What You Should Do If Your Dog is Sneezing?

Published: 20 Apr 2024
Kathy R. Conner
Kathy R. Conner
Kathy is a licensed veterinary surgeon and writer in Miami. With over 20 years of experience in deal with pets and small animal, she hopes to share her knowledge on what she learned throughout her life to all animal lover. On her free time, she likes to attend Yoga and Meditation classes.
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Our articles are meticulously composed and vetted by veterinary professionals, guaranteeing precision and pertinence by consulting credible sources, chiefly scientific journals and veterinary manuals. Prior to publication and major revisions, we thoroughly validate the factual correctness, providing well-researched content rooted in veterinary science.

Sneezing is a common and normal activity among dogs. But, what does it actually mean, and what behaviors in dogs cause them to sneeze?

Well, when it comes to sneezing in dogs, it is not always to mean that they are suffering from a common cold like in the case of humans. A dog’s nose is quite sensitive as they have 220 million receptors compared to our 5 million so a runny nose can be a big deal for them.

In most cases, it could be due to their minor reactions to dust, allergies, “reverse sneezing,” or a kennel cough from boarding kennels. Other reasons could mean more serious underlying health issues such as the distemper virus and canine influenza. It all depends on the color of the nasal discharge, and how often your dog sneezes.

As owners who love dogs, read on to learn more about dog sneezing and how you can help your canine companion.

Well Pet - Dog Sneeze 2

Have you ever wondered what causes Dog Sneezing?

There are many reasons why a dog is sneezing. In most instances, dogs sneeze as it can be a reaction to an irritant-like small particles or foreign objects in the upper airway or nasal passages of the nose.

There can be an irritant in their nose like dust, perfume, household products, or even pollen. Sneezing in dogs can also be due to something stuck in their nose, such as dirt from digging!

If your dog is sneezing a lot, it may be a reaction to something in the atmosphere so be careful spraying items around your pet as it may irritate their nose. Hunting dogs and those that snuffle in the undergrowth can also catch loads of unusual things stuck up their nose like fragments of leaves and twigs.

If your pet likes to wander nose-first through the undergrowth, be sure to monitor this. Often, sneezing helps the dog to expel the object on its own (much like humans do), but if they keep pawing at their nose and sneezing or their nose is bleeding, go to your vet as they may need to remove the item.

Other things that may be causing dogs’ sneeze include breed as it is common in brachycephalic dogs, a “play sneeze”, mites, an infected tooth, nasal tumors, or nasal infections. Sometimes it can be tricky to determine why your dog is sneezing, as dogs’ sneeze can be from many other reasons.

Why do dogs sneeze while playing?

Many dog owners notice their pets often sneeze when they’re playing or excited by something. This is called “play sneezing” and it is considered normal and harmless. A play sneeze simply means that your cute pet is having a whole lot of fun!

Dogs sneeze when playing to communicate to the other dog that their behavior is only play, and that they are enjoying themselves. Sneezing in dogs when playing is especially common in small breeds like Yorkies but many dogs do it.

Older dogs are capable of “play sneezing” too, although it just depends on the type of dog breeds. If your dog is sneezing when you are playing together, there is often no need to worry.

What is Canine Reverse Sneeze?

Sometimes, dogs sneeze due to canine reverse sneeze or when a dog suddenly makes a noisy breathing or repeated inhalations. This is most commonly experienced by brachycephalic breeds and small breed dogs.

When a dog is experiencing a reverse sneeze, air is pulled quickly and loudly in through the nose, creating a sudden loud noise like a honk. In fact, many dog owners think it sounds like the dog is laughing. Your dog will also stand with their elbows apart, head forwards or back before making the sound.

Reverse sneezes may be harmless, but if your dog seems to be in discomfort, is sneezing excessively or can’t stop sneezing, you could help the situation by massaging his throat gently. Also, try to lightly blow in his face to trigger the swallowing reflex.

For this reverse sneezing, there is no need to worry, your pet may not require any medication, but some antihistamines may be prescribed in case reverse sneezing is triggered by allergies.

Good Pet Food for Dogs

Most Common Causes of Sneezing in Dogs

Medically, a dog’s sneezing is a common occurrence but sometimes you may notice your dog sneezing during unusual times or more than usual. Do not worry. It simply means your dog is expelling air forcibly from the nose and the mouth in an explosive action. Dogs sneeze for a large amount of reasons but some of the most common reasons behind your dog’s sneezing include:

1. Foreign Bodies

A foreign body is a material that should not be in your pet’s nose. For instance, if your dog likes to dig or sniff around, some dirt or soil, pollen, leaves, or grass could wind up in his nose. Your pet will then sneeze to expel the stuck foreign body naturally. Signs of foreign bodies include pawing at the nose (which can lead to bleeding), nosebleeds, and sneezing.

