Dogs and Cats can get runny noses and sneezing just like us humans. Nasal discharge can be unilateral (from one nostril) or bilateral (both nostrils) and of different types. It can be clear and watery, mucousy or bloody. Sneezing can also be accompanied by discharge from the eyes, especially in cats.
Common causes of nasal discharge and sneezing are:
- Infectious disease– In cats, the most common of these is feline influenza, or cat flu. It is a viral infection, similar to the flu in humans. Other signs of cat flu are discharge from the eyes, lethargy and reduced appetite. There is a vaccine available for cat flu which offers some protection against the disease. There are also a number of other viral, bacterial and fungal agents that can cause nasal discharge and sneezing in dogs and cats.
- Parasites– In dogs, Pneumonyssoidescaninum, a nasal mite, can cause sneezing and nasal discharge as well as difficulty breathing, itchiness and collapse.
- Foreign bodies– From time to time, pets will inhale objects that become stuck in the nasal cavity and cause irritation, inflammation and secondary infection. Plant material such as grass seeds and blades of grass are good examples of such objects.
- Tumors– These can occur in any part of the nasal cavity in both dogs and cats and usually cause a unilateral blood-tinged nasal discharge. Other signs associated with tumors can include lethargy, reduced appetite, weight loss and weakness.
- Allergies, usually to allergens in the air such as pollen or dust.
When your pet shows these signs, the vet may initially try a course of medication. If required, tests such as blood tests, X-rays, rhinoscopy or CT/MRI scans may be recommended. The nature of the nasal discharge will provide clues about the cause, and the vet will use this information when making recommendations.