Before we went off on that interesting track of the dog’s mega-sense of smell, we had discussed a bit of the anatomy of that structure called the nose.
Let’s recap a bit: A dog’s nose is made up of his nostrils and the nasal cavity. Certain sinuses (cavities in the bones of the skull) are connected with the nasal cavity which itself is separated into two passages by a midline partition (septum) – one for each nostril. At the back, these passages open into the throat.
Over the last two weeks we discussed how the nasal cavity is covered by a thin skin (membrane) which has a lot of blood vessels and nerves. This thin skin lining the inside of the nostrils is extremely sensitive to physical impacts, and it also bleeds very easily when irritated.
It is for this reason that I advise pet owners not to go poking around in the inside of the nostrils of a dog. Such action could precipitate great bouts of sneezing. The sneeze explosion can be so strong as to rupture the blood vessels in the nostrils, creating a lot of bleeding. If there was haemorrhaging before, but it had stopped, a sneezing episode will bring the bleeding right back ̶ even heavier. So, if one is curious about what might be in the nostril, than let your vet anaesthetise the pet and look into the nostrils professionally. Most times, one will find nothing, especially if the original cause is an infection (viral, bacterial or fungal).
Let’s now talk about these infections:
Very often, original virus infections like Canine Distemper, Adenovirus (Types I and II) and Parainfluenza (all of which one can vaccinate the dog against) are the precipitating cause of an acute Rhinitis (or Sinusitis ̶ see below), since the viruses make the tissue in the area so weak that bacteria find a great haven to invade, settle and multiply ̶ thus causing frequent complications in the nasal passages.
In fact, I will be brazen enough to state that any and all irritations of the linings of the canine nasal cavities are usually followed by bacterial infections.
What then follows is a battle between the invading germs and the body’s own defensive soldiers ̶ the white blood cells. The germs die, but so do the defenders. Foul-smelling, thick, creamy discharge (pus) from the nose suggests that a bacterial infection has settled in. What is worse is that, after a few weeks, fungi can also come into the weakened tissue to themselves reside there. The Rhinitis is now achieved difficult-to-treat proportions.
Where the treatment is concerned, logic and common sense dictate that we must find the underlying cause of the original irritation. For example, if tumors or polyps were growing in the nasal cavity, they must be surgically removed. Once the thick pus production has begun, the veterinarian must and will introduce a tested and proven antibiotic (tablet/capsule/suspension), as part of his/her therapeutic arsenal.
If the original cause of the Rhinitis is a foreign body (grass seeds, small stones, etc) then your pet will in all likelihood have to undergo procedures (under anaesthetic) to remove the objects (via special forceps) or flushing them out.
An infection which has become chronic (lasting for a long time) is difficult to clear up. Sometimes, special hardened tissue (“proud flesh”) is the sequel to a long-standing infection. This heavy tissue build up causes further blockage and compromises the flow of air through the nostrils. At that point, the veterinary surgeon must burst open the bone covering of the nostrils and clean out all the unwelcome tissue growths/foreign bodies.
What the above tells us is that once we see discharge from the nostrils, let your vet introduce his/her treatment regime (which may include antibiotics), and keep monitoring the discharge. Don’t wait, hoping the discharge will go away on its own. It usually doesn’t. In any case, your vet will know which antibiotic to use and when to cut into the nasal cavity.
In the second paragraph above, I mentioned that the certain sinuses ̶ the ones in the forehead (frontal), and the ones above the upper jaw (maxillary) ̶ are connected with (are actually extensions of) the nasal cavity. Inflammation of the membranes covering these sinuses is called Sinusitis.
Infections starting in the nasal passages can extend to involve the sinuses. Foreign bodies can penetrate the sinuses. Roots of teeth which have become infected can rupture into the sinuses. Tumours can grow into sinuses. These are common causes of Sinusitis in dogs.
Usually, and this helps the clinician’s diagnosis, only one sinus is involved. Therefore, a persistent, long-standing purulent (pus) discharge from one nostril suggests the possibility of a serious (even abscessed) Sinusitis ̶ especially when the discharge is accompanied by a lot of sneezing and sniffling.
The treatment and comments mentioned for Rhinitis above would, by and large, be the same (see above). Washing out the sinuses, introducing antibiotics, removing infected upper jaw (maxilla) teeth, etc, would have to be appropriately introduced.
Let’s now stop with this gruesome saga of treating these ailments. Unfortunately, next week and the week following, we’ll still have to deal with polyps and tumours and nasal calluses and so on.
Please enjoy the week, in spite of the warm and humid and dusty conditions ̶ all of which make it easier for foreign bodies to invade the nostrils of our canine companions.
Please implement disease preventative measures (vaccinations, routine dewormings, monthly anti-Heartworm medication, etc) and adopt-a-pet from the GSPCA’s Animal Clinic and Shelter at Robb Street and Orange Walk, if you have the wherewithal to care well for the animals. Do not stray your unwanted pets, take them to the GSPCA’s Clinic and Shelter instead. We still have the free spay and neutering programme. Exploit it. If you see anyone being cruel to an animal, or if you need any technical information, please get in touch with the Clinic and Shelter by calling 226-4237.