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Nose Inflammation, Rhinitis in Dogs

Nose Inflammation in Dogs

Rhinitis in dogs is a common respiratory condition that involves inflammation of the tissue lining the dog's nasal cavity. This condition can have a variety of symptoms and causes. With any case of rhinitis, regardless of the cause, your veterinarian will perform several diagnostic procedures so to pinpoint the exact cause and treat it accordingly. While many times rhinitis in dogs can be seasonal and self-limiting, there are several other causes for rhinitis that can lead to more serious medical conditions. If you suspect your dog has rhinitis, see your vet. Following is some information about rhinitis in dogs provided by veterinarian Dr. Bartlett.

Dogs with rhinitis often have a runny nose.

Dogs with rhinitis often have a runny nose.

Symptoms of Rhinitis in Dogs

Symptoms of rhinitis in dogs can include discharge from the dog's nose, sneezing, reverse sneezing, eye discharge, open-mouthed breathing, gasping or snoring. Some conditions will cause dogs to paw at their noses.

Rhinitis can be a sudden acute onset or a chronic and progressive condition. Treatment and diagnostics depend on symptoms and underlying causes.

Signs of bacterial rhinitis in dogs are sneezing, nasal discharge, and nose bleeds. In addition, the dog may have bad breath and may experience a decrease in appetite.

If a mass or foreign body is present, affected dogs will often paw at their noses and shake their heads and may develop sneezing, reverse sneezing, discharge from the eyes and rubbing of the nose.

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If your dog shows any symptoms suggestive of rhinitis, please see your vet for proper diagnosis and treatment. There are many causes of rhinitis in dogs and several are outlined below.

Causes of Rhinitis in Dogs 

 There are many causes of rhinitis in dogs.

There are many causes of rhinitis in dogs.

Usually cases of rhinitis are seasonal and self-limiting. However, there are many other causes for rhinitis that can lead to more serious medical conditions.

Underlying causes of rhinitis include viral or bacterial infection, tooth root abscesses, fungal disease of the nasal cavity, trauma to the nasal cavity, the presence of a foreign body, cancer, or lymphoplasmacytic rhinitis. Chronic rhinitis in dogs or conditions that involve blood or purulent discharge should always be seen by a veterinarian.

Most common types of infectious rhinitis are viral in nature and can be caused by distemper virus, adenovirus or influenza virus. Often viral infections are self-limiting and are treated with supportive care until they resolve.

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Occasionally viral infections can open the way to secondary bacterial infections, so, antibiotics may be warranted. Fungal infections in the nasal cavities of dogs are most commonly caused by Aspergillus spp. Bacterial rhinitis is most often secondary to some other condition.

Rhinitis in dogs is rarely a primary condition. A primary cause of bacterial infection is Bordetella bronchiseptica, which is the target of the kennel cough vaccine that most dogs receive during their yearly preventive care visits.

Lymphoplasmacytic rhinitis is a primary progressive condition. This form of rhinitis is caused by chronic exposure to inhaled allergens or irritants or it can be immune-mediated. This form of rhinitis is seen most often in large breed dogs and dachshunds. Complete cure is rarely achieved, but severity of symptoms can be reduced. Avoidance of inhaled irritants such as perfumes, air sprays, cigarette smoke can help to control symptoms chronically.

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Dental disease is an important underlying cause of some cases of rhinitis. Badly diseased and infected teeth can lead to communication between the oral cavity and the nasal passages, known as oronasal fistulas. Abscessed tooth roots can also work their way out through the nasal cavity or the side of the muzzle.

Foreign bodies as a cause of rhinitis are often plant material that has been inhaled. This condition occurs mostly in the case of hunting dogs but can occur in any dog. Trauma causing damage to the nasal turbinates or sinus cavities can also contribute to rhinitis. Finally, cancers can manifest in the nasal or sinus cavities and cause symptoms similar to rhinitis.

At the Vet's Office 

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With any case of rhinitis, regardless of the cause, your veterinarian will perform several diagnostic procedures. Your veterinarian will start with a visual oral exam to look for damage to the palate or dental disease. If there is suspicion of dental disease or nasal mass in the dog's nose, your veterinarian will suggest x-rays of the skull and dental roots.

Sometimes a culture of the nasal cavity and any dog's nasal discharge will be recommended to test for the presence of bacterial or fungal organisms. More advanced diagnostics include rhinoscopy of dog's nose, tissue sampling or biopsies, and CT or MRI are used to rule out neoplasia, foreign bodies, trauma and fungal plaques.

Treatment depends on the underlying cause, but many conditions requires supportive care in addition to treatment of the underlying primary cause. Supportive care can include mucolytics and intranasal saline flushes. Bacterial infections are treated with antibiotics and supportive care as needed. Cases of lymphoplasmacytic rhinitis are treated with immunosuppressants, antihistamines, supportive care and lifestyle management.

Treatment of fungal infections often involves multiple treatments of antifungals instilled into the nasal and sinus cavities. These treatments usually require hospitalization and general anesthesia. Treatment for bacterial rhinitis includes addressing the underlying causes and an appropriate course of antibiotics. In other cases, surgical intervention may be necessary. Tooth root abscesses involve surgical removal of the affected teeth and debridement of the affected tissue. Foreign bodies must be removed, usually through the use of rhinoscopy. Neoplasia in the nasal cavity is often treated with radiation, however surgery or chemotherapy may be indicated depending on the type of cancer that is present.

Regardless of the cause, any nasal discharge or discomfort associated with the nose should be addressed as soon as possible. Chronic conditions, when managed early, can become less severe over time. Treating infections and other conditions early can prevent irreversible damage and improve your dog's quality of life.

About the Author 

Dr. Samantha Bartlett is an associate veterinarian at Case Veterinary Hospital in Savannah, GA. She received her undergraduate degree in Biology from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and continued to get her DVM at Auburn University.


Before returning back to work in Savannah, Dr. Bartlett spent time as a veterinarian in the Florida Keys where she was able to learn about holistic medicine and gain more experience in feline medicine – two fields that hold great interest for her. Dr. Bartlett is also working to broaden her skills in dentistry.

Dr. Bartlett shares her home with her dog, Boone and her three cats, Isabelle, Amelia and Oswald. In her free time, she enjoys walking the beach, paddleboarding and lazy days with a good book.

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