HealthBreathing & Respiratory HealthCan Dogs Breathe Through Their Nose?

Can Dogs Breathe Through Their Nose?

All dogs can breathe through their nose, but some dogs are much better at it than others. A dog’s nose structure will determine how efficient a dog is at breathing through its nose. Dogs with short noses (like boxers and pugs) may have difficulty breathing through the nose.

Dogs need oxygen (like any living being), and gather oxygen by breathing in the surrounding air, just like we do. 

Although dogs use their nose to smell the world around them, they also use their nose to breathe. However, some dogs are able to breathe through their nose much easier than others.

Various factors will determine the efficiency of nose breathing. These factors include the structure of the dog’s nose and the activity taking place. 

Let’s dive further into the factors that affect nose breathing.

Nose Structure and Characteristics

The structure of a dog’s nose will vary breed to breed. Regardless of structure, the purpose of the nose is to separate air to serve the function of smelling or breathing. 

A dog’s nose does this by separating the air to go directly to the olfactory sensing area (smell) or the airways (breathing). 

Other factors within the structure (like size and shape) may also affect the dog’s ability to breathe through its nose. 

Also, (unlike humans) dogs typically have oblong nostrils, which affects how they breathe (e.g., amount of air they can inhale, how they inhale it, etc.)

Types of Noses

Different breeds have different nose characteristics. We can categorize nose structures as it relates to size (small, large, etc.) and shape (short, long, etc.). 

Obviously, smaller dogs will have smaller noses than bigger dogs, but it is the size and shape of the nose compared to the dog’s size and shape that will affect the breathing. 

For example, Pugs and Dachshunds are considered smaller dogs, so they have smaller noses than larger dogs. However, each of these breeds has different nose shapes. Pug noses are short, whereas a Dachshund also has a small nose, but it is longer. A dogs nose may have any combination of size and shape.

How Different Noses Affect a Dog’s Breathing

A dog’s nose structure (e.g., small, large, short, long, etc.) will ultimately affect its ability to breathe through its nose. 

The shorter the nose, the more difficult it is for the dog to breathe through it. Brachycephalic (which many breeds fall under) is the “scientific” term that describes a short nose. 

Dogs that are not brachycephalic should have fewer issues breathing through their nose.

Activities and Factors That Can Affect How a Dog Breathes

Various activities and factors aside from the size and shape of a dog’s nose will also affect how feasible it is for a dog to breathe through its nose (instead of its mouth). 


Dogs participate in various activities throughout the day, from lounging to playing, but these activities will affect how the dog breathes. 

In a resting state, dogs do not need excessive amounts of oxygen, so most will naturally breathe through their nose. This is the case for most low energy activities. 

If a dog takes part in high-energy activities, like running or playing, they need more oxygen, so breathing through their mouth would be a better option.

Their Health

Brachycephalic dogs are more likely to have breathing issues that affect their health. The small size (e.g., length and width) of the airway can make it difficult to breathe through the nose. 

However, all dog breeds (even non-brachycephalic dogs) can have health issues that affect their ability to breathe through their nose. 

Such factors may include an obstruction, infection, or injury. If there is an obstruction in the dog’s nose, they could have issues inhaling through their nose to gather air/oxygen. 

Infection is another factor that can affect the health of the nose, which would affect the ability to breathe through it. An infection could also involve discharge, which can create obstructions.

Despite its rarity, nose injuries can lead to breathing problems.

Does it Matter If Your Dog Can Breathe Through Its Nose?

If your dog has difficulty breathing through the nose, you’re probably wondering if it’s a big deal. Will it impact the quality of their life? Or are you fine to ignore the issue?

Yes…and No

The answer to this question is a bit complicated. If a dog can gather oxygen through their mouth, then they are meeting their survival needs, so the inability to breathe through their nose might not be a major concern, especially if it is only temporary. 

However, all dogs SHOULD have the ability to breathe through their nose. Unfortunately, some dogs have health issues or birth defects that prevent this from happening. 

If the inability to breathe through the nose is caused by an obstruction or injury, the dog should be taken to the vet ASAP.

It May Lower Quality of Life

Dogs who cannot breathe through their nose may have a lower quality of life. Dogs that can only breathe through their mouth will likely have a constant dry mouth and throat. 

A constantly dry mouth and throat may cause additional problems, including discomfort and infections. 

If a dog owner is concerned, they should discuss this with a vet and find potential remedies to help their furry friends.

Key Takeaways

Dogs come in different shapes and sizes, so it makes sense that their noses do too. Although all dogs SHOULD have the ability to breathe through their nose, some may not be able to. 

Some breeds, like those that fall in the brachycephalic category, are born with certain characteristics that prevent them from efficiently breathing through their nose. 

Other situations may simply involve an obstruction that can be removed or an injury that simply needs time to heal. 

Dogs that can breathe through their nose will have a better quality of life than those that can’t. Because of this, if your dog can’t breathe through its nose, it would be worth a trip to the vet to see if the situation can be fixed.

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