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White dog with a stuffy nose

The essentials

  • 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 release 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, and lasts at least 48 hours, this could be a sign for concern. It’s important to learn to understand if your dog’s congested nose is just a mild irritant or a more serious condition, and how to treat it.

What is nasal congestion in dogs?

Nasal congestion, or rhinitis is an inflammation of your dog’s mucous membranes. Another common term you may hear regarding respiratory illnesses in dogs is sinusitis, which differs from nasal congestion because it involves inflammation of the lining of the sinuses. With rhinitis, the blood vessels in your dog’s nasal cavity 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.

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:

What causes a dog's stuffy nose?

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 an allergic reaction or canine distemper. Also, some breeds are more susceptible than others to a runny or stuffy nose and are predisposed to the condition.

Allergens. If you notice your dog is sneezing, itching, and has watery eyes, along with a runny 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.

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, American bulldogs, and pugs may have difficulty breathing because of their narrowed airways. 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 botflies can enter your dog’s nasal passages 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 nasal cavity could be a sign of a dental health issue. When your pup’s gums and teeth 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.

Cancer. Nasal adenocarcinoma is the most common type of nasal tumor (cancer) found in dogs. Almost half of dogs over the age of 10 will develop some type of cancer but 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 recommend CT scans and radiographs (X-rays) to confirm a diagnosis of invasive nasal neoplasia.

How do I know if the nasal congestion is chronic or acute?

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 should I see a vet about my dog's stuffy nose?

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 might be a mild cold and can sometimes be fixed 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 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.

Natural, at-home remedies for dog nasal congestion

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. 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. 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 over-the-counter medications can I give my dog for a stuffy nose?

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

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 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.

What else can I give my dog for nasal congestion?

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.

Frequently asked questions

How can I help my dog with a stuffy nose?

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.

Should I be worried if my dog has a stuffy nose?

Most benign causes behind nasal congestion in dogs will clear up within 48 hours, so a longer bout of stuffy nose might indicate an underlying problem. Ideally, you will want to take your dog to the vet as soon as you notice new and/or prolonged symptoms.

How do I know if my dog has nasal congestion?

Your dog may have nasal congestion if they are breathing heavily, quickly, or inhaling sharply. Pay attention to abnormal sounds in your dog’s nose and airways. Sneezing, snorting, and scratching are other common signs.

How do you flush a dog’s nose?

The flushing process is pretty simple. Gently take your dog by the muzzle and tip its head back and then allow the saline to run into the nostrils, one at a time. Do not forcibly squirt the saline in as this will be irritating to your dog.