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Dog Sneezes 101: Causes And Treatments

Written by Ella White

Updated

Yorkshire Terrier having a sneeze
  • Like humans, the main reason dogs sneeze is to clear their nose 
  • It's really common for dogs to sneeze when playing to communicate they're having fun
  • High pollen levels as well as perfumes and artificial scents can result in lots of sneezing 
  • Reverse sneezes sound more like snorting and can last several seconds
  • If you notice other symptoms as well as lots of sneezing, it’s time to speak to a veterinarian 

Noticed your dog sneezing a lot lately? It’s probably nothing to worry about. Like humans, dogs sneeze to clear their noses of dust and other irritants. But they also sneeze during play, are known to reverse sneeze, and could be sneezing more frequently due to a health condition.

So, if you’re concerned about how much your puppy is sneezing and whether it’s normal, read on. In this article we’ll cover all the different reasons dogs sneeze and whether or not you need to be concerned.

Why Is My Dog Sneezing So Much?

When irritants like dust and pollen get up your dog’s nose, they sneeze like we do. But sneezing actually has other purposes for dogs beyond clearing their nose. Sneezing during play is how dogs communicate to show that they’re excited or having fun – it’s not because they are suffering from dust or allergies.

However, if your dog is sneezing a lot even when they’re not playing, or if there are other side effects like nose bleeds, coughing, excessive mucus or discharge, or a very dry nose, they might have another illness like canine influenza. In this case, you will need to see a vet who will prescribe medication to treat their condition.

Why Do Dogs Sneeze In Play?

Dogs sneeze when they’re playful or excited to let other dogs or animals know that they’re having fun and not being aggressive. Play sneezes are a way to prevent tension during play fighting with their friends – you might also notice pricked tails and lots of tail wagging, which also communicate that they do not pose a threat to their playmates.

Why Does My Dog Sneeze In The Morning?

If you notice that your dog sneezes more in the morning, there are a number of factors that could be causing this. Firstly, dogs tend to sleep close to the floor and could be breathing in dust from the ground or their bedding during the night.

Secondly, pollen levels are the highest first thing in the morning – which is why many humans often sneeze in the morning too. If your dog is not allergic to pollen, they will probably sneeze it away and then be okay for the rest of the day. However dogs that suffer from allergies are more likely to sneeze throughout the day too.

What Is Reverse Sneezing?

If your dog’s throat, nose, or mouth is swollen or obstructed in any way, you might have noticed that they take a sharp intake of breath through their nose that’s commonly referred to as a reverse sneeze. It sounds almost like a sneeze, but more snorting, and is a behavior more commonly associated with flat-faced brachycephalic breeds, and overweight or obese dogs.

The purpose of a reverse sneeze is to remove whatever is causing the obstruction or swelling, and it often takes more than one try. So don’t be disturbed if you notice your pup reverse sneezing for up to 30 seconds. You can even help them pass the sneeze by gently massaging their neck to help them swallow.

However, if they’re reverse sneezing regularly, you might want to check with a vet to confirm that the issue in their nose or throat isn’t cause for concern, or potentially pick up a prescription for antihistamines to prevent the swelling.

Is My Dog’s Nose Irritated?

If you notice that your dog is pawing at or scratching their nose as well as sneezing, it could be because they’ve got something stuck up their nose that’s causing irritation. Grass blades and seeds can easily get stuck up their nose as they sniff around outside, which is why it’s always important to check your dog over after walks.

Dogs can also develop fungal infections from sniffing around outside. When dirt gets stuck in their nasal passages and becomes infected, you might notice light cream or green discharge around their nostrils and nose bleeds, as well as sneezing.

If you think there’s something stuck up your dog’s nose or they’ve got a fungal infection, take them to the vet for removal or other treatment. Because dogs rely on their sense of smell they have very sensitive noses so trying to remove any foreign objects yourself could cause further damage.

Is My Dog Sneezing Because Of Allergies?

Dogs can suffer from allergies caused by environmental factors like pollen, grass or dust, foods, or bites from insects. Environmental allergies can lead to swelling and irritation in the nose and throat that leads to sneezing.

Other environmental irritants like sprays and perfumes can also cause dogs to cough and sneeze and should be used away from dogs wherever possible. If your dog is also experiencing a runny nose and eyes, and itchy skin, then it’s likely that they’re allergic to something in their environment. A vet will be able to recommend the best course of action.

Is My Dog Sneezing Because Of Kennel Cough?

Dogs do sneeze because of Kennel Cough, but the most distinctive symptom is a persistent honking cough. If your dog has been in a daycare, dog park, shelter, or anywhere else with a high concentration of dogs there is a chance they could have contracted Kennel Cough.

Kennel Cough is highly contagious but not especially dangerous to most dogs. It’s easily treated and can be prevented with regular vaccinations. If your dog is repeatedly coughing like something is stuck in their throat, they might have Kennel Cough.

But don’t take them straight to the vet. To avoid infecting other animals, call in first to speak to a professional who will be able to advise whether or not your dog has Kennel Cough, and how it can be treated.

Is My Dog Sneezing Because Of A Nasal Tumor?

Nasal tumors in dogs can cause nose bleeds and sneezing. There are different types of tumors that can develop in a dog’s nose: polyps and cysts are generally benign but uncomfortable, while more serious tumors could be cancerous.

Speak to your vet to rule out nasal tumors as a cause of sneezing, or for treatment if nasal tumors are diagnosed.

Do Some Dog Breeds Sneeze More Than Others?

Dogs with flat faces, known as brachycephalic breeds, are more likely to sneeze as their airways and nasal passages are more compressed than that of longer-snouted dogs. So owners of French and English Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, Pugs, and other dogs with squashed snouts might notice their pets sneeze more than others.

In most cases this is normal. But if your brachycephalic dog is sneezing more than normal, or if they have recurring breathing difficulties, it’s best to check with a vet that they are healthy and haven’t developed respiratory issues.

Is My Dog Sneezing Because Of A Tooth Infection?

An unlikely but possible cause of sneezing in dogs is tooth infections and gum disease. Dogs’ teeth have long roots which, in their upper gums, can extend close to the nasal passage. If these teeth start to decay or become infected, it can spread and cause sneezing along with a runny nose.

If you think your dog has an issue with their teeth or gums or has developed an abscess in their mouth that’s causing them to sneeze, seek veterinary attention as soon as possible. In most cases this will be painful for your dog and may need to be treated with tooth extraction.

How Can I Stop My Dog From Sneezing?

In most cases, there is no reason to try to stop your dog from sneezing. If they are sneezing because they have something stuck in their nose, or if something is causing them irritation, then sneezing can help ease their discomfort.

If they’re sneezing during play, it’s an important signal that they’re having fun and not being aggressive, which prevents fights with other dogs.

But if you think their sneezing is because of a cold or flu, infection, or another more serious issue then take them to the vet for diagnosis and treatment. Trying to cure issues with your dog’s nose at home can cause further harm and should always be avoided.

Should I Be Worried About My Dog Sneezing?

The only time that sneezing is a cause for concern in dogs is when it is accompanied by other side effects that could indicate a more serious health issue. If your dog is suffering with any of the following symptoms, seek advice from your vet:

  • Excessive sneezing that has started happening far more frequently than usual
  • Something is stuck up their nose
  • Pawing at their nose or other signs of irritation
  • Nose bleeds or blood with their sneezing
  • Mucus or discharge coming from their nose
  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent coughing
  • A temperature
  • Drowsiness and lethargy
  • Disinterest in food