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canine health problems

Here’s how to treat and unclog your dog’s stuffy nose

Identify the cause of your dog’s nasal congestion: Is it just seasonal allergies or something more serious?

Updated August 25, 2021

Created By

Marissa DePino,
Closeup of dog's nose

Sniffle, sniffle — a stuffy nose may seem pretty normal in your dog’s life. After all, humans get congested, too. But, if your dog’s stuffy nose doesn’t go away in 24 hours, and lasts at least 48 hours, this could be a sign for concern. Learn the symptoms to understand if your dog’s congested nose is just a mild irritant or a more serious condition, and how to treat it.

👉 Always consult with your vet before treating your dog for nasal congestion.

Nasal congestion, explained

Nasal congestion (rhinitis or sinusitis) is an inflammation of your dog’s mucous membranes. Essentially, the blood vessels in your dog’s nasal passage 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 that helps keep bacteria and viruses out of the system.

Symptoms of nasal congestion

Understanding the symptoms of nasal congestion can help your dog receive the care and treatment they need. Here are some of the main signs:

  • Nasal discharge, nose swelling
  • Difficulty breathing, heavy breathing
  • Pawing of the face
  • Depression, lethargy, restlessness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sneezing, reverse sneeze
  • Snorting

👉 Here’s our exhaustive guide on everything you need to know about sneezing

👉 Here’s everything you need to know about reverse sneezing.

Common causes of nasal congestion

There isn’t just one cause for nasal congestion. Like humans, the cause for nasal congestion could be as simple as seasonal allergies. After all, your dog has over 100 million sensory receptors that can get irritated just like ours.

The cause of your dog’s nose blockage could range from something as simple as genetics or be the result of canine distemper. Also, some breeds are more susceptible than others to a runny nose and are predisposed to the condition.

The following are common causes of nasal congestion for dogs.

Allergens. If you notice your dog is sneezing, itching, and has watery eyes, along with a runny nose, your dog could have allergies. Typically, allergies 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.

👉 Here’s how to deal with pit bull allergies

Genetics. 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, flat-faced dogs like boxers, bulldogs, and pugs may have difficulty breathing because of their airway shape. In this case, your vet may recommend surgery to improve your dog’s breathing.

Foreign bodies. The problem is small objects or parasites like grass awns or botfly can enter your dog’s nasal cavity and create a blocked nose. Obstruction can lead to nose bleeds 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.

Dental issues. A stuffed up nose could be a sign of your dog’s dental health. When your pup’s gums and abscesses are infected by bacteria, this can also infect your dog’s sinuses and cause a runny nose and sneezing. Frequent brushing can help your dog avoid dental problems.

Infection. Common causes of nasal congestion stem from bacteria, fungal infections, or viral respiratory infections. These diseases can range from mild to severe, if you suspect your dog has an infection take your dog to the vet for a diagnosis and treatment plan.

Canine distemper. 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 runny nose. The best route for this viral infection is preventative care, so make sure to vaccinate your puppies with one shot every three weeks for a total of three to four shots. The vaccine is typically administered to your pup when they’re eight to 16 weeks old.

👉 Always consult with your veterinarian on the best vaccination plan for your pup.

How to identify chronic nasal congestion

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.

When to see a vet

Not every congested nose requires a vet visit. In mild cases where your dog is healthy and showing symptoms for only 24 hours, their congestion can sometimes be fixed by at-home treatments. In more severe cases like canine distemper 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 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, or X-rays to determine the cause of your dog’s stuffy nose.

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Natural, at-home remedies

If your dog has mild nasal congestion, then you could use natural home remedies to treat your pet.

Humidifier. Use a clean humidifier to increase the moisture in the air.

👉 Pro tip: for best results keep your pup in the same room as the humidifier for the most effective treatment. 

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.

⚠️ 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.

Can human OTC medications work on your dog?

👉 Always consult your vet before administering over-the-counter medications to your dog. 

Benadryl is a great over-the-counter antihistamine to treat a clogged 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 nose. Only administer the Benadryl tablets to your dog. Our vets recommend giving your dog 1 mg per pound and never more than 75 mg. Remember, higher doses can make your pup lethargic.

Similar to Benadryl, Zyrtec also offers your dog relief from a stuffy nose. It functions like Benadryl, but without the drowsiness. Find out the correct dosage for your dog in our comprehensive guide about Zyrtec.

👉 Learn more about the antihistamine Benadryl.

What else can I give my dog?

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 fast. Consider this nose relief supplement from HomeoPet.

Wipes. Antimicrobial wipes are an effective and easy-to-use solution to cleanse your dog’s skin and help remove infections from bacteria and fungus. 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.

⚠️ Avoid using this product directly in your pet’s nose.