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How Do I Help My Bulldog’s Runny Nose?

How Do I Help My Bulldog’s Runny Nose?

It’s no secret that pet owners are passionate about their pets, but many are just as passionate about their pet’s breed. You could count bulldog owners among those over-the-top fans. Generally, if they have one bulldog, they have another one. Sometimes several. Bulldogs are an iconic breed, with their short, stubby but muscular legs, stout build, large head, soulful eyes, and those adorable button noses. Those noses are sometimes their worst enemies, however.

Bulldogs are brachycephalic (short-nosed) and are susceptible to numerous nasal infections.

How do I help my bulldog’s runny nose? You help your bulldog’s runny nose by doing these things:

  • Watch for signs of unusual discharge. Otherwise, do nothing.
  • Watch for signs of the dog having difficulty breathing.
  • Observe whether your dog is eating his normal amount.
  • Give him a proper dose of Benadryl.

The options are surprisingly few. But keep in mind, dogs are not human, and applying human treatments to a dog can be dangerous, ineffective, and difficult or impossible to administer. Observation is the key in so many pet treatments, and that clearly is the case with snotty bulldogs.

Doing What You Can

It’s a simple fact: Bulldogs get more nasal infections than just about any other breed of dog. In many bulldogs, the infections are pretty much chronic. It also could be that your bulldog is simply getting older. In that case, you should check out our guide on caring for older bulldogs.

Whether it’s an allergy, like hay fever, or an actual viral infection, the symptoms are similar – runny nose, sneezing, coughing, gagging, and drooling. Often a bulldog will attempt to clear the blockage by snorting loudly. It sounds desperate and critical, but it’s not as bad as it sounds.

Observe the Snot

The best thing you can do is nothing. But be observant. Clear, thin, watery discharge is common and often occurs when the bulldog is perfectly healthy. This is considered normal for a bulldog.

But when the discharge is thick or discolored – green, yellow, blood-tainted or brown – it could be a sign of a more serious nasal infection or even an upper respiratory infection. If this condition persists for more than 24 hours, take your dog to the vet.

Watch for Signs of Dystenea (Difficulty Breathing)

Again, the challenge is to differentiate between normal conditions and conditions that warrant medical intervention. Bulldogs chronically sound as if they’re wheezing their last breath.

Get to know your bulldog, and get used to his or her normal breathing pattern. If your dog wheezes considerably louder than normal – sometimes accompanied by rattling sounds – and heaves his chest, he may be having breathing issues. If he’s just climbed a flight of stairs or played fetch, he may simply be catching his breath, especially if he’s an older dog.

Breathing issues that continue for more than a few minutes unabated could spell a serious medical condition, and you should then consider rushing him to his veterinarian, or to an emergency veterinarian.

Watch What He Eats

It seems that every dog in the world will eat 24-7 if presented with food. Dogs can hear a Twinkie being unwrapped a mile away and cover the distance in 20 seconds, hoping for a nibble.

You should be quite familiar with your dog’s eating patterns – both planned and opportunistic. If you notice any dropoff in his appetite, it’s a sure sign that something’s wrong. And if the runny nose is combined with a loss of appetite, it could be a sign of a significant illness.

However, the two symptoms could be unrelated to one another, so be aware that other things could be at play, like dental disease, a reaction to a recent vaccination, fearfulness due to something new in his environment or behavioral changes.

Give Benadryl

The first and most obvious question to answer here is whether it’s safe to give a dog Benadryl. Benadryl is one of the few over-the-counter drugs that veterinarians allow to be administered by the owners at home. You can use it in cases where the nasal discharge is heavy, and shows no signs of improving on its own (although it eventually will).

This generally should be used for the dog’s sake, and not because your family is disturbed by the excessive crud coming from his nose.  But if the dog is clearly bothered by it, whether from the sheer volume of the discharge or by its perseverance, then administer medication.

Benadryl is generally well tolerated and has a wide safety margin.  Here are some guidelines for dosing and observation:

  • Do not give Benadryl if your bulldog suffers from glaucoma, high blood pressure, or cardiovascular disease. Benadryl can increase blood pressure.
  • Give Benadryl – generic name diphenhydramine –  at a rate of 25mg per 25 pounds. Make certain that the medication you give your pet includes only diphenhydramine, and not other medications, such as Tylenol.
  • Benadryl will not work miracles. It is a mild antihistamine at best, and will only alleviate runny nose symptoms, not eliminate them. Besides, you don’t want to totally eliminate or mask symptoms that might indicate more serious health issues.
  • When the symptoms are attributed to an allergic reaction, do not give Benadryl, but make an appointment with your vet. Allergies can become life-threatening and require an advanced level of care.

