Ah-choo! You know the familiar sound of sneezing, and it's usually nothing to get worked up about. While it could be a sign that a cold is on the way, more often than not a sneeze is simply a sign that some sort of irritant has made its way into your nasal passage. Maybe it's a little tickle in your nose from pollen in the air, or perhaps you got a strong whiff of pepper or perfume and you just couldn't hold it in.
Like humans, dogs also sneeze. Your dog's sneeze might not sound or look exactly like your own (they're usually cuter and happen less often), but they both serve the same function — to clear the nasal passage. When things like dirt, dust, or household aerosols enter your dog's nose, they can cause a sneeze.
But what should you do if you notice your dog keeps sneezing more than normal? To answer that question, we'll outline what you need to know about the common causes of dog sneezes, how to help your pooch, and when sneezing might be a sign of something more serious.
7 Potential Reasons Why Your Dog Keeps Sneezing
There are a variety of possible causes of dog sneezing, many of which are fairly easy to figure out. But if your pet starts having more frequent sneezing fits, it could mean there's more to explore.
As a dog owner, it's crucial to monitor your pet for any changes in behavior or visible signs that something is amiss. As always, consult your veterinarian if you sense something might be wrong. Here are some common causes of sneezing along with steps you can take to address the situation.
1. Foreign Objects
If there's one thing dogs are good at, it's sniffing their way into some precarious circumstances. Whether it's digging in the dirt, grass, trash, sand, or just around the house, microscopic particles and other foreign bodies (debris, toy parts, bugs, etc.) can make their way into your pet's nasal passage.
Sneezing is an excellent way to expel these foreign objects, and it generally does the trick. However, if the sneezing persists and your pup keeps pawing at their nose, it could be a sign that the irritant is still there.
What to do about it: Even though you can't undo a dog's innate nosiness, you can keep them from digging or getting into areas that could spell trouble. If you can readily see what's lodged in your dog's nose, you might be able to remove it with tweezers. If you can't see anything and your dog doesn't stop pawing the area, schedule a vet visit to have the nasal cavity properly examined.
2. Seasonal or Environmental Allergies
Like humans, some dogs have allergies and sneezing is a typical symptom. Certain foods such as beef, chicken, and dairy can be allergens, but a recent report on pet health finds that environmental allergens are the more likely culprit.
While these irritants fluctuate based on region and climate, many are found in your home — dust (and dust mites), pollen, dander, mold, fabrics, medications, and cleaning solutions. If your dog has a runny nose, watery eyes, and wheezing along with the sneezing, it could be a sign of seasonal allergies.
What to do about it: Consider adding an allergy supplement to your dog’s diet. Pet Honesty’s AllergySupport Chews offer relief from environmental, skin, food, and seasonal allergies while supporting your pet's immune system. You can also talk to the vet to determine which type of allergy testing is right for your dog.
It sounds silly for humans, but "play sneezing" is a real thing for dogs. If you've ever seen the excitement of your pup playing, you've more than likely seen your dog "play sneeze."
This snort-like behavior is nothing to worry about — it's your dog's way of communicating to other dogs that the roughhousing is all in good fun. There are also some experts who posit that when dogs are playing and getting a little rambunctious, it kicks up dust, dirt, pollen, or other irritants that can cause a dog's sneezing.
What to do about it: Enjoy it! Play sneezes are totally normal and a good sign that your dog is happy. There are few pleasures as great as watching your pet living their best life and engaging in a little bout of playful sneezing.
4. Airway Obstruction
This can be a common cause of dog sneezing in brachycephalic breeds such as French and English bulldogs, pugs, boxers, Pekingese, Lhasa apsos, and Boston terriers. Because of their short heads and compressed nasal passages, these dogs often sneeze, wheeze, snort, snore and have difficulty breathing, exercising, and tolerating heat.
What to do about it: See your vet to get your dog properly diagnosed and determine the best course of action, which might entail medication or surgery. Be sure to manage your dog's weight since obesity can worsen symptoms. Also, use a harness that doesn't tug at your furry friend's neck area to reduce pressure.
5. Nasal Mites
As the name suggests, canine nasal mites are tiny parasites that live in a dog's nasal passages and sinuses. These bugs can easily transfer from one dog to another, causing chronic nose itching, nasal discharge, sneezing, head-shaking, nose bleeds, and reverse sneezing (more on this later). As with any nose bleeding, always seek the medical attention of a vet.
What to do about it: The only way to verify if your dog has nasal mites is to have a vet perform a CT scan, nasal endoscopy, or nasal flushing. Most nasal mite cases are effectively treated with antiparasitic medications that a doctor can prescribe.
A Word About Reverse Sneezing
When it comes to dogs sneezing, there's one more item to add to your "must-know" list — the reverse sneeze. Not only do dogs have a play sneeze, they also have a reverse sneeze.
Although it's technically not even a sneeze — it's called paroxysmal respiration — reverse sneezing happens when dogs quickly pull air into their nose rather than pushing air out of their nose. The result is more of a snorting sound that might make you think the dog is choking or having an asthma attack.
Reverse sneezing is most common in smaller dogs and brachycephalic breeds. The sound can be jolting, but it's almost never anything to worry about and will be over within a couple of minutes.
What to do about it: Gently massage your dog’s neck for a soothing effect. Some experts also suggest softly blowing on your dog's face to trigger the swallow reflex and reset normal breathing. If your dog seems to have persistent episodes of reverse sneezing, a vet visit can help detect and treat any underlying issues.
Your Pet's Health Is Nothing To Sneeze At
Sneezing is a regular part of life for humans and dogs alike. It's nature's way of helping us get rid of unnecessary irritants and keeping our nose clean. While there are many common causes for dogs sneezing — everything from allergens to infections and even playtime — more often than not, a sneeze is no cause for concern.
Still, learning about the causes, symptoms, and treatments for dog sneezing will help you be more aware of your dog's specific needs and ultimately become an even better pet parent. For more ways to help your furry family member live their best life, be sure to visit the Pet Honesty blog.