogs can suffer from nasal congestion — Just as a stuffy nose is no fun for humans, it can be even more irritating for your pet.
- There are several medications that can help your dog’s stuffy nose — Never give your dog any medication, even an over-the-counter option, without first discussing it with your veterinarian.
- At-home remedies can help as well — Humidifiers, nasal aspirators, and steaming can all help relieve your dog’s stuffy nose naturally.
Can dogs get a stuffy nose?
The short answer is yes. From mild irritants to more serious issues, dogs deal with nasal congestion just like their human parents. But, if your dog’s stuffy nose doesn’t go away in 24 hours, it could signal more serious health concerns and may require veterinary attention.
Below, we’re exploring what nasal congestion looks like in dogs, as well as possible causes, risks, and treatment options to keep your furry friend as healthy and as happy as possible.
What is nasal congestion in dogs?
Dog congestion is similar to the human counterpart: inflammation of your dog’s mucous membranes and nasal passages.
The blood vessels in your dog’s nasal cavity will swell up, reducing the airflow through your dog’s nose. This not only makes it harder for your pup to breathe, but it also interferes with the nasal membrane’s filtration system which helps keep bacteria and viruses out.
What does nasal congestion in dogs look and sound like?
Understanding the symptoms of nasal congestion can help your dog receive the best possible care and potential treatment options. Some of the main signs of congestion include:
- Nasal discharge, nose swelling
- Difficulty breathing or heavy breathing
- Pawing of the face
- Depression or lethargy
- Loss of appetite
- Sneezing or reverse sneezing
While actual sounds of congestion and symptoms can vary from pet to pet, you’ll probably experience snuffling and rapid-fire sneezing (like in the video below) if your pet is experiencing rhinitis.
Causes of your dog’s congestion
If you notice your dog is sneezing, itching, and has watery eyes along with a runny or stuffy nose, your dog could have allergies. Typically, allergic reactions are easy to treat with a natural remedy. But, it’s best to have your dog allergy tested by your vet for the best course of treatment. Ask your veterinarian if your pup could benefit from a supplement to soothe seasonal allergies like Premium Care’s Aller-Immune Chews.
Nasal congestion sometimes comes down to your dog’s genetics. Certain dog breeds are more susceptible than others to nasal congestion due to their face shape. For instance, brachycephalic or flat-faced dogs like boxers, American bulldogs, and pugs may have difficulty breathing because of their short snouts and narrowed airways. In some cases, your vet may recommend surgery to improve your dog’s breathing.
A common problem with pets is that small objects like foxtails or parasites like grass awns or botflies can enter your dog’s nasal passages and create a blocked nose. Obstruction can lead to nosebleeds and sneezing. It’s important to remove the foreign object, if possible, with tweezers or a pair of pliers. If you’re unable to see the object or remove it, take your dog to the vet.
Canine distemper is a serious, contagious, and potentially life-threatening virus that can impact your dog’s nervous system. It’s contracted via direct contact with wild animals, surfaces, and airborne particles. And, one symptom is a stuffy nose. The best route for this viral infection is preventative care, so make sure to vaccinate your puppies.
Almost half of the dogs over the age of 10 will develop some type of cancer and nasal adenocarcinoma is the most common type of cancerous nasal tumor found in dogs. These nasal tumors are characterized by pus-like or bloody nasal discharges from one or both nostrils, heavy breathing, weight loss, and decreased appetite. When a tumor is suspected, a veterinarian will often recommend CT scans and radiographs (X-rays) to confirm a diagnosis of invasive nasal neoplasia.
When should I see a vet about my dog's stuffy nose?
Not every congested nose requires a vet visit. Most dogs should easily recover from a stuffy nose within a couple of days. However, if your pup isn’t on the road to recovery, this could be a sign of chronic nasal congestion. Chronic nasal congestion is a long-term stuffy nose and needs to be treated by your dog’s vet.
In mild cases where your dog is healthy and showing symptoms for only 24 hours, their congestion might be a mild upper respiratory infection and can sometimes be managed by at-home treatments. In more severe cases like canine distemper, kennel cough, or an infection, you’ll need to meet with your veterinarian to treat your pup.
