Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Post Type Selectors
We’re reader-supported. When you click on our chosen products, we may receive a commission. Learn more.
A guide to sinus infections in dogs

The essentials

  • Dog sinus infections are similar to ours — Common symptoms include nasal congestion, sneezing, coughing, difficulty breathing, and discharge coming from the eyes and nose. 
  • Sinus infections have multiple causes — Dogs can develop a sinus infection as a result of bacterial or viral infection or due to environmental allergies. 
  • See a doctor if symptoms persist — Schedule an appointment with your veterinarian if your dog’s sinus infection lasts for more than 48 hours.

A little sinus trouble may seem like no big deal to you, but a sinus infection can cause your dog serious discomfort. Depending on the cause, your dog may need more than at-home treatment to clear a sinus infection.

Discover what might be triggering your dog’s sneezing and snot and what you can do to treat it.

What’s a dog sinus infection?

As the same suggests, sinus infections target the sinuses: the bony, air-filled cavities connecting to the nasal cavities. When a dog has a sinus infection (also known as sinusitis), these cavities become filled with fluid, and their lining becomes inflamed.  

They’re often accompanied by another respiratory condition called rhinitis, or the inflammation of the mucous membranes in the nose. If an infection affects both the nose and sinus cavities, a dog is said to have “rhinosinusitis.”

Early detection and treatment are key when dealing with dog sinus infections. Some bacteria can cause chronic infections in dogs, resulting in episodic symptoms with varying periods of relief, or symptoms that appear to linger persistently. 

Get your dog to the vet as soon as you spot symptoms so they can run the appropriate diagnostic work and get your dog on the mend.

Signs of a canine sinus infection

If your dog develops a sinus infection, they’ll likely experience nasal congestion and other signs of infected sinus cavities. Here are some of the most common signs you’ll see in your dog if they have a sinus infection:

  • Stuffy nose. Nasal congestion occurs when the sinus cavities become full of fluid.
  • Coughing and sneezing. Your dog may cough in an attempt to eradicate sinus drainage dripping down the back of their throat. Sneezing is an attempt to clear the upper airways of discharge. 
  • Discharge from the eyes and nose. Inflammation of the upper respiratory passages may cause tearing and conjunctivitis in dogs. Discharge can be clear but may turn yellow or green if a bacterial infection develops.
  • Hacking, gagging, and open-mouth breathing. If your dog can’t breathe through their congested nose, they’ll breathe with their mouth open. Many dogs gag on the sinus drainage that slips down the back of their throat and may try to hack it up.
  • Bad breath. Sinus infections can cause bad breath if they’re caused by dental issues,  bacterial pathogens, polyps, masses, or tumors.
  • Head shyness. Fungal sinus infections can be painful and cause your dog to shy away if you try to pet them on the head.
  • Loss of appetite. If your dog can’t breathe or smell well, they’re less likely to have a normal appetite. Offer strong-smelling food in an attempt to perk up their appetite.
  • Fever. A sinus infection can cause your dog to develop a fever, which is a temperature reading of 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.

What causes a doggie sinus infection?

In people, a sinus infection can be the result of a common cold, allergies, smoke, and dental infections. When your dog gets a sinus infection, it’s usually caused by a similar issue. Common culprits include: 

  • Viruses. Viral infections are the most common cause of acute sinusitis in dogs. Canine distemper , canine adenovirus types 1 and 2 , canine influenza , and canine parainfluenza are usually to blame. Supportive care is the only option for managing these viral conditions.
  • Bacteria. Primary bacterial infections are rare in dogs, but they may result from Bordetella bronchiseptica infections (kennel cough). More commonly,  secondary bacterial infections develop alongside viral infections. In these cases, antibiotics will help resolve the bacterial component of the infection but not the viral aspect.
  • Fungi. Aspergillus fumigatus is the most common fungal infection linked to sinusitis in dogs. It’s treated by the administration of an anti-fungal drug directly into the nose and nasal passages while the dog is under anesthesia.
  • Parasites. Parasites like nasal mites are biologically different from viruses and bacteria, but they can wreak just as much havoc when they’re lurking inside your pooch’s nose, resulting in irritation and discharge.  
  • Weakened immune system. If your furry pal’s immune system is weakened, they’re at a greater risk for sinus infections. Immunosuppressive medications can help manage some diseases, but they may simultaneously increase your dog’s risk of developing a sinus infection. 
  • Dental disease. Sinus infections can develop if a tooth root abscess extends into the maxillary (upper jaw) recess. Extraction and antimicrobial treatment are usually the best treatment plans for these cases, but you can reduce your dog’s risk of dental problems now by brushing their teeth and seeing your vet for regular cleanings.
  • Asthma. Although asthma in dogs isn’t common, it can predispose your pup to developing a sinus infection. Treating your dog’s asthma with the appropriate medications can help prevent more damage to the upper airways.
  • Trauma to the face. Being hit by a car or attacked by another dog can change your dog’s nasal anatomy and predispose them to developing sinus infections.
  • Foreign objects. Sticks, weeds, and grass can lead to sinus infections when they become trapped inside a dog’s nasal cavities. These are typically flushed out or physically removed with tweezers or hemostats.
  • Oronasal fistula. This term refers to an abnormal opening between the oral and nasal cavities. This allows water, saliva, plaque, bacteria, and small food particles to enter the sinuses and cause chronic infections. Surgical closure of the fistula is essential for healing.
  • Polyps and tumors.  About 80% of nasal tumors in dogs are malignant and locally aggressive, meaning they attack the tissue surrounding the tumor. They may be able to be removed through flushing, radiation therapy, or a rhinotomy. Large tumors are almost exclusively treated with radiation. 
  • Allergens or environmental irritants. Allergic sinusitis may occur seasonally, such as with pollen production, or year-round, like with house dust and molds. Fortunately, there are many effective allergy medications available for dogs.

