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The Science Behind Canine Sneezing: Understanding the Causes

Have you seen videos of dogs sneezing, and think to yourself “that’s so funny!”. Dogs sneezing can be a common occurrence, but sometimes it can indicate a potential health issue. In this article, we’ll talk about the common reasons why dogs sneeze and the different types of sneeze and what they really mean. As a fur parent, you need to know everything about your fur baby. Know when a sneeze is a real sneeze, a “playful sneezing”, “reverse sneezing”, or something more. 

Common Reasons Why Dogs Sneeze

  1. Irritants in the Environment
  • Dust and Pollen – Just like people, dogs can be sensitive to environmental irritants like dust and pollen. Sneezing helps your fur baby expel these particles from their nasal passages, keeping their airways clear. 
  • Smoke and Strong Odors – Exposure to smoke or strong odors may trigger sneezing in dogs as a protective mechanism to clear their nasal passages. 
  1. Playful Behavior During Play

Do you notice your four-legged companion sneezing during playtime? Dogs may sneeze during play, especially when engaged in roughhousing or wrestling with other dogs. This is often seen as a sign of enjoyment and excitement rather than an indication of a health issue. 

  1. Social Communication – Submission or Play Invitation 

Some of our fur babies may sneeze as a submissive gesture, especially when interacting with other dogs or people. It can also be a part of play behavior, signaling that the interaction is friendly and not aggressive. 

  1. Nasal Irritation or Foreign Objects

  • Nasal Irritation – Your pooch may sneeze in response to nasal irritation caused by foreign objects, such as grass seeds or small particles, that may have entered their nostrils. So, when your furry friend  starts excessively sneezing, you can check if something is stuck in their nose. However, be careful not to manipulate it as the stuck object can go down even further. 
  • Allergies – Do you know if your buddy is allergic to anything? Well, allergies to certain substances, including food or environmental allergens, can lead to sneezing in your canine companions. This is what you can often see in videos as “reverse sneezing”.
  1. Excitement and Anticipation – Anticipation of Food or Activity 

Have you ever noticed your pooch sneezing when you’re preparing their fave meal? This is because your four-legged companions may exhibit sneezing when they are excited or anticipating something enjoyable such as their favorite meal time or when going on a walk with their human. 

  1. Nasal Infection or Health Issues
  • Respiratory Infections – sneezing can be a symptom of respiratory infections, such as kennel cough or canine influenza. If accompanied by other signs like coughing, lethargy, or nasal discharge, it’s advisable to consult a veterinarian. 
  • Dental Issues – dental problems or infections in the oral cavity can sometimes lead to sneezing, as the nasal passages and oral cavity are connected. 
  1. Brachycephalic Breeds

Breeds with short noses or brachycephalic breeds such bulldogs, pugs, and shih tzu, are more prone to respiratory issues due to their flat-faced anatomy. Sneezing may be more common in these breeds. 

  1. Nasal Mites

Nasal mites are small bugs that can cause severe nasal irritation in dogs. Your canine companion can often get them when they dig or rub their nose in dirt during playtime. Aside from frequent sneezing, you can also see a bloody discharge from your dog’s nose due to the irritation and inflammation caused by these insects. 

  1. Nasal Tumor

Nasal tumors are a possible cause of sneezing in senior dogs. Symptoms are usually characterized by increased frequency of sneezing over time, and the tumors may cause bleeding on one side of the nose.

When Should I Be Worried?

If your pooch’s sneezes are intense and paired with a honking, loud cough, it can be a sign of kennel cough. According to VCA Hospitals, Kennel cough is often used to describe any infectious or contagious condition in dogs where coughing is one of the major clinical signs. It is also referred to as infectious tracheobronchitis. 

Constant sneezing may also be a sign of tooth decay, gum disease or an abscess. According to The Kennel Club, some of the teeth in your fur baby’s mouth have long roots that extend very close to their nasal passages. An infected tooth can sometimes spread the infection further up, making them sneeze. 

When your fur baby starts to show other symptoms such as nasal discharge/blood, wheezing, snorting, nasal swelling, reduced appetite, lethargy, or fever it is warranted to have your fur baby checked by your veterinarian. 



What Can I Do or Give To My Pet Dog When They Sneeze?

Even if it bothers you a lot, never ever give your furry companion human medications when they keep on sneezing . Home remedies may also not be safe because it may just cause further irritation to their nose and respiratory tract. It is important to take note that many human medications are highly toxic to our fur baby, and even if the medication is not toxic to dogs in general, there is still a risk of you giving the wrong dosage to your pet dog. The best thing to do, as always, is to call or go to your vet to get professional advice on any possible treatment for your dog’s symptoms. 

In conclusion 

While occasional sneezing is generally normal and it may be something not to worry about, persistent, excessive, severe, or uncontrollably sneezing, especially when accompanied by other concerning symptoms like bleeding from their nose, expelling discharge, or fever, should prompt a visit to your veterinarian. Remember, chronic sneezing may indicate underlying health issues that need to be addressed for the well-being of your furry companion. Regular veterinary check-ups can help ensure that any potential health issues are identified and treated promptly. 

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