Sniffles, Snuffles, and Crud: ACHOO!

Our four-legged friends are also burdened by the snurfly schnoz

Published: April 27, 2015


It’s spring. In the Central Valley of California, “spring” derives from an ancient Sanskrit word meaning “Hell-wind that scours the land spewing pollen in its path.” Our house is awash in Kleenex blossoms and open antihistamine bottles. We’ve pretty much quit saying “Bless you” and moved on to the empathetic chucklegrunt.

Our four-legged friends are also burdened by the snurfly schnoz. And like us, their sniffles and snuffles can be due to anything from allergies to infections or even tumors. Unlike us, however, they lack the opposable thumbs to grab a tissue and move on with the day and the verbal skills to let someone know when the runny beak seems like more than a folly of the passing wind.

So how do you know when it’s time to brave the elements and take your critter and his nose to the veterinarian?

Let’s do a quiz (pretend you are trying to determine whether you are a “summer” or an “autumn”).

1) How is your animal’s energy level?

a. Perky, bouncy, the usual – 0 points
b. A little quiet – 3 points
c. He seems to be winded after much less exercise than usual – 4 points
d. Just lying around, seems depressed – 5 points

2) What does the discharge (mucous) from the nose look like?

a. Clear – 1 point
b. Cloudy, yellow, no smell– 3 points
c. Cloudy, yellow or green, bad smell – 5 points
d. Brown, bad smelling – 5 points
e. Bloody – 5 points

3) Is the discharge coming from one or both nostrils?

a. One all the time – 5 points
b. Both equally – 2 points
c. One more than the other – 3 points

4) Are there any lumps, bumps, scabs, or other deformities on the nose or muzzle?

a. No – 0 points
b. Yes – 5 points

5) How long has it been since your animal had a thorough dental examination (under sedation)?
a. Less than 1 year – 1 point

b. More than 1 year – 2 points
c. More than 5 years – 4 points
d. A dental what? – 5 points

6) How is your animal’s appetite?

a. Eating everything that isn’t nailed down like usual – 0 points
b. Now that you mention it, he didn’t clear up breakfast as fast as usual – 2 points
c. Maybe a little picky lately – 4 points
d. I’ve seen toddlers more enthusiastic about wasabi peas – 5 points

7) Any other symptoms along with the runny nose?

a. Watery/goopy eyes – 4 points
b. Cough – 4 points
c. Bad breath (worse than usual) – 3 points
d. Shaking head/pawing at nose/ears – 5 points

8) Has he been grazing in or snuffling through tall grass, brush, or weeds lately?

a. No – 0 points
b. Yes – 5 points

9) How long has the nose been running?

a. Just noticed it this morning – 0 points
b. A couple of days – 2 points
c. A week or so – 3 points
d. I can’t remember – 5 points

10) How much discharge is it producing?

a. Just a trickle – 1 point
b. Pretty steady stream – 3 points
c. Glops and goops – 5 points

11) What species is your animal?

a. Goat – 5 points
b. Sheep – 5 points
c. Cat – 5 points
d. Dog – 2 points
e. Horse – 2 points
f. Other – 5 points


0-4 points – Keep an eye on things; record duration, appetite, activity, and any changes. If anything worsens, or doesn’t resolve in a day or so, see below.
5-10 points – Don’t panic but make a vet appointment
10-30 points – Sooner is better than later for that appointment
30-50 points – Are you kidding me?? Why are you still reading this?? Go!!

VIN News Service commentaries are opinion pieces presenting insights, personal experiences and/or perspectives on topical issues by members of the veterinary community. To submit a commentary for consideration, email

Information and opinions expressed in letters to the editor are those of the author and are independent of the VIN News Service. Letters may be edited for style. We do not verify their content for accuracy.