How to Treat a Dog With Nasal Congestion

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Dogs can get a stuffy nose just like humans. Identifying dog congestion and determining how to treat it is dependent on what is causing the problem. Dog congestion can be a result of a number of issues, including seasonal allergies, spreading dental infections, and even foreign objects stuck in the dog's nose. The most common cause of dog congestion, however, is bacterial, viral, or fungal infections.

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The most common cause of dog congestion is infections.
Image Credit: Keith Levit/Keith Levit Photography/Getty Images

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A visit to the veterinarian is the best way to determine the cause of your dog's congestion, also called rhinitis. Rhinitis is an inflammation of the nasal mucus membranes. Note that severe nasal congestion is painful and possibly life-threatening, especially if your pup is unable to breathe effectively. Don't let symptoms linger.

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Dog congestion identification

The symptoms of dog congestion are numerous and compounded by the fact that several of these issues might be symptoms of other problems. However, if your dog is having difficulty breathing with his mouth closed or is mouth breathing or panting more than usual, there might be a problem with his sinuses. Other symptoms include sneezing, coughing, swollen and reddish gums, nose bleeds, itchy skin, watery eyes, or pawing at the nose and mouth. Dogs might also avoid having their head touched.

If there is discharge from the eyes or nose (or both), note the consistency of the fluid. Clear liquid is less of a concern than cloudy mucus or pus, which are likely signs of a more serious problem needing veterinary care and possibly prescribed antibiotics. Blood tests are usually required to determine an infection.

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Similarly, additional veterinary tests are needed to identify allergies, and X-rays might be required to rule out anything stuck in the dog's nose or to find a tumor. If only one nostril appears clogged, that's a clue that the problem might be some kind of obstruction. In hard to diagnose cases, rhinoscopy, a method of looking inside the entire nose, or a CT scan might be needed.

Dog congestion treatments

Treatment for canine nasal congestion depends on what's causing the problem. Bacterial infections, such as kennel cough, are treated with antibiotics. It's important to complete the entire cycle of antibiotics prescribed even if the dog appears better immediately. Unfortunately, antibiotics are not effective on viruses. Anti-fungal therapy is used to treat fungal infections once the type of fungus is identified.

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Like humans, dogs can have allergies, usually seasonal, that cause inflammation in the nose. In most cases, vet-prescribed antihistamines and steroids will help clear up the symptoms but not cure the allergies. If you are directed to use over-the-counter products, make sure they contain antihistamine only, such as Benadryl. Do not use products containing decongestants, such as pseudoephedrine, or pain suppressants, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. These medications are highly toxic to dogs. Consult a pharmacist if you are uncertain about what to purchase.

Dog congestion relief

To provide your pet some immediate relief from dog congestion prior to the medication kicking in, try some safe home remedies. For example, steam can offer stuffy nose relief at least temporarily. Fill the bathtub with hot water and let the bathroom fill with steam. Do not put your dog in the water but let him sit in the bathroom beside the tub for five to 15 minutes. Monitor your dog and allow him to breathe the steam.

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Alternatively, putting a few drops of saline solution into your dog's nostrils — if he lets you — will help increase healing from a sinus infection. Finally, simply use a humidifier in your home to reduce dryness in the air. Then, keep your dog warm and indoors as much as possible until the rhinitis subsides. Dog sinus infections can last up to three weeks.

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