Dog Cold Symptom: Sneezing and Nasal Discharge

The clinical signs will be a primary consideration in determining a diagnosis. If the problem continues for several hours, see a veterinarian, particularly when there are other sytmpoms such as the presence of blood, snorting or gagging. Per the chart on the previous page, symptoms fall into three categories as indicated below:


Nasal discharge and sneezing indicate some type of upper respiratory tract infection or disease. The first step is to determine the severity of the problem. This is detemrined by the frequency, color (is there any?), nose skin irritation, and other symptoms such as bleeding in the nose, lethargy or lack of appetite. When to See a Vet

Have your dog checked by a veterinarian if sneezing and nasal discharge is characterized by:

  1. blood in the nasal discharge (more than a drop)
  2. sneezing episodes that occur 2 or more times a day, particularly over 3 or more days
  3. violent sneezing
  4. changes in breathing (wheezing, reverse sneezing, snorting, shortness of breath)
  5. nasal discharge over 1 week
  6. foul smelling discharge
  7. changes in appetite
  8. multiple pets in household showing a problem

Sneezing without the presence of any other symptom can indicate skin or seasonal allergy. The veterinarian will start with a visual inspection of the nose. He or she will look at the color and character of any discharge (see chart on prior page). The Vet will also want to know if discharge is from one or both nostrils. If you can, write down when the problem started, and the frequency of sneezing.

Dog Front Teeth and Left/Right Nasal Passages. Nasal discharge can be caused by bacterial or viral infections. Problems with swalloing can cause a lung infection along with nasal problems.

The veterinarian will examine the sinuses, nose, nasal cavity, the appearance of both sides of the nose (do they look the same). A Vet will look for signs of injury or dental disease. Some dental problems can cause a waring away of the bone, allowing a connection between the mouth and the nasal cavity.

If nothing is found, x-rays will be needed of the sinuses and nasal cavity. A diagnostic tool called a Otoscope will enable the vet to see approximately 25% of the nasal cavity. An endoscope provides a view that reaches 75%. More expensive methods are available such as taking a MRI of the area.

Most Common Diagnosis and Treatment:

Canine Oro-Nasal Fistulae: Dogs (particularly those that are older or middle-age) can suffer from an abnormal passageway between the mouth and the nasal cavities. This is common even in dogs that might have received dental treatment for bone erosion (dental prophylaxis).

Dogs are treated with anti-biotics, which will quickly revolve any symptoms.

Canine Nasal Neoplasia (dog nasal tumor): Dogs of any age, but particularly those 8 to 10 years old can suffer from a tumor in the nasal cavity. Symptoms of nasal neoplasia in dogs includes sneezing, continuous nasal discharge and/or an occasional dog nose bleed. Dogs that are exposed to cigarette or tobacco smoke are 2.5x more likely to have a nasal tumor. 80% of tumors are cancerous (malignant), with 20% benign or not cancer. The most common type of dog nose cancer is cause by an adenocarcinoma (vs. the less common squamous cell carcinoma).

Diagnosis is based on x-ray evidence of bone lesions. The x-ray will also help distinguish a nasal neoplasia (neoplasia is another name for tumor) vs. a fungal infection which can cause inflammation in the mucous lining of the nose (called mycotic rhinitis). Another indication is a condition that does not respond to anti-biotics.

Mycotic Rhinitis: As mentioned above, canine mycotic rhinitis is similar in appearance to the presence of a dog nose tumor. 80% of diagnosed dogs are under age 7. The condition is not common in breeds that have heads that are wider than long (brachycephalic breeds). Symptoms of rhinitis in dogs includes continuous mucous filled discharge, pain in the nasal cavities, and may or may not be accompanied by sneezing. A veterinarian will look for any erosion at the opening of the nasal cavity (nares). The condition does not respond to anti-biotics.

The most common diagnosis and treatment is for the presence of a mold called Aspergillus fumigatus.

Lympoplasmacytic Rhinitis: This is a dog disease characterized by constant dog sneezing and nasal discharge from one or both nostrils. The condition is seen in large breed young or middle-age dogs. The condition does not respond to the use of steroids or antibiotics. The condition is diagnosed after eliminating the aforementioned causes.


IVIS – International Veterinary Information Service
Atkins, Clarke E. DVM, Canine Heartworm Disease: Prevention and Treatment

Heartworm Disease in Dogs; Venco, Luigi

U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Jeff Grill