The nose, in health, is always moist, and by a discharge we mean one which is clearly perceptible, whether watery or mucopurulent. In the former case there is the perpetual “dew-drop” at the end of the nose, often seen in hard-pad. It should not be confused with the occasional “drip” seen in nervous puppies when handled by strangers.
A nasal discharge is due to a variety of causes which may be summarised as local and general.
When the cause is local it may be due to a small foreign body (e.g., a grass seed), to breathing heavily polluted air (for example, when an oil-stove smokes), to some strictly local infection or to a congenital abnormality. When the cause is general it is associated with disease: for example, distemper.
The temperature should be taken. If normal, and the dog is cheerful, it is probably a local trouble. Sometimes, even when there is no general illness, the dog is depressed and hangs his head; this is often due to a headache and a five-grain aspirin tablet will bring much relief.
When the dog has a slight temperature (102.5F. upwards), the eyes are inflamed and reddened with or without a slight discharge, and he seems a little depressed and perhaps disinclined to eat, it is probable that the nasal discharge is a symptom of one of the virus infections, such as hard-pad.
Unless the cause is obvious (for instance, the smoking stove mentioned above) a nasal discharge in a previously healthy dog always needs investigation if it persists for more than a few hours. A veterinary surgeon should be consulted and, if describing the condition by telephone, the type of discharge (clear and watery or thick and purulent) should be mentioned, whether slight or profuse, when it began, the dog’s general state of health, and whether there is any possible reason. For example, if a dog has been taken for a walk in fields of uncut hay, grass seeds may be responsible.
Do not touch or wipe off the discharge until the veterinary surgeon has examined the dog.
Removal of Purulent nasal discharge
When the cause of the trouble has been diagnosed and treatment begun, the owner can make the animal far more comfortable, and certainly more presentable, by regular removal of the discharge every two or three hours. The veterinary surgeon may advise inhalations (see p. 63) or nasal drops, and the latter may cause sneezing and so help to remove the accumulated matter as dogs cannot blow their own noses!
The nostrils should be cleaned very gently with cotton wool wound round a match-stick and dipped in warm water with a very mild antiseptic (T.C.P. answers well for this purpose). Discard each piece of cotton wool after using once and introduce the match-stick into each nostril with the greatest gentleness. Finish with dry wool. Sometimes pure olive oil is better than water. After cleaning the nose in this way smear a little vaseline over the surface and under the flaps of the nostrils, which are apt to get stuck down with the discharge.
All swabs used for cleaning should be burnt immediately