Signs Your Pet May Have Something Stuck in Their Nose

Estimated Reading Time 5 minutes
Signs Your Pet May Have Something Stuck in Their Nose

Cats and dogs are naturally curious animals and will wander around and explore their surroundings if given the chance. Unlike humans, dogs and cats rely on their noses when observing things from the environment. This is why, when they explore new places and surroundings, you’ll see them sniffing every corner and all the objects they come across. Unfortunately, this normal behavior may cause your pet to accidentally inhale seemingly harmless objects that can get stuck in their nasal passages and cause problems. Continue reading to learn about common nasal foreign bodies, symptoms of trouble, and treatment options for affected pets.

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What is a nasal foreign body?

An inhaled foreign body is an object that gets lodged or stuck in any part of a dog or cat’s respiratory tract. The inhaled material can become embedded in the pet’s nasal passages, throat, trachea, or deeper branches of the bronchi. Normally, when a dog or a cat inhales foreign material, they can remove it either through sneezing or coughing.

In cases of foreign body inhalation, the material inhaled through the nasal passages is small enough to enter the respiratory tract but is too large for the animal to sneeze out. This causes the material to get stuck in the upper airways and causes a wide range of respiratory symptoms in dogs and cats.

Signs Your Pet May Have a Nasal Foreign Body

Dogs and cats that inhale a foreign object that they are unable to remove on their own will develop respiratory signs, the severity of which depends on the type and size of the material inhaled. The presence of any foreign material in the nasal passages of dogs and cats will trigger an inflammatory reaction causing signs such as excessive sneezing.

Pets with foreign material lodged in their nasal passages will also be in extreme discomfort and will try to paw at their nostrils frequently. Coughing with retching can also be seen if the object is long enough to reach the animal’s larynx. Profuse nasal discharge is also a common sign seen in dogs and cats with nasal foreign bodies. In some cases, the lining of the nasal passages becomes damaged, resulting in bloody nasal discharge for the affected pet.

In severe cases where there is a large foreign body involved, the nasal passages can become obstructed and result in the animal having difficulty breathing. If not removed immediately, nasal passage obstructions will result in a lack of oxygenation and can even be fatal for the animal.

If you see any of the signs mentioned above, and if it’s very likely that your pet may have inhaled foreign material, a visit with a vet as soon as possible is warranted.

How will the vet know if my pet has something stuck in their nose?

Diagnosis of nasal foreign body inhalation in dogs and cats can be tricky. The signs associated with the condition mimic common primary respiratory symptoms and infectious diseases that affect a dog’s and cat’s respiratory systems. Additionally, most foreign materials that are accidentally inhaled by pets are not easily visible in most diagnostic imaging tests like radiographs (x-rays).

Most cases that present with the symptoms mentioned above are initially treated for primary respiratory diseases and are put on medications to control inflammation of the respiratory tract and address any possible infections that can affect the animal’s respiratory system. In some cases, clinical signs resolve with medications but immediately come back once treatment has stopped.

In most cases, the symptoms do not resolve despite continuous treatment. It’s only when the respiratory issue is persistent or recurrent that suspicion of possible nasal foreign body inhalation is often considered. More advanced imaging techniques like a CT scan can help confirm if there are abnormal structures anywhere in the animal’s respiratory tract, but confirmatory diagnosis can only be achieved through rhinoscopy.

Rhinoscopy is a diagnostic imaging technique involving an endoscope or rhinoscope inserted into the animal’s nostrils and through the upper respiratory tract. Rhinoscopy allows real-time visualization of any foreign object that may have been lodged or stuck anywhere along the pet’s airways. Larger foreign objects can easily be visualized using rhinoscopy, but smaller ones will require careful investigation of the entire upper respiratory tract.

Treatment Options for Pets with Nasal Foreign Bodies

The ideal treatment for cases of foreign body inhalation in dogs and cats is the removal of the foreign material. As mentioned, medications designed for primary respiratory signs can help control the symptoms associated with the condition, but unless the foreign body is removed, the signs will most likely persist or will keep recurring despite medications and treatment.

The extent of removal of inhaled foreign materials depends on the size of the object and where it is located along the pet’s upper airways. Relatively smaller objects located at the outer segments of the nasal passages can easily be removed under light sedation using surgical forceps or tweezers. Flushing the nasal passages can also help dislodge any foreign object loosely attached to the respiratory lining so the animal can easily sneeze them out.

Tiny foreign bodies that are located in the deeper portions of the pet’s nasal passages will require the use of an endoscope for access and better visualization. Some endoscopes have small forceps attachments to help grab the foreign object when visualized during rhinoscopy procedures.

Your vet may still prescribe medications even after the successful removal of the foreign material to help reduce possible secondary infections or complications from the procedure. Dogs and cats that underwent removal of a nasal foreign body through rhinoscopy will require at least 24 hours of rest and limited physical activity for optimal recovery.

Prognosis in most cases is good if the foreign body has been located and removed promptly. Chronic cases may result in more serious damage to the animal’s respiratory tract and make them prone to complications, making recovery and prognosis worse.

Read more:

Reverse Sneezing in Dogs

Sneezing in Cats and Kittens

How to Protect Your Dog from Foxtails and Other Grass Awns

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Published: 3/18/2022

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