Medically Reviewed by Dr. Majid Tanveer, DVM
Dogs, like humans, are sensitive to their environment and may respond with a sneeze when exposed to certain irritants.
Have you ever noticed your pup sneezing and wondered what could be causing it?
As a professional veterinarian and pet practitioner, I often get asked by dog owners why their pets sneeze.
Sneezing is a normal reflex action of the body to expel foreign substances from the respiratory system. This behavior is triggered when the dog’s nose and sinuses are irritated, or a foreign particle enters their nasal passage. It’s usually not a cause for concern unless it occurs frequently or with other symptoms such as a fever, discharge from the eyes or nose, coughing, or trouble breathing.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the most common causes of sneezing in dogs and what you can do to help.
Common Causes of Dog Sneezing
Sneezing is a reflex action of the body to expel foreign substances from the respiratory system. It occurs when something irritates or tickles the inside of your dog’s nose, triggering nerve receptors that cause them to expel air through their nostrils with a sharp sound involuntarily.
Sneezing in dogs isn’t always a cause for alarm. It’s pretty typical and can indicate various things, so taking note of the environment when your pup sneezes are essential.
Here are some potential causes behind why they may do this:
Dogs can get allergies similar to humans, and they can cause them to sneeze when exposed to a particular substance. If your pup is experiencing frequent sneezing after spending time outside, it could be a sign of an allergy or sensitivity to something in the environment.
Allergens that cause allergic reactions in dogs include pollen, dust mites, mold, food, and grass.
Pollen allergies are prevalent among dogs, especially when flowers and other plants bloom in the springtime. These allergies can be caused by a wide range of different types of pollen, including tree pollen, grass pollen, and even weed pollen.
Even if your pup isn’t allergic to dust mites, their presence in the environment can cause a dog to sneeze more than usual. Dust mites are common in home environments, and since dogs don’t have many facial hairs, they’re more likely to come into contact with them.
Dogs can be sensitive to mold spores, especially if they live in an area with a lot of humidity or moisture.
Sometimes even certain food ingredients such as beef, chicken, wheat, peanuts, soy, and tree nuts, as well as milk and eggs, can trigger allergies in dogs, usually causing a reaction that may include sneezing.
If your pup is sneezing more than usual after eating this type of food, it may be worth switching to a different brand that contains novel protein sources like rabbit or duck, such as Ostrich Burger Treats and Orijen, etc.
2. Respiratory Irritant
Respiratory irritants can often be a cause of sneezing in dogs. The most common irritants are smoke, perfumes or odors, and changes in temperature or humidity.
- Smoke from burning wood, charcoal grills, candles, and incense can all cause your dog to sneeze.
- Perfumes and odors from household cleaners, air fresheners, scented laundry detergents, and fabric softeners can also be irritants.
- Changes in temperature or humidity, such as going from a warm house to the cold outdoors, can also trigger a sneeze.
3. Foreign Object in Nasal Passage
Dogs possess a strong sense of smell and rely on their noses to help them interact with and judge their surroundings. Therefore when exploring their environment, they may accidentally inhale a foreign object that can irritate the nasal passages and cause them to sneeze.
These irritants could be anything like:
- Seeds, plant material, and other Debris
- Grass or foxtails
- Dust particles
- Small pebbles
If it cannot be flushed out, the object may need to be surgically removed. An endoscope may be necessary to remove more oversized items safely.
4. Anatomical Abnormalities
Some dogs may have physical abnormalities that can cause sneezing. For instance, if their nasal passages are too narrow or their nasal septum deviates, it could lead to frequent sneezing episodes.
These conditions are typically diagnosed when the dog presents other symptoms, such as chronic nasal discharge, difficulty breathing, and facial swelling.
A deviated septum occurs when the wall that divides the nasal passages is off-center or crooked, obstructing one of them. This can lead to frequent sneezing due to the excess pressure on one side of the dog’s nose.
Polyps are small, noncancerous growths in the nasal passages that cause them to become blocked and lead to sneezing. Dogs with large nasal polyps may also display other signs, such as snoring or difficulty breathing.
In rare cases, sneezing can signify an underlying tumor in the nasal passages. This is more common in older dogs and will most likely be accompanied by other symptoms such as abnormal breathing, discharge from the nose, facial swelling, and difficulty eating or drinking.
