Why Is My Dog Sneezing? – Top 7 Reasons
by Jessi Larson
As humans, we’re used to sneezing – during allergy season, when we’re sick, or if we’ve inhaled something that aggravates our sinuses. But when your dog does it, you may find yourself wondering, “Why is my dog sneezing?”
Well, just like humans, dogs could be sneezing for a variety of reasons, some of which are harmless, while others may require the attention of a vet.
Here we’ve gathered all the information to help you understand why your pup may be sneezing, and when you should seek professional help.
Types of Dog Sneezes
First let’s identify what a dog sneeze sounds like. There are times when a dog’s sneeze sounds pretty close to a human’s. Other times, dog owners may be horrified by a sudden chocking or gagging sound, which is likely a reverse sneeze.
For the most part, a reverse sneeze is not a cause for worry by itself. It may just be your dog’s attempt to remove an irritant or an allergen from its airways.
To help your dog, offer some fresh air or blow gently on their face to encourage swallowing.
If your dog’s gasps sound more like honking, however, or they seem to be struggling for breath or have any blue discoloration of the gums, see your vet immediately as this can be a sign of a tracheal collapse.
So Why Is My Dog Sneezing?
Now that you know how to identify a dog sneeze, let’s take a look at some possible reasons it may be happening.
Sneezing During Play
Did you know dogs use sneezing during intense play to communicate their playfulness to other dogs?
Basically, a sneeze during roughhousing is meant to diffuse any tension during the situation and lets the other dog know that your dog is playing and not seriously trying to harm their playmate.
If you mainly notice your dog sneezing during playtime, it may just be their “play sneeze” and is nothing to worry about.
In fact, this behavior signals your dog is having fun, so go ahead and enjoy the sneezing as an added spectacle to your dog’s playtime.
Obstruction in the Airways
If you notice your dog sneezing repeatedly, rubbing its nose on the ground or pawing at it, or if you notice any bleeding from the nose, there may be an object stuck inside.
The most likely culprit is a blade of grass, a hair or any other small particle.
A variety of plants known as foxtails have burrs that can get lodged in the dog’s nose, mouth or other cavities. These can cause serious damage that may even become fatal to your dog, so it’s very important to get your pup evaluated by a vet as soon as possible to remove whatever object is stuck.
Your Dog Has Allergies
Much like humans, a dog’s sneeze may be a sign of an allergic reaction. This can be from an environmental factor such as dust, pollen or a food allergy.
If you notice your dog is also itchy or has discharge from the eyes and nose, an allergy could be a possible reason.
If you suspect your dog to have allergies, it’s important to discuss the situation with your veterinarian so they can recommend any necessary course of treatment.
Our dog Toby suffers from seasonal allergies. We always know when they’re acting up because his skin gets red and irritated, his eyes start watering, and sure enough, he’ll start sneezing quite frequently.
At first we didn’t know what this all meant. After consulting with our vet, she shared that it was seasonal allergies that act up throughout the spring and summer.
To help Toby feel better, we give him a Benadryl tablet and soon the sneezing subsides.
Your Dog Has a Cold or Flu
Unfortunately, our dogs are not immune to the common cold and flu, which can also be reasons for your pup’s sneezing.
In cases of a cold or flu, your dog will also display a number of other symptoms such as fatigue, fever, runny nose or lowered appetite.
Most canine colds clear up by themselves, but it’s still important to contact your vet to rule out any other, more serious conditions that might need specialized treatment.
It May Be Nasal Mites
Nasal mites are tiny pests (about a millimeter in size), which can infest your dog’s nasal passages, causing enormous discomfort.
If you notice your dog is sneezing uncontrollably, has labored breathing and discharge or bleeding from the nose, these can be signs pointing to a mite infection.
These mites can transfer easily from dog to dog during close contact and are extremely uncomfortable for your furry friend, so it’s important to get veterinary treatment as soon as possible.
Bacterial and Fungal Infections
Besides mites, your dog may also get bacterial or fungal infections in the nasal cavity that will result in frequent sneezing.
