Rhinitis means inflammation of the nasal cavity.  It is usually associated with sneezing, nasal discharge, reverse sneeze, congested sounding breathing, open mouth breathing and/or occasionally cough, rarely vomiting.  It has many different causes.  Most cases of rhinitis have a serous, mucoid or purulent discharge.  Primary epistaxis (bloody nasal discharge) leads one to be more concerned about neoplasia, coagulopathy, hypertension, vasculitis, or trauma.

Rhinitis may be caused by nasal foreign bodies, viral disease, bacterial disease, fungal disease, parasites, polyps, irritants, allergens, neoplasia (cancer), or nasal trauma.  Many acute cases are caused by viral disease and will run their course in 1-2 weeks.  For those cases that do not improve, non-invasive tests such as a complete blood count, viral assay, fecal exam are generally employed first.  If there is no diagnosis and no response to treatment, more involved testing with sedation and anesthesia to perform largyngeal/pharyngeal exam, nasal/sinus radiographs and endoscopy, nasal culture, biopsy/histopathology, and CT scans is often needed.

Primary infections – herpes or calicivirus in cats, chlamydophila, mycoplasma, bordatella, bartonella, nasal mites (dogs), nasal worm (dogs), cryptococcus, aspergillosis, penicillinosis, often have specific treatments.  Despite specific therapy, not all animals are cured – sometimes the organism is only “beat back” for a time then it recrudesces in the future.  Chronic viral infections are common in cats from cattery or pound situations and are rarely cured, usually the goal is control of symptoms but most of these cats will have periodic relapses.

Foreign bodies and polyps often need to be removed either endoscopically or surgically.

Neoplasia can be palliated with radiation therapy, chemotherapy and occasionally surgery but is rarely cured.

Allergic or irritant or inflammatory rhinitis is usually an abnormal immune response to something.  It is the most common cause of chronic rhinitis in dogs. It is also rarely cured, the goal is control of symptoms with chronic management.  Management can consist of anti-inflammatories, omega 3/6 fatty acids, hypoallergenic diets, environmental elimination of potential irritants, or immunosuppressive agents.