Just like with people, sneezing is a perfectly normal and natural thing for dogs to do from time to time. If you’ve ever wondered “why is my dog sneezing” you perhaps have never noticed your pup sneeze before, or they’re sneezing more than normal and you’re a little worried they’re under the weather.
Constant sneezing or sneezing alongside other symptoms like a runny nose or nosebleed can be a sign that your pooch is unwell and might need a trip to the vet for a check-up.
Generally, the odd sneeze is nothing to worry about and there are many reasons why your dog might be sneezing. Some breeds, particularly brachycephalic dogs like Frenchies or Pugs are more prone to sneezing just because of their squashed facial anatomy. Sometimes, sneezing can even be a form of communication amongst canines!
Here are all the different reasons why your pooch’s snoot might be snotty and why your dog is sneezing.
Why is my dog sneezing?
The most common reason why your dog is sneezing is because something has irritated their nose. Just like humans, a dog will sneeze whenever something is inside their nose that shouldn’t be, and it’s the body’s way of trying to eject whatever is upsetting their snoot.
The inside of your dog’s nose is very sensitive, able to detect any foreign particles inside it even when it’s as small as dust. When they sense that something is inside the nasal cavity that shouldn’t be, it sends a signal to the brain to trigger a sneeze. Within milliseconds, the muscles in their chest, throat, and diaphragm will contract to push lots of air out of their nose and mouth at high speed to try and dislodge and expel whatever is in their nose.
Some of the things that can irritate your pooch’s nose and explain why your dog is sneezing are:
- Masses (nasal tumours)
- Foreign bodies
As well as sneezing to try and remove something annoying from their nose, some dogs sneeze whenever they’re excited or playing. This isn’t a proper sneeze though, and we’ll explain why later.
If your pooch has had a sneezing fit or seems to be doing it consistently and you’re left wondering “why is my dog sneezing?” you might want to start paying close attention to your pooch to figure out what’s triggered all their snorting. In most cases, a sneezing fit will resolve itself and your pup will be back to normal in no time. However, consistent sneezing is usually a symptom of illness.
What’s making my dog sneeze?
There are all sorts of reasons why your dog is sneezing, but it all comes down to there being something in their nose that shouldn’t be. So what can be triggering their sneezes?
Your pooch could be suffering from an infection somewhere in their nasal cavity or upper respiratory system, and it may be caused by bacteria, fungus, or a virus. One common nasal infection in dogs is caused by the aspergillus fungus, and sneezing is a common symptom.
A dog with an infection will often be fine most of the time but will have occasional sneezing fits. They will usually have runny discharge coming from their nose as well. Depending on what has caused the infection, your pup might also suffer from nose bleeds and might show visible signs that their nose or head is sore, such as face rubbing.
Sometimes, the infection needn’t be in your dog’s nose to cause sneezing. Gum disease or an infection in your dog’s teeth can cause sneezing, as the roots of your dog’s teeth are so close to their nasal cavity. In some cases of gum disease, the bones between their mouth and nose can become damaged or erode, which will cause sneezing.
Masses & tumours
A very rare reason your dog might be sneezing is because something has grown inside their nasal cavity that shouldn’t be there. If any sort of mass has developed inside their nose, it will irritate the sensitive nerves inside and trigger sneezing, as if there’s a foreign body trapped inside their snoot. It could be caused by a tumour, or masses such as fungal plaques that grow as a result of infection.
Masses will develop slowly, so a dog’s sneezing might gradually get worse over an extended period of time. It won’t be constant, but they might sneeze frequently if the mass becomes quite large. Because a mass typically grows in one side of the nasal cavity, your pooch might have weaker airflow through one nostril because it is being obstructed. They might also have a runny nose with discharge that only seems to leak out of one nostril.
Foreign bodies in the nasal cavity are perhaps the most common reason why your dog is sneezing. It essentially means something’s got stuck in your furry friend’s nose that shouldn’t be, whether that’s a blade of grass, seeds, some dirt or dust, anything that your dog has accidentally inhaled while snuffling and sniffing around. Their nose might also have been irritated by some aerosols, chemicals, or pollutants and your pooch is sneezing to try and remove the particles.
If something is stuck in your dog’s nose, it will be constantly irritating it until it is removed, so your pooch might be sneezing almost all the time or having regular sneezing fits. If the sneezing stops suddenly, it’s probably because they’ve managed to dislodge whatever was upsetting their snoot.
As well as lots of sneezing, dogs with something irritating their nose will often paw at their face or rub their snout on the ground or furniture. They can also suffer from a runny nose, and discharge will normally come out of one nostril on whatever side the foreign object is stuck in. Over time, this discharge might become bloody or pussy.
Allergies are a much less common cause of sneezing in dogs. For example, spring is sneezy season for us humans suffering from hayfever, but when dogs have hayfever, they tend to get very itchy skin.
Allergies can still trigger sneezes in dogs, and the majority of canine allergies are caused by irritants in a dog’s food so switching to a natural and hypoallergenic diet might help. If allergies are the culprit behind your pup’s snorting and sneezing, it will usually start suddenly and will often be accompanied by very liquid discharge from both nostrils.
One foreign body that definitely shouldn’t be in your dog’s nose are nasal mites, although they are rare. Dogs can pick up nasal mites by snuffling around in the dirt or anything that’s contaminated with them. These annoying critters will then make their home inside your dog’s nose, and are very irritating and uncomfortable for your poor pup.
If your dog is suffering from mites they will be sneezing a lot, pawing at their face, have discharge from their nose, and can suffer from nosebleeds. If you suspect your pooch might have mites, or anything in their nose that shouldn’t be, you should contact your vet.
Why do dogs sneeze when excited?
You might have noticed that your dog sneezes whenever they’re excited or playing. In either case, this is called a “play sneeze” and it’s a perfectly normal thing for your dog and certainly nothing to worry about.
“Play sneezing” isn’t as sharp as a regular sneeze, it’s much softer and it’s more like a quick exhale rather than an explosion of air. Unlike a proper sneeze, it’s not an involuntary reaction and it’s not triggered by anything tickling their nose.
The exact cause for play sneezing isn’t known, but studies suggest that it’s a form of communication that shows a dog is happy and excited. It’s called a “play sneeze” because dogs will often sneeze before playing, during play, or just after. It’s also thought to signal to other dog’s that your pup is only play fighting and doesn’t mean any real harm, and they’re just having fun and excited.
We think it might be a signal of changing states, like an emotional reset button, so your pup will sneeze as they get excited, and sneeze when they need to calm down again.
Should I worry about why my dog is sneezing?
In most cases, your dog’s sneezing will be nothing to worry about. An occasional sneeze or even the odd sneezing fit can be perfectly normal, as long as they are infrequent and your dog seems otherwise happy and healthy.
However, if your dog is sneezing more than usual or shows any symptoms of irritation or illness, like pawing at their nose, discharge, or nose bleeds, it’s always best to get a vet to check them out. Even if their sneezing is caused by something in their nose, your dog might need the vet to help remove whatever’s stuck up there or be given some medication to clear any infection.
If your pup is ever sneezing and seems to have difficulty breathing, you should contact your vet as soon as you can because there might be something obstructing their airway.