The Nose


The nose has two functions. It is, of course, a pet's most sophisticated sensory organ, capable of detecting the most dilute of odours. It is also the vital portal of entry to the respiratory system. Problems in the nostrils interfere with breathing.

Drippy Noses

Some dogs have naturally drippy noses. Cats rarely do. Nasal drip, without sneezing, particularly if clear and watery usually occurs when the individual is nervous or excited but may also occur even when a pet is asleep. This is a normal condition, not a problem. In other instances a discharge, which is any abnormal excretion, and sneezing may be caused by minor conditions such as hay fever to major problems like nasal tumours. Remember, sneezing is not an illness. It’s a reflex action to rid the nasal passages of something the body considers to be irritating.

Nasal Discharge - Rhinitis And Sinusitis

Overwhelmingly, the most common cause of nasal discharge is allergy (atopy) in dogs and infection in cats. An allergic rhinitis produces a clear nasal discharge, often accompanied by sneezing and runny, itchy eyes. A bacterial, viral or fungal infection of the nasal cavity produces a thicker discharge of mucous or pus. If the infection spreads from the nasal chamber into its extensions in the frontal and maxillary sinuses, a "sinusitis" ensues. Sinus involvement causes a nasal discharge into the back of the throat, so-called "post nasal drip". Affected cats may gag or retch. There may be an accompanying foul odour.

Diagnosis And Treatment

Allergic rhinitis is usually treated with an antihistamine. A culture and sensitivity test of the nasal discharge identifies if microorganisms are involved. We usually treat bacterial nasal discharge with a broad spectrum antibiotic, usually for at least two weeks while fungal infections are treated with oral and/or topical antifungal medication for several months. Chronic infection, especially involving the sinuses, is difficult to overcome. In rare instances in cats there is value in surgically opening the nasal cavity or affected sinus to attempt to thoroughly cleanse the region.

Objects In The Nostrils

Discharge from only one nostril usually means there is something in that nasal chamber. Blades of grass and grass seeds are the most common foreign bodies entering via the nostrils but anything small enough to get sucked in through sniffing may cause a problem. In older pets polyps and tumours act as foreign bodies, causing irritation, sometimes bleeding, sometimes a nasal discharge. A polyp is an enlargement of a nasal mucous gland. It is not a cancer. Nasal tumours tend to be aggressive and malignant. If we suspect an object in a nostril we will look for it with a small endoscope. X-rays and scans are sometimes necessary to determine the cause of a nasal discharge.

If you see something protruding from a nostril, for example a blade of grass, carefully try to remove it with tweezers. If you can’t remove call us immediately to do so. Sedation or anaethesia is usually necessary.

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