How to Clear a Dog's Stuffy Nose

By Jane Meggitt

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 infections, tooth abscesses, parasites, and nasal polyps. In the meantime, there are ways to clear a dog's nose and offer relief prior to a veterinary visit.

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. 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. Other signs of a canine stuffy nose include face pawing and sneezing.

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. 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. 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.

Benadryl for Dogs

If your dog's stuffy nose is allergy-related, the over-the-counter medication Benadryl might help. 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.