The breathing of your pet might also be noisier like a loud snorting sound, and a visible bulge on the nose may be noticeable.

2. Infections

Often, the reason why your dog is sneezing is a one-off reaction to the something in the air or a play sneeze. However, if your dog is sneezing regularly, it could be a nasal infection.

These nasal infections are believed to develop from getting into contact with the fungus through the sinus and the nose. Dogs generally have upper respiratory tract infections [1] which are more likely to cough rather than sneeze, but it’s still worth consulting your local veterinarian if symptoms persist.

Aspergillus fungus is a common nasal infection caused by inhalation of a fungus from dust, bits of grass or hay. Symptoms include sneezing, nosebleeds, nose pain, visible swelling and discharge.

If your dog demonstrates any of these symptoms you should take them to a vet as soon as possible for treatment. Fungal infections are treated with medications but these can have side effects and typically require long treatment sessions.

3. Tumors

Very occasionally, persistent sneezing in dogs can be a indication of something serious, like nasal tumors which are more common in longer-nosed breeds. Second-hand smoke is the main cause of tumors in dogs’ nasal passages. If you think your dog is unwell, take him to the vet for a diagnosis.

4. Mites

On rare occasions, persistent sneezing in dogs can also be caused by nasal mites. These tiny bugs can reside your dog’s nasal passages and are commonly picked up from digging in the dirt with its noses.

Nasal mites are incredibly irritating for canines and can cause excess discharge and nosebleed from your dog’s nose.[2] If you suspect nasal mites on your pet, take your dog to the vet for treatment.

5. Dog Allergies

Although allergic rhinitis is not common in dogs, it does occur. Just like humans, dogs are susceptible to allergies and allergy symptoms like a runny nose and watery eyes that affect their nasal passages. You may also notice a nasal discharge from their nasal cavity, this can result from anything that bothers them like dust or even cigarette smoke.

Other reasons why your dog is sneezing:

Infected tooth. The third upper premolar has roots that are very near the dog’s nasal passages, so if this tooth or anything close to it are infected, it may cause your dog to sneeze.

If your pet is a brachycephalic breed. These dog breeds such as a Pug, Boston terrier, and Bulldog have compressed nasal passages, so they’re much more likely to sneeze than other dogs.

Give a Dog Benadryl

Other Symptoms with Dog Sneezing

Dog Sneezing with Blood

If you see blood when your dog sneezes always get in touch with your local vet. Sneezing blood can be a symptom of different things including injury, tumors, foreign bodies stuck in their nose, and nasal mites.

Whatever the cause, sneezing blood is something that shouldn’t be ignored. Call your vet who can diagnose the issue and start any necessary treatment.

Dog Sneezing and Coughing

If your dog is coughing while sneezing, it could be a sign of bacterial or fungal infection or respiratory parasites.

Dog Sneezing and Wheezing

A dog that is wheezing in addition to sneezing may be a sign of a problem with its respiratory system which needs to be checked. A cause of this may be asthma or other respiratory issues.

If your dog’s sneezing does not go away and additional symptoms such as coughing, discharge, lethargy, or reduced appetite accompany it, it’s always a good idea to take your dog to the vet. 

Recommended by the American Kennel Club

When is a Sneeze, Not a Sneeze?

Sneezing is not always actually sneezing in dogs. Sometimes your pooch might be snorting, which if you have a healthy pet is typically a sign of an upper airway obstruction, so you should take your dog to your veterinarian to have it checked.

Snorting is also common if your pooch is overweight as excess weight can make it more difficult for them to breathe. If you think the “sneezing” sounds could be a sign of abnormal breathing always call your vet as soon as possible as any kind of breathing issues should be considered an emergency.

Dog Sneezing: Conclusion

A dog’s nose is a powerful sensory organ, and the passages are better developed than those of humans. Ordinarily, sneezes in dogs are ephemeral, even funny phenomena.

If excessive sneezing is followed by other symptoms like fever, swelling, or fluid discharge, or if there is blood in urine, consult your vet. Make sure to read over the above reasons to learn about what may cause sneezing in your dog and what do dogs have to do to prevent it. 

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