Ask the Vet: Why is My Dog Blowing Air Out of the Nose?
Dr. Ivana Crnec
Watching a dog blowing air out of the nose can be an overall distressing experience for dog parents especially if this has never happened before. When trying to understand the underlying motives for some odd doggy behaviors, it helps to carefully evaluate the context in which the behavior occurs and whether it's accompanied by other signs. Veterinarian Dr. Ivana goes into depth on what may cause this behavior along with several potential medical causes for it.
The Importance of Seeing the Vet
Most dog parents seeing their dogs blowing air out of their noses find it to be a distressing experience, especially if it has never happened before.
When a dog is blowing air out of its nose, it looks pretty much like when a human is trying to clear its nose due to allergies or a cold. However, in that area, we, humans are much luckier than dogs – we can grab a tissue and blow our noses fair and square. Dogs cannot do the same, and they are usually a bit confused when found in such a situation.
If your dog is blowing air out of its nose, make an appointment with your trusted vet. The vet will thoroughly examine your dog, assess the situation, and determine the underlying cause. Here is a list of some possible causes of nose blowing in dogs.
A Dog Dealing With a Runny Nose
When a dog tenaciously blows air out of the nose, he or she might be trying to clear the nasal passages from accumulating secretions.
A runny nose should not be confused with a naturally wet nose. Under normal circumstances, all dogs have wet noses, but they are not regularly dripping.
Dogs find the dripping to be quite annoying and would do anything to stop it. Usually, to deal with the situation, the dog will blow air out of its nose, lick its nose excessively, and if the dripping sensation is trickling enough – even sneeze or engage in a fastidious sneezing bout.
Dogs may develop runny noses as a result of many conditions and diseases. The most common causes of the drippy nose are the following:
- Allergies – usually triggered by environmental allergens such as grass, pollen, dust mites
- Exposure to irritants – strong evaporating cleaning chemicals, cigarette smoke, or even powerful perfumes
- Upper respiratory infections – can be caused by bacteria or viruses
- Teeth problems – this may sound a bit peculiar, but the mouth and the nose are closely connected, and issues affecting the mouth structure often exert consequences on the nose.
If your dog’s nose is running, here is what you can determine on your own, at home by gathering some info such as:
- Whether the condition is affecting one nostril or both
- Whether the nose is drippy all day or during specific times
- Whether the secretion’s type is watery and clear or dense and yellowish to green.
Usually, a nose dripping all day with a dense yellow to green discharge, that is affecting both nostrils is indicative of infection and requires a course of antibiotics.
On the flip side, an intermittent dripping affecting one nostril, and consisting of clear and watery discharge, indicates an allergic reaction.
Just because you have figured certain things out, it does not mean you can skip going to the vet. Instead, you need to make an appointment and share what you have discovered while the vet performs his/her evaluation. The information you have gathered can be more than useful if your dog’s nose is not dripping while visiting the vet.
A Dog Dealing With Reverse Sneezing
The dog nose air blowing situation is often described as a reverse sneezing bout. Reverse sneezing is a confusing issue for dog parents despite its ordinary appearance and simple mechanisms.
Reverse sneezing is the famous and widely known term for what is medically called "paroxysmal inspiratory respiration."
Many dog parents perceive the situation as something frightening – almost as if the dog cannot breathe properly or is choking. However, more often than not, there is nothing problematic about reverse sneezing.
Reverse sneezing occurs when a dog forcefully and rapidly inhales through the nose, and the inhalation is accompanied by an intense sound – resembling snorting or gagging. When a dog reverse sneezes, many dog owners often describe it as a "dog honking like a goose."
More often than not, while reverse sneezing, the dog’s neck is extended. As soon as the reverse sneezing episode ends, the dog continues doing what it was doing before, pretty much as if nothing happened.
Reverse sneezing can be triggered by several events, such as:
- Irritation of the pharynx, which can be caused by inhaled irritants, due to gastroesophageal (acid) reflux or a postnasal drip
- Extreme excitement which can cause the dog to inhale too much air too quickly.
What can a dog owner do to help a dog who is reverse sneezing? A dog engaged in a reverse sneezing episode can be stopped by rubbing his or her throat gently until he/she relaxes and the forceful inhaling becomes less forceful.
Reverse sneezing in dogs is similar to human hiccups. They seem alarming when witnessed from afar, but they are self-limiting and pass without consequences.
Therefore, an occasional reverse sneezing episode is nothing to worry about. However, a dog that is chronically experiencing reverse sneezing episodes should receive proper veterinary attention.
A Dog With Something Stuck in the Nose
Dogs enjoy sniffing, which often results in foreign objects getting stuck in their nasal passages. Usually, the range of foreign objects stuck in dogs noses includes foxtails, grass seeds, and grass blades. It can also be objects small enough to enter the nose and lodge, such as a pearl, marble, or small pebble.
A dog with a foreign body stuck up his or her nose will snort, sneeze, reverse sneeze, lick the nose, paw at the nose and have nasal discharge (sometimes it may include blood drops). Both the sneezing and reverse sneezing episodes are persistent and quite violent.
A dog manifesting the above-listed signs and symptoms warrants an immediate trip to the vet's office. The vet will scope the dog's nose to assess the situation and determine a foreign object's presence. Depending on the type of foreign entity, the vet will decide the best removal method.
Watch for a Dog With Labored breathing
Dogs with breathing difficulties (medical term - dyspnea) can sometimes blow air out of their noses. When the breathing is impaired, dogs recruit their secondary breathing muscles, which results in increased chest expansions, more forceful abdominal expiration, open-mouth breathing, and nostrils widening.
Blowing air from the nose due to breathing difficulties is an alarming sign. The underlying issues include potentially life-threatening conditions, such as enlarged heart, fluid in the lungs, chest injuries, asthma, heartworm disease, or even cancer.
Of course, these cases warrant immediate veterinary attention. So see your vet at once if your dog is blowing air from the nose and showing signs of labored breathing.
All dogs blowing air from their noses ultimately warrant a trip to the vet’s office. Some underlying causes can be benign and self-limiting, while others are more serious, and their early detection influences the outcome.
Instead of waiting, schedule an appointment and take your dog to the vet. Meanwhile, observe your dog and gather as much information as possible regarding your dog’s situation – the vet will use them in the diagnostic process.
About The Author
Dr. Ivana Crnec is a graduate of the University Sv. Kliment Ohridski’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Bitola, Republic of Macedonia.