5. Dental Problems
Poor dental hygiene in dogs can lead to plaque and tartar build-up, irritating the gums and triggering inflammation.
This inflammation can spread up into the sinuses and nasal passages, resulting in sneezing fits. In more severe cases, the sneezing may be accompanied by discharge from the eyes and nose.
Some of the dental problems that may cause sneezing include:
- Gingivitis (gum disease)
- Tooth root abscesses
- Dental Fractures
- Tumors of the mouth and gums
- Rotten or damaged teeth
6. Trauma or Injury
Dogs are energetic creatures and often get themselves into trouble. They may experience trauma or injury to their face, nose, or sinuses from rough play with other dogs or running into sharp objects.
In these cases, sneezing can result from the body’s natural reaction to ward off further damage. If other symptoms don’t accompany the sneezing, it should subside in a few days.
Sneezing can signify your pup has an infection often caused by viruses, bacteria, or fungi.
These infections usually enter the respiratory system and trigger additional symptoms like coughing, difficulty breathing, fever, and discharge from the eyes and nose.
Some of the most common types of infections in dogs include:
- Kennel Cough
- Canine Distemper Virus (CDV)
- Canine Adenovirus
- Canine Parainfluenza Virus
- Canine Respiratory Coronavirus
8. Nasal Parasite
Sneezing in dogs can be caused by various nasal parasites, including mites and roundworms. These organisms are generally transmitted via contact with other animals, drinking contaminated water, or eating infected food that carries parasite eggs.
Nasal mites, for example, cling to the lining of the nose and sinuses, causing inflammation and discomfort. This can lead to sneezing as the dog attempts to remove them from its nasal passages.
These are just some of the many causes behind why your pup may be sneezing.
When Sneezing is Normal in Dogs?
Sneezing in dogs is sometimes simply a part of normal behavior. Multiple causes could explain why your pup is sneezing, but it’s important to remember that occasional sneezing can be normal for them.
Some of the normal causes of sneezing in dogs include:
Dogs communicate with one another through many different methods, and when your pup sneezes, it could be a way for them to express themselves. This sneezing is often accompanied by sounds or other behaviors such as wagging their tail.
When dogs play and have fun, they may sometimes shout a big “Achoo!” This sneezing can often be considered a sign that your pup is happy and playful.
Dogs tend to sneeze to get attention from people or other dogs. When a dog tries to get someone’s attention, it may sneeze to get the other’s attention and then start playing with them.
Some breeds of dogs are more prone to sneezing than others. Pugs, for example, have snub noses that can make it difficult for them to breathe correctly, and they often sneeze as a result.
Bulldog breeds may also sneeze more than other dogs due to the shape of their noses.
No matter why your dog is sneezing, it’s essential to get them checked out by a vet – if there is any concern that it could be related to an underlying health condition.
Treatments for Dog Sneezing
As you can see, many potential causes for a dog’s sneeze exist. In most cases, the reason is minor and will resolve without treatment.
However, if your pup is still incessantly sneezing or exhibiting other symptoms, such as nasal discharge, and fever, you should seek assistance from an experienced veterinarian.
Treatment could help alleviate their distress while preventing more severe health problems.
Depending on that cause, some treatments may include:
- Allergy relief medications such as antihistamines or corticosteroids
- Humidifier for dry air in the home
- Removal of allergens such as dust, pollen, or mold
- Antibiotics for bacterial infections
- Decongestants or nasal sprays to reduce inflammation
- Nasal flush to remove debris from the nasal passages
It is essential to consult with your veterinarian before attempting any self-medication for your pet’s sneezing condition. Your vet can diagnose the underlying cause and recommend the best course of action for treatment.
Pet Care Tip: Stop sneezing in your pup with this helpful video tutorial! Learn the right approach to get rid of those pesky allergies quickly.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much sneezing is normal for a dog?
The occasional sneeze or two is a natural occurrence that generally doesn’t need to be worried about. However, frequent sneezing may indicate something more serious such as allergies, mites, or infection.
What kills nasal mites in dogs?
Nasal mites can be treated with prescription medications such as ivermectin, selamectin, or moxidectin. If you suspect your pup has nasal mites, it’s best to take them to the vet for proper diagnosis and treatment.
How do you flush a dog’s nose?
A saline solution can help flush out any irritants that may be causing sneezing in your pup. This is a simple, safe, and effective way of relieving their symptoms without needing prescription medication or a trip to the vet.