What Is Fungal Rhinitis in Dogs?

Fungal rhinitis is an infection that dogs can develop from exposure to mold and fungus in some soils and decaying materials.

Apr 5, 2024By Jessica Montes
what is fungal rhinitis in dogs

Fungal rhinitis can mess with your dog’s comfort levels, causing nasal irritation and making breathing a bit of a struggle. You might notice more sneezing or your furry friend pawing at their face in annoyance. Plus, it can throw off their sense of smell, which might explain why they're suddenly less interested in their favorite treats or sniffing out new adventures.

What Is Fungal Rhinitis?

Fungal rhinitis
Photo by: Advanced Veterinary Medical Imaging

Fungal rhinitis in dogs, also known as fungal sinusitis or fungal nasal disease, is a condition caused by the growth of fungi within the nasal passages and sinuses. This condition can be caused by various types of fungi, including Aspergillus, Cryptococcus neoformans, and others.

Aspergillus, a common culprit for the disease, has over 180 varieties that grow indoors and outdoors. It is found in dead and decaying vegetation. Think of compost piles, dead leaves, grains in storage, yard clippings, and other organic materials where mold grows.

Your pup might accidentally inhale the mold if they are sniffing around in the backyard, during a walk, or on a nature hike. Immunocompromised dogs and those with breathing problems have a higher chance of becoming infected.

Symptoms of Fungal Rhinitis

Nose infection
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Since this condition affects the nasal and respiratory system, the symptoms aren’t hard to miss. Look out for these unusual behaviors:

  • Nasal discharge (often thick and sometimes containing blood)
  • Excessive sneezing
  • Wheezing/ difficulty breathing through the nose
  • Nasal congestion
  • Pawing at the nose or face
  • Decreased sense of smell

In extreme cases, your pup might even show facial swelling or deformity. A dog can have only one or multiple symptoms depending on how severe their case is. Once you notice symptoms, contact your vet for a proper examination.

How Does a Dog with Fungal Rhinitis Feel?

Sad dog
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While dogs cannot describe their feelings in the same way humans do, we can make an educated guess based on behaviors. They will likely feel inflammation and irritation inside their nose. Congestion from the discharge will make it harder to breathe and will replicate the feeling of a stuffy and runny nose.

In addition, canines experience the world through their incredible sense of smell. When their sniffing abilities weaken, it can affect their appetite and excitement about food and treats. Think of it like having a rich, fudgy brownie but only being able to taste 60% of the flavor. Add a stuffy nose on top of that and the treat becomes less indulgent.

Which Breeds Are Susceptible?

Photo by: Alexandra Sullivan

Any dog, regardless of breed, can develop fungal rhinitis if they are exposed to and inhale the mold. However, certain breeds might have a higher risk. Dolichocephalic dogs, also known as long-snouted pups, can contract this condition based on their skull and nose shape. Their longer, narrower nasal areas may encourage fungal growth.

Some dolichocephalic breeds are:

Most hound varieties fall into this group, and you can tell them apart by their oblong, triangle-shaped face profiles.

Diagnosing Fungal Rhinitis

Vet dog
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Once you notice symptoms, contact your vet for a proper examination and describe the symptoms your pup has developed.At the vet, a diagnosis can involve a combination of physical examinations, X-rays or CT scans, and sometimes nasal endoscopy to collect nose samples for lab review.

They might also perform a fungal culture or polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test. This identifies the presence of fungi in nasal discharge or tissue samples and will help determine a recovery plan. As with all illnesses, an early diagnosis is better for your furry friend’s health.

Treatment Options for Fungal Rhinitis

Dog exam
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There are three common treatment options based on how severe the infection is. For mild to moderate cases, a vet will prescribe oral or topical antifungal medications. Follow the dosing instructions carefully and finish the full course of medication even if your pup’s symptoms improve. They may also offer an Elizabethan collar, aka cone of shame, to prevent licking or pawing and decrease further irritation.

Another option is nasal flushing. While your pup is under light anesthesia, the vet will insert a tube into their nostrils and flush out any mold or fungal residue, removing the irritant. If a dog has intense symptoms that cannot be treated with the last two procedures, they might need minor surgery to get the mold out.

Preventive Measures for Fungal Rhinitis

Dog sniffing
Photo by: Mithul Varshan

Prevent fungal rhinitis by minimizing your dog’s exposure to fungal spores. Keep indoor areas clean, and open windows for proper ventilation to reduce the accumulation of mold and fungi. Regularly clean and check spaces where moisture gathers like bathrooms, basements, and kitchens. Minimize outdoor exposure during periods of high humidity or damp weather, as fungal spore concentrations may be higher.

Ensure your dog receives regular veterinary check-ups and vaccinations to maintain overall health and immunity. Provide a balanced diet rich in essential nutrients to support a strong immune system. Avoid unnecessary stressors that can weaken the immune system, such as overcrowding, excessive travel, or exposure to sick animals.

Is Fungal Rhinitis Contagious?

Upset dog
Photo by: Ayşe İpek

Fungal rhinitis in dogs is typically not considered contagious in the same way that bacterial or viral infections are. It's caused by the growth of fungi within the nasal passages and sinuses, often as a result of environmental exposure to fungal spores rather than direct transmission from one dog to another. This means the chances of one dog passing it to others in the household through direct contact is rare.

However, fungal organisms like Aspergillus spp. can be found in the environment, including soil, decaying vegetation, and organic matter. Instead of one pup infecting others, it is more likely that your pets developed it because they played or sniffed around in the same areas where the fungus and mold grew.

Key Takeaways

Dog profile
Photo by: mali maeder

Dogs develop fungal rhinitis in their noses from exposure to mold and fungus commonly found in some soils and decaying organic materials. Breeds with longer noses are more likely to contract this illness but all dogs are susceptible. Symptoms will vary in intensity but check for symptoms like difficulty breathing, nasal discharge, and excessive pawing at the nose or face.

Contact your vet immediately for a full examination, diagnosis, and treatment plan.

Jessica Montes
By Jessica Montes

Jessica is a California-based writer, journalist, lover of animals, and vegan of 17 years. Growing up, she owned parakeets, fish, a rabbit, and a red-eared slider turtle. She currently has a black cat named Marty and a tabby named Jellybean. In her free time, she enjoys reading, baking, camping, and roller skating to funky tunes.