Another sign that your dog has an infection is a thick nasal discharge, swelling or loss of appetite. If you suspect your dog to have an infection, take them to the vet for treatment immediately.
If all other factors have been eliminated and your dog’s sneezing persists, this may be a sign of an existing nasal tumor.
These are quite rare and happen most often in dogs above 8 years of age. Sneezing due to a nasal tumor may start out as infrequent, but increase with time as the cancer advances, eventually leading to bleeding from one side of the nose.
Obviously, if you suspect a nasal tumor in your dog, seek immediate veterinary care.
Final Thoughts: Why Is My Dog Sneezing?
If you’ve been wondering, “Why is my dog sneezing?” we hope this information helps shed some light on the subject.
Most of the time, sneezing is a natural behavior for dogs just as it is in humans. But continued, excessive sneezing should be monitored to figure out the underlying cause.
While certain dog sneezes are nothing to worry about, there are times when sneezing can be a sign of a critical condition.
If your dog is having a hard time breathing or if their sneezing is also accompanied by a thick nasal discharge, blood, swelling or fever, you should seek veterinary treatment right away.
How to Find the Right Veterinarian to Care for Your Dog
As you can see above, it’s important that you have a veterinarian you know and trust.
When you have a trusted vet who knows your dog’s overall health and history, it’s much easier to figure out what’s causing their current ailment.
In this case, you could quickly schedule an appointment or even email or call with the question of why is my dog sneezing.
To find that dependable doctor, follow these steps.
1. Look Locally
First things first: Find a vet that is near you. If heaven forbid something happens to your dog and it’s even remotely urgent, you’ll want to be able to get to the clinic in a short period of time.
This is also important if you have to take time off work for vet appointments. It’s tough enough to get away from work but even tougher when you factor in extra drive time.
For the most part, vet visits are usually planned. You know when your dog’s due for an exam or needs vaccinations.
But as we’ve learned throughout the years, things come up. Your dog ate something funky and doesn’t seem like himself. You spot a weird growth and can’t stop worrying. Your dog has a cut on his face that needs a few stitches.
Or in this case, you need to know why is my dog sneezing.
If your vet is closer, that makes things much easier.
2. Read Online Reviews
This is probably an obvious statement, but reading online reviews is incredibly important as a consumer.
And now there are more sites than ever with reviews – Google, Yelp, Facebook, Angie’s List, etc.
Search around and see what people are saying about each clinic you’re looking at.
3. Ask for Recommendations
Another useful tip is to ask around. Where do your neighbors take their dogs? How about friends, family and co-workers in the area?
If your dog is taking training lessons or going to doggy daycare, get the opinion of people at these organizations, too.
This is a great method because you’ll get honest, qualitative feedback that can help make your decision.
4. Do a Test Run
Once you find a vet clinic that seems like a good fit, make an appointment for your dog to be seen.
In this initial appointment, the vet will conduct an assessment of your dog’s health. But really, you’ll also be working on an assessment of your own.
Things to consider as you figure out if this is the right place for you and your dog:
- Facilities – The first thing is to take inventory of the clinic. Is it clean and comfortable?
- Veterinarian – Most importantly, what do you think of the vet? Did they explain things clearly? How was their bedside manner? How did your dog respond to them?
- Support staff – It’s not just the vet you have to consider. You’ll actually be spending just as much time with the support staff, which includes the vet technicians, front office team members and so forth.
- Service – How was the level of service? Is the staff pleasant? Was it easy to make an appointment? How is the communication?
5. Trust Your Gut
As always, trust your gut reaction. It’s more important than people realize.
If you had a good first impression of the clinic and the team and your dog responded well, by all means proceed.
If something felt off and the experience wasn’t what you had hoped for, don’t be afraid to look for other options.
Bonus Tip: Find an Emergency Pet Hospital
While you’re looking for a standard vet clinic, it’s smart to also identify emergency pet hospitals in the area.
This is a place to go if your dog needs care urgently and you can’t wait for the next available appointment at your regular vet.
If your dog has a serious issue come up outside of the normal office hours or on the weekend – and it will happen – this is the place to go.