When to see a vet for your dog’s sinus infection

If your dog’s symptoms have lasted more than 48 hours, it’s time to bring them to the vet for diagnosis. To discover the cause of your dog’s sinus infection, your veterinarian may take x-rays, perform an endoscopy, take a nasal biopsy or culture, or run blood work.

Depending on the cause, your vet may prescribe antibiotics or antifungal therapy, perform surgery, or administer radiation therapy. In recent years, CT scans have become another affordable and widely accessible screening device for dogs with sinus infections. Some dogs may have chronic sinus infections, which require ongoing treatment to manage signs that occasionally pop up.

How to treat a dog sinus infection at home

While we always recommend seeing a vet when your dog gets sick, there are a few ways to keep your dog comfortable at home while they’re recovering from a sinus infection. Here are some top methods to keep your pup’s nose clean, reduce inflammation and irritation, and help them get back to their old self. 

Soothe your dog’s nose — You can soothe your dog’s inflamed, cracked nose with natural, organic ingredients found in Snout Soother or Nozzle Nectar.

Keep your dog’s nose clean — Gently wipe your dog’s nose with a warm, damp washcloth to remove discharge and ensure they can breathe clearly. You can also use a nasal aspirator or bulb syringe to gently suck out excess mucus from the nasal cavities.

Increase air moisture and humidity — Run a humidifier or place a vaporizer in the area your dog spends most of their time. You can also bring your dog into the bathroom when you take a hot shower.

Encourage your dog to eat and drink — Offer canned food with a strong odor to tempt your pooch into eating, and consider adding a water fountain to make sure they have a steady supply of fresh water.

Try an antihistamine — Antihistamines like Benadryl and Zyrtec can help alleviate your dog’s runny nose. Plain diphenhydramine (Benadryl) without nasal decongestants can also be used at a dose of 1 mg per pound, with no more than 75 mg total. For a Zyrtec dose, consult our comprehensive guide.

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

Flush your dog’s sinuses — A saline flush, when performed correctly and under your veterinarian’s instruction, can help break up and flush out mucus, allowing your dog to breathe more easily.

Frequently asked questions

How can you tell if your dog has a sinus infection?

Dogs experience similar symptoms to humans when suffering from a sinus infection, including sneezing, coughing, discharge from the eyes and nose, difficulty breathing and/or gagging, head shyness, loss of appetite, and fever. 

How do you clear a dog’s sinuses?

Home remedies to clear your dog’s sinuses include using a humidifier, flushing the sinuses with saline, using a nasal aspirator, or giving Benadryl. Be sure to ask your vet before administering any human over-the-counter medicines to your pup.

Will a dog’s sinus infection go away on its own?

Most causes of sinus infections in dogs require some form of treatment, whether it’s as simple as a course of medication or as complex as radiation therapy. You can give your dog a couple of days to see if their sinus infection resolves on its own, but if it doesn’t, seek professional care. A vet can make an accurate diagnosis and give you more info on any available treatment plans, including the best antibiotics for your dog’s bacterial sinus infections. 

How long do sinus infections last in dogs?

Typically, sinus infections last a week or two once treatment is started. However, long-term damage and scarring can lead to chronic sinusitis.

Can you flush a dog’s sinus?

Some skilled pet owners are able to flush their dog’s sinuses with saline to help clear out foreign objects and sticky mucus — but it isn’t recommended, as it can lead to serious health complications from aspiration pneumonia if liquid becomes trapped in the nasal passages.