Also, make sure to pay attention to the type of nasal discharge your dog is experiencing. If the discharge lasts more than a couple of days and is bloody, crusty, or yellowish-green, you’ll need to make an appointment with your vet as soon as possible.
At the vet, they’ll ask for details on your pet’s history including where your dog has visited such as kennels or dog parks, to build a better picture of potential causes. They may also perform a CT scan, rhinoscopy, blood cultures, microscopic cytology testing, or X-rays to determine the cause of your dog’s stuffy nose.
At-home remedies for dog nasal congestion
Your vet is always the best resource you have if you suspect that your pet is dealing with an underlying medical concern. However, for something like a stuffy nose with mild symptoms, you might want to try some at-home treatments before taking them in.
Here are some vet-approved at-home solutions for your pet’s congestion:
- Humidifier. Use a clean humidifier to increase the moisture in the air. For best results, keep your pup in the same room as the humidifier to optimize its effects.
- Nasal aspirator. Aspirators suck out any excess mucus in your dog’s nostrils. Gently insert just the tip into their nose to clean out the mucus.
- Steaming. Take a hot shower with your dog on the bathroom floor. The moisture of the shower could help drain the mucus. However, never put your dog directly in the shower when steaming.
- Massaging. Softly massage your dog’s nose and the surrounding area to encourage the excess mucus to drain.
What else can I give my dog for a stuffy nose?
Benadryl is a great over-the-counter antihistamine to treat a stuffy nose in your dog. This OTC medication works to block histamine receptors in your dog’s body, which in turn reduces the symptoms associated with a runny or stuffy nose.
Our vets recommend giving your dog 1 mg per kilogram of body weight and never more than 75 mg at once.
Remember, higher doses can make your pup lethargic. Your vet may choose to start at a lower dose at first to ensure that there are no concerning sedative effects; raising the dose and frequency as needed to control your pet’s symptoms.
👉 Always consult your vet before administering over-the-counter medications to your dog.
Other, non-drug-related options you can try include:
Homeopathic drops. Offer your dog fast relief from their congestion with homeopathic drops. These drops are fast-acting and provide nasal relief from a runny nose, congestion, and sneezing. Consider this nose relief supplement from HomeoPet.*
* Our vet normally recommends this as a periodic or acute support option, as it may not be suitable or sustainable for long-term use.
Dog wipes. Antimicrobial wipes are an effective and easy-to-use solution to cleanse your dog’s skin and help remove infections from bacteria and fungi. Plus, wipes help soothe your dog’s skin to promote better skin health. These TrizCHLOR Wipes are made in the U.S.A. and can be used on dogs and cats alike.
⚠️ Always keep this product away from your pet’s eyes, and never use it directly inside your pet’s nose.
Flush bottle. Soothe your dog’s infection with a flush bottle. Flush bottles are water-based formulas that cleanse the infected area and put a stop to bacterial infections. Try out this flush bottle from TrizCHLOR recommended by vets, but be sure to avoid using this product directly in your pet’s nose.
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Frequently asked questions
What can I do for a congested dog?
There are various things you can do to help your dog’s stuffy nose including at-home remedies and over-the-counter medications. Overall, if symptoms continue or worse, see your vet.
What does it mean when a dog sounds congested?
Your pet’s congestion doesn’t necessarily mean anything. They may just be seasonally sniffly. In fact, most benign causes behind nasal congestion in dogs will clear up within 48 hours. However, a longer bout of stuffy nose might indicate an underlying problem. It’s best to take your dog to the vet if you notice new recurring or prolonged symptoms.
Should I be worried if my dog sounds congested?
Dogs can get stuffy sometimes, just like we do. So, it’s not necessarily cause for worry if your dog sounds congested. You can simply monitor for new or recurring symptoms and take them in if you notice any changes or see prolonged stuffiness.
Will dog congestion go away?
Your pet’s congestion will likely go away over time. If you notice that the congestion remains after 24-48 hours, you might consider making a call to your vet to determine the root cause of the symptom(s).
Why does my dog sound like he is trying to clear his nose?
A dog might sound like they are trying to clear their nose if they are experiencing blockages, inflammation (as in the case of allergies or an underlying condition), or if they simply have to sneeze. It’s not really a cause for concern in one-off or acute cases.