How to Clear a Dog's Stuffy Nose

No one likes having a stuffy nose, even your dog. It's unpleasant for him to have his breathing restricted and any type of stuffiness has a variety of medical causes, ranging from simple to more complex. If your dog experiences a stuffy nose for more than one day, take him to the veterinarian for an examination. In dogs, stuffy noses can result from things like allergies, bacterial or fungal infections, viruses, tooth abscesses, parasites, and nasal polyps. These are serious conditions that require the expertise of a vet to treat.

Close-Up Portrait Of Dog Lying Down
credit: Jaromir Chalabala / EyeEm/EyeEm/GettyImages

In the meantime, there are ways to clear a dog's nose and offer immediate relief prior to a veterinary visit. This way, your pup will be more comfortable while he awaits treatment and some of these techniques may also be used in conjunction with his eventual veterinary treatment as well. Be sure to always check with your vet, though, to ensure that all medications you give are safe for your dog.

Stuffy nose symptoms

You're familiar with the obvious signs of a stuffy nose, such as difficult, noisy breathing. Dogs might suffer from nasal congestion without the telltale sniffing and snorting. Other signs of a canine stuffy nose include face pawing and sneezing.

If your dog is breathing through his mouth but not panting, it's likely his nose is stuffed up. Normally, dogs breathe through their noses except when it's hot or they've finished exercising. They then pant as a cooling mechanism. You may also notice visible nasal discharge coming out of the nose.

Steam or humidifiers

One nonmedical and safe way to obtain relief for your dog's stuffy nose is to put him in a room with a humidifier. The increase in air moisture provided by the humidifier helps open nasal passages. This goes a long way to helping him breathe better and can be continued with other medications for conditions like infections with no ill effects.

As an alternative, if you don't have a humidifier handy, find another way to offer him steamy relief. When you take your shower, bring your dog into the bathroom with you. The steam from the shower has the same effect as the humidifier.

Nasal decongestants

You might have a human nasal decongestant in your medicine cabinet, but clear its use with your veterinarian before squirting it into your dog's nose. According to Pet Place, your vet might allow the use of oxymetazoline, marketed under the brand name Afrin and sold in generic versions. Your vet will inform you how many sprays of the medication to use in each of your dog's nostrils, depending on the animal's size. Don't use this medication on your dog -- or yourself -- for more than three days, as prolonged use causes increased congestion. If your dog suffers from heart disease, thyroid problems or diabetes, do not give him oxymetazoline.

Another option is to use saline nasal drops or saline nasal spray in your dog's nose to clear his nasal passages, recommends Vetinfo. Your vet can advise you on the amount of saline spray to give to your dog. Saline nasal sprays can usually be found in pharmacies or your vet can tell you how to mix one up if necessary.

Benadryl for dogs

If your dog's stuffy nose is allergy-related, the over-the-counter medication Benadryl might help, according to petMD. Again, consult your veterinarian before giving your dog this drug, and ask for dosing information. An antihistamine, Benadryl works by counteracting histamines released by your dog's body as part of his allergic reaction to a substance, such as certain molds and pollens. Side effects of Benadryl include lethargy, decreased urination, and appetite loss. Don't give Benadryl to dogs suffering from heart disease, hyperthyroidism or bladder problems.