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Health & Wellness

Why do dogs get runny noses?

Dogs can get runny noses for the same reasons people do.

Don’t worry if your dog has a runny nose or even a cold. Dogs can get runny noses, coughs and sneezes for various reasons, and there's usually no need for concern. 

“Watery noses with clear color are totally normal,” Dr. Holly Jordan, DVM, a veterinary consultant at Fidus Pet Concierge Communities, says. 

Although runny noses and sneezing are normal in every dog's life, there are similar symptoms to look out for that may signal it's time to call the vet.

Why do dogs have runny noses?

Transparent-colored runny noses are the most normal type of runny nose and can occur for reasons similar to humans — like humidity or allergies. A clear, thicker mucus can indicate inflammation with no infection, which can be caused due to allergens. 

When the mucus is green or yellow, this can almost always indicate infection. “As vets, we always worry about this because it can sometimes signal pneumonia,” Dr. Jordan says. When there's green-or-yellow mucus, it's best to take the dog to the veterinarian.

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Colds and other illnesses that can cause runny noses and sneezes

Dogs can get colds — a common one being “kennel cough,” which encompasses a variety of several viruses and bacterial infections. Kennel cough can also lead to congestion and sneezing. 

And if your dog starts to breathe funny in a way that seems like sneezing, but it's not quite the same, that's probably a reverse sneeze — which can look scarier than what's actually happening. Reverse sneezing is exactly what it sounds like, the opposite of a sneeze. According to Dr. Jordan, it occurs when the dog sucks in air, which almost looks like gasping but occurs through the nose. There are no known underlying causes for reverse sneezing but it generally occurs due to irritation in the nasal passages. Reverse sneezing can happen out of nowhere in healthy dogs but can be seen in dogs with rhinitis, a type of bacterial infection, too.

“Typically, calming them down and reassuring them helps the episode go away quicker,” Dr. Jordan says. “It looks scary but is not life-threatening or damaging.” 

Other common reasons for sneezing are:

  • Allergies
  • Nasal mites
  • Nasal fungal infections 
  • Tumors

It's not very common for cold-like illnesses to be transferred from people to pets: “Upper respiratory infections shared between humans and dogs is almost non-existent,” Dr. Jordan says.

At-home remedies for runny noses

Humidifiers and antihistamines can be helpful for dogs with runny noses. Dr. Jordan also says that some dogs could use their own nebulizers. 

There are no home remedies for yellow-or-green mucus since a veterinarian should treat it — antibiotics are often prescribed as treatment. Dr. Jordan states that you should never use human decongestants on dogs. 

The Dig, Fetch's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

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