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canine health problems
Close-up of a healthy dog nose

A healthy snoot

What is rhinitis in dogs?

We’ve all dealt with stuffy noses before, but has it ever happened to your dog? Canine rhinitis causes inflammation in a dog’s nasal cavity (specifically in the mucous membranes). If the lining of the sinuses is inflamed, this is known as sinusitis. Both rhinitis and sinusitis can occur alone or as part of a larger upper respiratory system infection. In dogs, rhinitis can be a one-time mild illness or reoccur if left untreated.

Staying educated on the causes, signs, and treatment of rhinitis can help pet owners like yourself be better prepared to recognize this condition.

Symptoms of rhinitis 

Certain clinical signs of this disease are obvious to spot, while others can be tough to detect. Some common symptoms are:

  • Nasal discharge. A clear discharge may be a sign of mild rhinitis. A yellow, green, or red color  (especially a nosebleed) can mean a more serious case.
  • Excessive sneezing. Like humans, sneezing is common in dogs. But, excessive or chronic sneezing often indicates an underlying issue.
  • Snoring. Snoring is natural for many dogs, but a sudden onset or increase might be a sign of a deeper health concern.
  • Coughing. As a respiratory disease, rhinitis can impact the airways, causing excess coughing.
  • Difficulty breathing. Labored breathing and/or open-mouth breathing is often a red flag that can signal more serious issues.
  • Bad breath. Dog breath is naturally a little funky. But, a persistent or chronic odor can be a sign of health concerns.
  • Pawing at the face. Dogs paw at their faces for many reasons. If your pup is doing it persistently, it often means a foreign object or illness is involved.

Common causes of canine rhinitis

As with many canine illnesses, both internal and external factors can cause rhinitis. Also, treatment often depends on the underlying cause. So, it’s important for owners to recognize and identify any potential culprits. Some causes in pups include:

  • Infection. Viral infections including canine distemper are a common cause of the disease. A fungal infection may also be involved. Aspergillus fumigatus is the most common cause of fungal rhinitis in dogs.
  • Dental issues. A root abscess is caused by a bacterial infection in the root canal. This can cause a dog’s tooth to extend upwards towards the nose, leading to rhinitis and/or sinusitis.
  • Allergies. Allergic rhinitis can happen seasonally or year-round. Causes include pollen, house dust, mold, and smoke.
  • Parasites. Nasal mites, while rare, pose a risk for complications.
  • Foreign bodies. Dogs’ noses are sensitive, and foreign objects lodged inside can lead to the disease developing. An example is grass awns or foxtails, which can easily embed in dogs.
  • Trauma. Facial trauma can result in several secondary conditions, including rhinitis.
  • Tumors. The disease may occur as a result of nasal tumors or cancer of the nose.

How is rhinitis diagnosed in dogs?

Rhinitis onset can occur in the short-term (acute) or persist over time (chronic). Treatment usually depends on the type of condition. There are several factors, including a dog’s environment and health history, that can help veterinarians properly diagnose rhinitis.

With rhinitis, a physical examination may not be enough for a definitive diagnosis. Nasal endoscopy, known as rhinoscopy, allows doctors to examine the inside of the nasal cavity. Vets may perform other procedures including nasal biopsy, collecting nasal cultures, X-rays, and computed tomography (CT) scans to rule out other causes and arrive at a rhinitis diagnosis. Often, these tests will require your pup to be put under anesthesia, so be prepared for that possibility.

Here’s how vets treat it

Treatment of canine rhinitis varies based on the cause . If a bacterial infection is also present, a doctor may prescribe antibiotics. Other medications like antihistamines, antifungals, and steroids can help your dog depending on the cause of the condition. In some cases, like with nasal tumors or an embedded object, your dog may need surgery.

👉 Chronic rhinitis can be especially tricky to diagnose, so surgery may be needed in these instances too.

Tips to prevent yucky rhinitis in your dog

Rhinitis can come on suddenly and can be tricky to both diagnose and treat. Luckily, there are some simple steps pet owners can take to reduce rhinitis risks.

Avoid allergy triggers — Irritants like pollen, dust, and smoke can cause rhinitis. Take steps to keep your home free of irritants and keep your dog away from triggers.

Try allergy treatments — A vet may recommend antihistamines or anti-inflammatories to control allergy symptoms. Dog allergy supplements may benefit pets with seasonal allergies. Our go-to is Native Pet’s Allergy Immunity. Its naturally effective ingredients relieve itchy skin and regulate your dog’s allergic response.

Clean your dog’s teeth — Dental hygiene is always important in keeping our pets healthy. Choose a doggie toothpaste with flavors your dog enjoys to make teeth cleaning easier.

Consider a humidifier — Dogs can experience dry nasal passages just like humans. A humidifier is an easy way to add moisture to the air in your home.

Keep your pup hydrated — Don’t take hydration for granted! Keep a bowl of clean fresh water around for your dog at all times.

Frequently asked questions

What are the symptoms of rhinitis in dogs?

Nasal discharge and excess sneezing, snoring, and coughing are among the common signs.

How do you treat rhinitis in dogs?

Treatment usually depends on the cause of the disease. It may involve antibiotics, antifungal therapy, antihistamines, or in some cases, surgery.

Can rhinitis be prevented?

There are some ways to reduce your dog’s risk, including properly treating allergies and keeping your home free of irritants.

How can I help my dog’s nasal congestion?

Some at-home options to relieve symptoms include purchasing a humidifier and introducing an allergy supplement to your dog’s diet.