Infections That Can Result in Runny Noses

Thick, foul-smelling mucus that is white, green, or yellow is a pretty dependable indicator that your dog has an infection. It could be a nasal infection, but other infections can result in the production of mucus that exits the body via the nasal passages.

Severe infections require a visit to the vet. If your dog seems to be holding up fairly well against his symptoms, you can let the infection resolve itself over about a 10-day period. During this time, be sure to help your bulldog rid himself of the mucus, using warm rags to clean his nose and face.

Infections that cause runny noses include:

  • Canine Distemper
  • Parainfluenza (Kennel Cough)
  • Aspergillosis
  • Canine Influenza

Canine Distemper

A very thick, yellow mucus is one of the signs that a dog has distemper, but this symptom shows up with other diseases, so further investigation is called for. Also, check for fever, twitching, and convulsions. In severe cases, the dog can develop pneumonia.

Parainfluenza (Kennel Cough)

Canine parainfluenza is a virus that causes kennel cough. It is one of the most contagious viruses that a dog will encounter in its lifetime. For this reason, kennels that take in dogs for boarding almost always insist that the dog have a kennel cough vaccination before it will be accepted.

If your bulldog develops a hacking cough that lingers for more than a week, has a fever, lack of energy, loss of appetite, runny nose and sneezing, he may have kennel cough. Often the mucus output is so voluminous the dog gags.


This is a fungus that most dogs eradicate with little if any, symptoms. However, dogs whose immune system has been compromised are at risk. Thick nasal mucus is a symptom, and sometimes blood can be found in the discharge.

Canine Influenza

Canine influenza is a serious illness, resulting in major breathing issues. Symptoms include runny nose, sneezing, coughing, and watery eyes. A visit to the vet is called for here.


Hay fever is very common among dogs, perhaps even more so among bulldogs, due to their short noses and nasal passages. A runny nose with thin, watery discharge indicates the possibility of seasonal allergies.

Bulldogs can also develop allergies to a number of allergens in their environment. Itching and watery eyes are additional signs of allergies. If your dog suddenly develops an allergy – or shows signs thereof – investigate anything that might have been brought into his environment just prior to the showing of symptoms.

Also, strive to keep your bulldog’s face clean. Bulldogs have adorably flabby faces, but those fat folds can harbor a Pandora’s box of allergens and viral growths, so keep them clean with antiseptic wipes.

More Causes of Runny Noses in Bulldogs

Infections and allergies are not the only causes of runny noses in bulldogs. Some of the causes are quite benign. As always, never dismiss a runny nose as nothing, but don’t always assume the worst either. Here’s another great article from WebMD that talks about runny noses in dogs.

Blocked Nasal Passages

Bulldogs can sometimes get upset when one nostril is blocked, and they will begin snorting and blowing in an attempt to dislodge whatever it is causing the blockage. With their short, stubby nose, it doesn’t take much to cause a logjam in there.

Bulldogs often get too much water in their nose and panic. During the growing season, grass clippings and pollen can cause nasal blockages, as well as allergies.  There could also be the possibility of nosebleeds.

Nosebleeds, of course, pose a more serious question. A nosebleed might happen once and never again, or show up at random times or become chronic. If a nosebleed significant enough to block a nostril occurs more than once, it’s best to take your dog to the veterinarian to have it checked out.

Flecks of dirt, sand, or debris can get lodged in a bulldog’s nostril. Since your bully can’t tell you that something is amiss, it’s up to you to give your dog a thorough physical exam on a regular basis.

Play or General Stimulation

As mentioned earlier, bulldogs are prone to getting runny noses. In some cases, simple excitement can turn on the waterworks. Play – especially outside play – can cause a runny nose. Nervousness, generated when a stranger comes into the home, or when a child gets rambunctious around them, can also result in a runny nose.

This kind of runny nose usually clears up after the dog has calmed down a bit.

Nasal Fistula

A nasal fistula is an irregular opening between the mouth and nasal passages. This could be the result of a birth defect, injury or tooth decay that has migrated up to the nasal passage.

Nasal Polyps

If your bulldog has mucus in his nose that is so pervasive that he has trouble breathing, it could be a sign of nasal polyps – small clumps of cells that form on the lining of the body’s various passageways. By definition, polyps are benign, but some types of polyps can become cancerous over time.

Additional symptoms that may indicate nasal polyps include swelling on one side of the nose and loss of appetite.

The treatment for polyps, as well as for benign nasal tumors is surgery. If the tumors are cancerous, the veterinarian may call for radiation therapy.

Cleft Palate

Bulldogs commonly suffer from cleft palates. A cleft palate is a split in the roof of the mouth that leaves the nasal passages separated.

