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Nasal Discharge in dogs and cats

Nasal discharge refers to fluid that comes from the nose, and originates in the nasal passages. This fluid may be clear, blood-tinged, bloody, or it may contain mucus (mucoid discharge) or pus (purulent discharge). In some instances, the nasal discharge may contain food particles. The nasal discharge may originate from one nostril (unilateral) or from both nostrils (bilateral).

Dog nose should be clear

Additional information

Nasal discharges may be serous, mucoid, mucopurulent, purulent, blood tinged, frank blood (epistaxis), or contain food debris. Sneezing is the reflexive expulsion of air through the nasal cavity and is commonly associated with nasal discharge. Reverse sneezing is the term given to the repetitive, forceful inspiratory efforts elicited after irritation of the caudal-dorsal nasopharynx. Gagging and retching are involuntary, reflexive attempts to clear secretions from the pharynx or upper respiratory or gastrointestinal tract.

Front-on view of the nose and upper front teeth of a dog showing the delicate, complex structure of the turbinate bones.

Secretions are produced by mucous cells of the epithelium and glands. Irritation of the nasal mucosa (by mechanical, chemical, or inflammatory stimulation) increases nasal secretion production. Mucosal irritation and accumulated secretions are a potent stimulus of the sneeze reflex; sneezing may be the first sign of nasal discharge. Sneezing frequency often decreases with chronic disease. Reverse sneezing represents irritation of the caudodorsal nasopharynx. Gagging is a protective reflex elicited by oropharyngeal stimulation, usually functioning to clear material from the oropharynx. Gagging often follows a coughing episode as secretions are brought through the larynx into the oropharynx.

Types of Nasal Discharge and Common Associations
Serous Mild irritation, viral and parasitic (e.g., nasal mites) disorders Mucoid Allergic and early neoplastic conditions Purulent (or mucopurulent) Secondary bacterial and fungal infections Serosanguinous Destructive processes (primary nasal tumors, aspergillosis in dogs) after violent/paroxysmal sneezing episodes (traumatic capillary rupture) associated with selected systemic diseases (coagulopathy, platelet disorders, hypertension)

Systems Affected
Respiratory Mucosa of the upper respiratory tract, including the nasal cavities, sinuses, and nasopharynx Gastrointestinal These signs also may be observed with extranasal diseases such as swallowing disorders and esophageal or gastrointestinal diseases Hemic/lymphatic/immune Systemic diseases may cause in blood tinged nasal discharge or epistaxis due to platelet or primary hemostasis disorders or hypertension. diseases may cause in blood tinged nasal discharge or epistaxis due to platelet or primary hemostasis disorders or hypertension
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