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10 Dog Nose Problems and Causes

Blockages, mites and even reverse sneezing can cause your dog nasal grief.

If your dog sucks a foreign body up his nose, a few sneezes will most likely dislodge it. By: blumenbiene

It’s a rare dog who hasn’t experienced a sniffle, snort or sneeze at some point in his life.

As the proud parent of a puggle with her Beagle-inherited obsession with sniffing, it worries me that her vacuum-like nose will one day Hoover up a grass awn.

But inhaled foreign bodies such as grass blades or foxtails are only 1 potential problem for the active canine nose. There are plenty of nose-related health issues that can affect our furry friends, so let’s not turn up our noses but instead sniff out trouble.

1. Aspergillosis

This condition is the result of fungi (Aspergillus and penicillin species) that lives in leaf mulch or soil with the potential to colonize the dog’s nasal chambers. Infection is most common in breeds with long noses, and the symptoms include nosebleeds, facial pain and a long-term nasal discharge that starts out straw-colored and rapidly becomes purulent.

Diagnosis can be made by running a special blood test or by imaging the nasal chambers to look for the fungal colonies. Treatment is essential; left unchecked, the fungi can destroy the bony scrolls inside the nose.

Oral therapy has a low success rate because the drugs struggle to reach a high-enough concentration in the nose to be effective. This makes nasal flushes with antifungals the dog’s best chance of recovery.

2. Cancer

Happily, nasal cancer is rare in dogs. Those cancers most likely are squamous cell carcinoma of the leathery nose or osteosarcoma affecting the bony chambers inside the muzzle. In the first case, the nose becomes ulcerated and bleeds; in the second, the face becomes swollen.

Radiotherapy can be highly effective but requires anesthesia for each dose and is only available at certain oncology specialist centers.

3. Depigmentation

What’s happening when that trademark black leather nose loses color and turns pink?

Strangely, rottweilers are most commonly linked to pigment loss in the nose. This can have many causes, including:

  • Allergy to plastic food bowls (causing the immune system to be overactive and attack pigment cells)
  • Immune-mediated conditions (pemphigus and lupus) where the body attacks its own cells
  • Uveo-dermatological syndrome (linked to exposure to the sun)
  • Vitiligo
  • Rare cancers

Treatment involves identifying the reason and treating that.

Rottweilers commonly experience pigment loss in their noses. By: h-productions

4. Foreign Body

A nose in full sniff exerts a powerful pull on small objects that are then sucked up into the nasal cavity. Hopefully, a few vigorous sneezes will eject it straight out again, but sometimes objects become stuck.

The signs include frantic pawing at the nose, sneezing and eventually a discharge from just 1 nostril. The vet may look up the nose with a fine camera, and then either flush the offending object out or use special graspers.

5. Nasal Mites

This microscopic mites’ favored residence is the dog’s nasal cavity, where it causes itching and irritation. Treatment includes the use of anti-parasite products from the ivermectin family.

6. Nosebleeds

Nosebleeds, or “epistaxis,” are a symptom rather than a diagnosis in their own right. They can result from damage to blood vessels in the nose as a result of infection, cancer or a foreign body. Also, dogs with blood clotting disorders (as a result of rat poison ingestion, lungworm infection or an inherited clotting problem such as Von Willebrand disease) may well suffer regular nosebleeds.

It’s imperative to let the vet take a look and work up the problem to identify the root cause.

7. Oronasal Fistula

This is when a passageway opens between the mouth and nose (typically via the root cavity of a large canine tooth when it falls out or is removed). This allows food and drink to reflux up into the nose, where it sets up an infection. The treatment for this is reconstructive surgery to seal off the connecting channel.

And let’s not forget dog’s amazing nasal abilities:

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8. Reverse Sneezing

Described as “choo-ahh,” reverse sneezing mimics choking or coughing fits. It is extremely common and usually the result of an allergy or an overlong soft palate getting sucked into the windpipe. Most cases are self-limiting and respond to gently stroking the throat.

A few dogs may require steroids or antihistamines to settle an episode, and rarely corrective surgery is needed to trim back a long soft palate.

9. Rhinitis

This means inflammation of the nose, and the signs include a long-term nasal discharge and sneezing. The causes range from infections to allergies, but sometimes is never identified. Some dogs are long-term sufferers, which can be very frustrating for the human.

10. Sneezing

Another symptom rather than a diagnosis, this can result from infection, irritation or allergy.

If you’re worried about your dog’s nasal situation, your vet can help — all you have to do is call.


This pet health content was written by a veterinarian, Dr. Pippa Elliott, BVMS, MRCVS. It was last reviewed Oct. 11, 2018.