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Puppy Snot 101: How To Respond to a Runny Nose
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Puppy Snot 101: How To Respond to a Runny Nose

Critter Culture Staff
Updated May 9, 2022

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Your puppy's been looking a little under the weather, but you're unsure whether to make a big deal about it or let sleeping dogs lie. Rule number one—always address breathing problems as a matter of urgency. If your dog's breathing is fine, you can consider other possible causes for a runny nose, including a run-of-the-mill cold.

1

Various infections

dog's wet nose William Rodrigues dos Santos / Getty Images

A mild runny nose involves clear, thin mucus dripping out of your pup's nose. Pus is always startling. And if the discharge smells unpleasant, there's a good chance a respiratory or other infection is to blame. Fungal infections such as aspergillosis can become severe. In all cases, it's best to see a vet for an accurate diagnosis and because treatment sometimes necessitates anesthesia.

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2

Unidentified foreign objects

Portrait of a Golden Retriever puppy face with his little black nose demanescale / Getty Images

No, aliens in UFOs aren't to blame for those wet spots on your puppy's face. You might have heard about toddlers stuffing foreign objects up their noses. Puppies can have a nasal obstruction too. Like, little humans, puppies spend most of their waking hours exploring their new world. And, of course, they do this mainly via sniffing and licking.

Sometimes, a vigorous inhalation can cause a blockage without you knowing. Consider whether your pet has been sneezing, having nose bleeds, or touching its snout. You can check by placing a mirror underneath the pup's nose. If there's a blockage, the fog should indicate which nostril to clear. You might be able to remove the item with the help of someone who can prevent your puppy from restlessly moving about while you're wielding tweezers. Otherwise, book a consult with a local health professional.

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3

Flu symptoms

Cute pomeranian dog sleeping on pillow on bed Sushiman / Getty Images

Flu spreads like wildfire among humans, so most health insurance companies encourage their members to take an annual flu vaccine. Canine influenza can run amok, particularly in high-traffic areas like doggy boarding houses, daycare centers, and parks. The virus spreads via shared utensils and accessories and presents in much the same way as human flu does—with a runny nose, fever, fatigue, and less interest in food than usual. If there's a nasal discharge with an odd color, your puppy may benefit from antibiotics or another form of vet-approved treatment. And, yes, there's a flu shot for dogs as well.

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4

Kennel cough

puppy with its mouth open

If your fur baby sounds like it has something lodged in its throat when it coughs, you might be dealing with kennel cough. Bordetella is the formal term for this relatively common and contagious condition—it's a canine cold and accounts for many trips to the animal clinic. You should do the same if your puppy's cough doesn't clear within a few days, especially because very young dogs are susceptible to complications.

Be sure not to take your dog to busy places for at least three weeks after its symptoms clear. Home treatment includes rest and steamy air courtesy of a brief stint in the bathroom while you shower or bathe. A humidifier should do the trick too.

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5

Physiological issues

pug with sad eyes sitting at the table katoosha / Getty Images

Brachycephalic or flat-faced dog breeds like boxers, pugs, chow chows, and bulldogs tend to have runny noses more often than their long-nosed counterparts. Dogs with short muzzles often snore, breathe audibly, and may have more severe breathing issues as well. In extreme cases, surgery can correct cartilage problems or too-small nostrils. But if your puppy is mostly fine, you can table surgery until it's an adult—there's a chance nature will work out the kinks.

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6

Seasonal or other allergies

small dog sitting on a robot vacuum cleaner in a room Нарине Нахшкарян / Getty Images

Did you know that in 2019, allergies were the number one reason dogs were taken to the vet? Scientists suspect it may have to do with broader trends, including less time spent outdoors and the idea that disinfectants remove good bacteria from homes.

Puppies may be allergic to dust mites, feathers, grass, pollen, chemicals, certain foods, or the environment. Try and vacuum frequently and have your vet do an allergy blood test to hone in on specific allergens.

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7

Pet allergies

Kitten and puppy taking nap. FamVeld / Getty Images

Here's a doozy. What do you do if your puppy is allergic to you or your other pets? Symptoms might include a drippy nose, excessive grooming, flaking skin, or other itchy rashes. If the new baby in the household isn't responding well to feline or human dander, it might need allergy shots every week or month.

You should notice a positive change within about four weeks of treatment.

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8

Distemper

Cute labrador puppy dog getting a vaccine at the veterinary doctor ilona75 / Getty Images

Dog owners sometimes struggle to tell the difference between kennel cough and distemper. The latter is much more worrisome and is often life-threatening. In addition to a runny nose with a yellow discharge, you might notice discharge in the eyes, lethargy, convulsions, and gastric distress. Recovery takes a few weeks, and the illness can come back with new symptoms years after the first episode. Distemper vaccines are available to keep the worst of the virus at bay.

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9

Nasal polyps or cancer

Dog in veterinarian's office XiXinXing / Getty Images

Notice a protrusion on your dog's nose and blood or discharge? Your puppy may also be struggling with a reduced appetite. The bulge could be due to a polyp or a tumor. Both masses can be surgically removed, and both can return over time. Malignant tumors will require radiation therapy, and, sadly, the long-term outlook does not bode well.

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10

How to clean a runny nose

owner wiping dog's face

You can wipe a moist snout with a clean tissue and try and clear out crusty bits within the nostrils, too, especially in flat-faced breeds. You'll need to use a warm damp cloth to clean off a runny nose that has dried up. Staying on top of nasal cleanliness will keep your dog comfortable and achieve a healthy baseline.

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