Nasal distress in your pooch indicates he might be suffering from fungal rhinitis, more commonly known as nasal aspergillosis. Nasal aspergillosis is an opportunistic fungal infection localized in the nose, sinuses and nasal passageways. Aspergillus is a species of mold found throughout the environment, typically in animal stables, compost piles and barns. If you recognize nasal aspergillosis in your pup, seek immediate treatment.
Young dogs with long noses and heads, which are dolichocephalic breeds, and dogs with medium-length noses and heads, or mesatcephalic breeds, are more prone to developing nasal aspergillosis, according to petMD. Male dogs are also at higher risk of becoming infected than females. Although nasal aspergillosis has been found in dogs ranging in age from 1 year old to 12 years old, 77 percent of dogs are younger than 8 years old when diagnosed. Dogs who live outdoors full-time, farm dogs, dogs in rural settings and dogs who are frequently walked in the countryside are at greater risk of developing infection than indoors-only urban dogs -- the fungus most likely enters through the moist lining of the dog's nose. Dogs are more likely to contract nasal aspergillosis if their immune systems are already weak or compromised.
Symptoms of nasal aspergillosis can include mild to frequent sneezing, nasal or facial pain, nose bleeds, decreased appetite, lethargy, swollen nose, vomiting from a postnasal drip, open-mouth breathing and nasal discharge from the nostrils, which may contain pus, blood or a foul-smelling mucus. Many dogs also show symptoms of depression and appear more withdrawn than usual. If you suspect your dog has nasal aspergillosis, check for visual clues around his nose. Ulcers and loss of pigmentation around the nostrils and nose are frequent symptoms of the illness.
Take your dog to the vet if you suspect he has nasal aspergillosis. Many nasal diseases display similar symptoms, so a complete physical examination will be required to rule out other illnesses. Your vet will analyze nasal swabs, examine cultures of nasal discharge and perform a rhinoscopy, which allows him to see inside your dog's nose to examine its interior. The vet may also take a tissue biopsy from the nasal passageways. Don't delay seeking medical treatment -- left untreated, the fungus can produce toxins that can lead to destructive changes in your pup's nasal tissues and sinuses.
Antifungal medications typically treat symptoms and cure nasal aspergillosis, according to WebMD. Medication is often inserted directly into the pooch's nose and nasal passages while he's under anesthesia. If your vet prescribes antifungal drugs for your pup to take at home, call him if you notice side effects including but not limited to nausea or skin eruptions. Liver damage is a potential dangerous side effect of antifungal drugs. Your furry friend might continue to have a nasal discharge even weeks after treatment, so the vet might perform another rhinoscopy to ensure the treatment is working.
By Liza Blau
WebMD: Rhinitis and Sinusitis in Dogs
Davies Veterinary Specialists: Fungal Nasal Disease (Aspergillosis)
VeterinaryMedicine: When to Consider Aspergillosis in Dogs
Clinical Techniques in Small Animal Practice
petMD: Fungal Infection (Aspergillus) in Dogs
About the Author
Liza Blau received a B.A. in English from Columbia University. Her writing has appeared in fiction anthologies from Penguin Press, W.W. Norton, NYU Press and others. After healing her own life-threatening asthma by switching to a whole, natural foods diet, she founded the NYC Asthma Wellness Center. Blau counsels individuals on healing their own asthma and allergies with dietary and lifestyle changes.