Allergic Rhinitis in Dogs

Happy dog running on green grass.

Allergic Rhinitis in Dogs

Allergic Rhinitis is one of the most common upper respiratory tract malfunctions in dogs1. The name means an inflammation of the nose, where the mucous membranes of the nose or damage to the nasal mucous membranes have occurred. If you break it down “rhin” refers to the nose and “itis” refers to an inflammation. 

You may have also heard of sinusitis, as the two conditions are closely related. However, sinusitis is a separate condition, referring to an inflammation of the sinuses. 

In this article, we will focus on the symptoms, diagnosis, treatments, and prevention methods that apply specifically to nose inflammation (rhinitis) in dogs. 

Happy smiling dog on green grassy hill.

Symptoms of Allergic Rhinitis in Dogs

Typically, dogs with longer noses and skulls are most commonly affected by rhinitis. This includes breeds such as, but not limited to, Collies, Border Collies, Australian Shepherds, Shetland Sheepdogs, and Greyhounds2. Brachycephalic breeds (meaning shortened head) can also be affected, such as French Bulldogs, English Bulldogs, Pugs, and Boxer, all of which are susceptible to pollution-induced tumours that can cause rhinitis.

Also, there are different types of rhinitis in addition to allergic rhinitis including bacterial and fungal and symptoms can be acute (short term) or chronic (ongoing). 

Acute Rhinitis 

This type of rhinitis is usually characterized by an external body caught in a dog’s nasal cavity. This can result in sudden and violent sneezing in an attempt to dislodge the foreign body. 

Chronic Rhinitis 

Long term, chronic cases of allergic rhinitis happen when triggering allergens can’t be removed from the dog’s environment or they are routinely exposed to them.

Symptoms that point to rhinitis can include the following: 

  • Excessive sneezing
  • Bad breath
  • Rubbing or pawing at the face
  • Facial pain or swelling
  • Lack of scent ability
  • Lack of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Restlessness
  • Bilateral nasal discharge
  • Unilateral nasal discharge
  • Open-mouth breathing
  • Laboured breathing
  • Reverse sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Gagging
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nose bleed

Up close view of dog nose.

Diagnosing Allergic Rhinitis in Dogs

If you suspect your dog if suffering from rhinitis, a veterinarian will be able to properly diagnose them and determine the best course of action. 

Diagnosis begins with an examination of your dog’s health history. The following methods3 can be used to inspect further: 

Happy pug sitting on couch.
  • Physical examination
  • X-ray findings (computed tomography)
  • Endoscopic examination (rhinoscopy)
  • Nasal biopsy
  • Nasal cultures
  • Blood tests
  • Elimination of other causes of nasal discharge and sneezing

A diagnosis will determine what type of rhinitis your dog is experiencing and allow your veterinarian to prescribe the appropriate treatment.

Treating Allergic Rhinitis in Dogs 

Medical Treatments

Treatment for your dog’s rhinitis depends on the root cause. In cases of allergic rhinitis, the condition is treated with a course of medications such as antibiotics, antihistamines, or steroids4. In the event that a secondary bacterial nasal infection is present, it is resolved with antibiotic treatment. 

Some medications, such as steroids, are prescribed in an aerosol format to make it easier for your dog to take them. The AeroDawg* aerosol chamber allows your dog to easily use a prescribed metered dose inhaler, or puffer, to inhale corticosteroids and bronchodilators through their nose to target the source of the rhinitis and inflammation. It has a specially designed chamber that contains the medication, giving your dog time to breathe in the dose and prevent wasting any medication. Other steroid delivery options, such as nasal sprays, have not been shown to be as effective in canines as compared to humans potentially due to challenges in administration.

Home Treatments  

Sometimes dogs suffering from rhinitis may struggle to take care of themselves as normal, such as regular grooming, nutrition, and hydration5. Make sure to keep tabs of your dog’s food and water intake and consistently groom them. Eliminating as much stray hair as possible will help curb allergenic triggers. 

Other precautions you can take to ensure your dog’s health include: 

  • Use all medications as prescribed by your veterinarian
  • Monitor your dog’s symptoms and report any negative changes 
  • Make sure to wash your hands before and after administering medication 

Side up close profile of dog with open mouth.

Preventing Allergic Rhinitis in Dogs 

Prevention is the best medicine, so making sure your home is a clean and safe environment for your dog is important. If you are familiar with allergenic triggers you can practise keeping them to a minimum or eliminate them entirely if possible. 

All dogs are different but some common triggers are:  

  • Aerosolized deodorizers and perfumes
  • Particulate matter in dog bedding (cedar chips, straw, and sawdust)
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Dusty environments
  • Grass
  • Air pollution 

Allergic rhinitis doesn’t have to negatively impact your dog in its daily life. As long as you can identify the symptoms, get them the proper treatment, and work to make their environments free from allergens as much as possible your dog can live long, happy, and playful lives.