It’s Not Just a Runny Nose; Other Symptoms

Determining health issues for pets who cannot speak for themselves often takes great wisdom and powers of observation. The key is to know your dog’s routine, his personality traits, and his quirks inside and out. Know the imperfections in his appearance and the cadence of his bark to the point that if something is amiss, it will be obvious to you.

Loss of Appetite

Probably the number one sign that a dog is ill is a loss of appetite. Dogs by nature are opportunistic feeders, looking for handouts, dropped morsels, and unguarded dinner plates. They typically gobble down the contents of their food bowls in a minute or less and look for more.

So when a dog fails to energetically pursue food opportunities, you can be assured that he hasn’t decided to go on a diet; something is wrong. Illness is certainly a distinct possibility, but it’s not the only one.

Causes for a loss of appetite among dogs include:

  • Illness
  • Reaction to Vaccination
  • Dental Issues
  • Fear; Loss of Confidence


Probably the surest sign of a dog’s illness is a loss of appetite. If this occurs with your bulldog, immediately check for other symptoms.

While the illness could be minor and needs no treatment, manor major afflictions begin to make themselves known through a loss in appetite. Cancer, kidney ailments, systemic infections, liver disease and cardiovascular issues present with a loss of appetite.

Also, observe your dog for signs of pain. Whining, biting at a certain area of the body, sudden jerking when a certain movement is performed, sitting or lying with an odd posture, snarling – these are signs that your dog is experiencing pain.

Reaction to Vaccination

Most dogs have little or no reaction to vaccinations, but occasionally, one will make a dog sore at the injection site, slightly feverish, and not particularly interested in food. Rarely will a dog forego food for longer than 24 hours.

Dental Disease

Dogs don’t floss. This makes them susceptible to gingivitis, which corrodes healthy tooth bone and causes it to fracture and crumble. When this happens, the gums bleed, become sore, and the tooth cannot function as designed. The dog compensates for this by biting down harder, and that in turn, results in gum pain.

Fear; Loss of Confidence

It’s hard to predict which things will upset a dog to the point where he’ll stop eating. Sometimes it’s a relocation to a new environment, even within the same house. Sometimes it is something new in his world – another pet, a baby, a household visitor, etc.

Dogs can have adverse reactions that outlast the disturbances that initially upset them. Sometimes, a thunderstorm can take a dog out of its routine for up to 24 hours. Fourth of July fireworks can have the same effect. A movie with a lot of loud sound effects can also produce anxiety that lasts well beyond the length of the movie.

Dogs are creatures of habit. Sometimes something as simple as changing food bowls, or putting a new mat under the bowl can upset the dog and make him not want to eat. Even moving the bowl to the other end of the floor can create angst among sensitive dogs.

Those Adorable Bulldogs!

Out of 195 dog breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club, the bulldog is the fifth most popular. His distinctive appearance, intense passion for life, courage, and kindness make the bulldog a favorite among favorites in the dog world.

You can’t mistake the bulldog for any other breed. His flabby face, with the bouncing, hanging, floppy jaws, short black nose, and underbite that often features teeth that remain outside of the mouth, are unmistakable. He grows to 13 to 14 inches in height and weigh up to 50 pounds.

History of the Bulldog

The lovable bulldog of today had a much different image in 13th century England. They were used to drive cattle to market and were trained to compete in a ghastly sport called bullbaiting, which was outlawed centuries ago.

Today’s bulldogs have the same spunk and spirit as their ancestors, but it’s channeled in play, rather than work or competition. That makes them cherished family pets.

Breed Characteristics

Bulldogs are generally tolerant of any environment they are placed in but are not tolerant in weather extremes. They shiver in cold weather and have labored breathing in hot weather. They are content to stay indoors, but enjoy a brief outdoor romp.

Bulldogs are fairly easy to train and don’t let reprimands break their spirit. They’re an easy-going breed and tolerate loud, chaotic households well. This makes them a great dog to have around children.

Some dogs react dramatically when left alone by their owners. Most bulldogs breeze through this trauma without a hitch, but some take awhile to develop a healthy independence. Bulldogs interact better with humans – family and strangers alike – than they do with other dogs. With training, this trait can be mitigated.

Bulldogs do shed, but since they’re a short-haired dog, the shedding is tolerable. Other than that, bulldogs are easy to groom and care for.

If you’ve ever seen a video of a bulldog riding a skateboard or even a surfboard, you know that they love activity, and they’re fearless. You should encourage your bulldog to play, but understand that he will have limited stamina.

Learn More

If you want to learn more about English Bulldogs or other types of Bulldogs, then consider checking out this Bulldog Handbook on Amazon.