Why Is My Dog Sneezing?

French Bulldog sneezing

If you've owned or been around a dog for very long, you've probably heard them sneeze. It's a common occurrence in dogs and other pets, and many owners find it funny and cute. However, you may also be concerned about why your dog is sneezing and if it means something is wrong.

In humans, sneezing can be the first sign of an oncoming cold or sinus infection, so it's normal to be worried. But this isn't always true with dogs.

Dogs can sneeze for many reasons, and the vast majority of them aren't indicative of any kind of health issue. So why does your dog sneeze and when do you need to be concerned? We answer those questions and more below.

Is My Dog Sneezing?

The first thing to understand is that dogs make a lot of weird noises. Sometimes, that's a sneeze, but other times, it's just something that sounds like a sneeze. For example, you could be hearing your dog snorting or reverse sneezing. 

Snorting is common in dogs that have short noses or smooshed faces, such as pugs and Boston terriers. It can also happen in dogs who are overweight because the excess weight can make it harder for them to breathe, especially when they are active. If your dog is otherwise healthy and hasn't experienced snorting before, it's a good idea to take them to the vet if you notice this new sound. The vet can check to ensure they don't have an upper airway obstruction.

Reverse sneezing is also common in small breed dogs and those that are brachycephalic, which means they have a broad, short skull. A reverse sneeze can sound like a honk or a laugh. It's not considered any kind of medical issue, and in most cases, requires no treatment.

Why Is My Dog Sneezing?

There are many reasons why your dog could be sneezing. The most common one is that there's something in the air that has irritated their nose. Common household irritants include dust, candles, perfume and cleaning products, but pollen and dirt outside can also cause sneezing in your dog. 

A sneeze here or there isn't something to be concerned about and is completely normal, but if you notice your dog sneezing several times or only sneezing when in certain areas of your house or after they have been outside, it could be a sign of an allergy. Consistent sneezing may also be a sign that your dog has something stuck in their nose. This is especially common in hunting dogs or dogs that like to use their nose to explore the outside environment. 

In most cases, the sneezing will expel whatever is stuck in the dog's nose, but if you see blood or your dog seems to be having difficulty breathing, a trip to the vet is in order.

Here are some other reasons your dog might be sneezing:

  • Infected tooth. An infection in one of the teeth that is close to your dog's nasal passages could cause enough irritation to trigger sneezing. 
  • Tumours. Frequent sneezing could be a sign of a tumour in the nasal passage. This is fairly rare but can be more common in long-nosed breeds, so it's something to have a vet check out if you are concerned. 
  • Head and snout shape. Certain breeds, such as Boston terriers, bulldogs and pugs, have compressed nasal passages, so they’re much more likely to sneeze than other dogs.
  • Aspergillus fungus. This is a common nasal infection in dogs that can be caused by inhaling fungus off of dust, grass or hay. It requires veterinary care, so if your dog is sneezing after being exposed to these substances, it's important to check with your vet.
  • Nasal mites. Nasal mites sound bad, but they're just little bugs that your dog can get in their nose from digging in the dirt. They can cause sneezing and a runny nose and can be treated at the veterinarian.

Why Do Dogs Sneeze When Playing?

You may notice that your dog tends to sneeze when they are very excited or when they're playing. This could be due to something called play sneezing. Sneezing is a way for a dog to show other dogs that they're only playing and are not a threat. So, if you notice your dog sneezing when playing with other dogs or playing with you, it's usually nothing to worry about.

Is My Dog Sneezing a Lot Caused by an Infection?

It's normal to be worried that your dog's sneezing could be caused by a sinus or respiratory infection. We usually think of this in terms of our human frame of reference, but it's possible in dogs as well. However, in most cases, you will notice your dog coughing instead of sneezing. Kennel cough, for example, is an upper respiratory infection and, as its name suggests, causes coughing in dogs instead of sneezing.

As always, if your dog starts doing anything new or out of character, such as sneezing frequently, or if they seem ill, a trip to the veterinarian should be the first stop. For more information on how to keep your pup in good health, check out other Purina Canada Pet Care articles.

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