A dog’s sneeze is a pretty common occurrence, but it’s rarely a result of something like the common cold, which causes humans to sniffle and sneeze. So, what does it mean? It could be something non-serious like a reaction to dust or something more serious like a nasal infection. In most cases it’s nothing to worry about, but here’s what to look for in case a trip to the vet is needed.
Why Your Dog Sneezes
When an otherwise healthy and happy dog lets out a sneeze or two it’s usually not a concern. Same for that disturbing snorting noise known as the reverse sneeze. Frequent or repeated sneezing in a dog that seems sick, though, does warrants a trip to the vet.
Why does a dog sneeze in the first place? It has a lot to do with a nose that is very much like a human one. When an irritant enters your dog’s nose or pharynx, his body tries to get rid of it by expelling air through his nose and mouth. Voila—a dog sneeze!
Common reasons for a sneezing attack include:
Allergies. Just like their pet parents, dogs can and do suffer from seasonal allergies caused by various types of plant pollen. Additional symptoms include watery eyes and nasal discharge.
Sensitive sense of smell. All dog parents know their pet’s sense of smell is nothing to sniff at. But that incredibly sensitive snout can lead to him being particularly susceptible to irritants.
He’s having fun. Building on the previous point, when your dog becomes excited while playing with you, he likely curls his lip. This behavior causes his nose to wrinkle and that can lead to a tickle his body interprets as a signal to sneeze.
Talking to other dogs. Dogs have a variety of ways they communicate with humans and other dogs. Dogs who play together are constantly communicating with each other and one way they do that is through sneezing. It can be a calming signal to their canine friend, or they might use it as an attention getter.
When a Sneeze is Not Just a Sneeze
On rare occasions, a sneeze could signal a more serious problem in your pooch:
- As the third upper premolars have roots close to the nasal passages, an infected tooth could be the culprit.
- A tumor, typically caused by second-hand smoke, can sometimes cause sneezing, especially in dogs with longer noses.
- Due to their compressed nasal passages, brachycephalic breeds like bulldogs, pugs, and Boston terriers sneeze more frequently than other dogs.
If your dog recently spent some time in a boarding kennel or shelter, he might sneeze as a symptom of a condition known as kennel cough. While not typically a dangerous disease, a trip to the vet for some medication will help your dog recover more quickly.
Treating a dog’s sneeze depends on the underlying cause. If he’s simply happy, using the sneeze to communicate, or has an irritation from pollen or dust, you don’t need to do anything, just let him sneeze it out. If you notice changes in his appetite, activity level, persistent coughing, or a green or yellow nasal discharge, play it safe and take him to see the vet.
To learn about other common dog behaviors, check out our post on six of the weirdest ones most pet parents come across.