What Does It Mean When Dogs Sneeze?

What Does It Mean When Dogs Sneeze?

They’re cute, they’re funny, and sometimes they’re messy, but what do your dog’s sneezes mean?

It makes sense that you might think of allergens and other particles as the culprit behind your dog’s sneezing fit, then why do dogs sneeze when playing?

If you’ve ever watched your furry friend and wondered, “why is my dog sneezing so much,” we’ve got your list of possible explanations for why dogs sneeze here!

Why do dogs sneeze?

There are a couple of different reasons why pet experts think dogs sneeze, some of which you might’ve guessed. For example, dogs often sneeze because of dust or dirt in the air, pollen, and other particulate matter floating through the air and into their snouts.

Some dogs spend time digging in the dirt and when dirt, bits of grass, or fragments of twigs get lodged in their noses, they sneeze to try to lodge it free. Sometimes, aerosol sprays and other sprayed cleaning products, personal scents, and air fresheners can irritate your pup’s nose. Sneezing might be an indication that they've inhaled something they’re sensitive to.

Dogs also sneeze sometimes as a social cue for humans and other dogs, to let them know how they’re feeling. 

Why does my dog sneeze while playing?

Dogs sneeze during play as an indication of their mood, as mentioned above. When a dog gets excited or is having a great time pupping around with you or one of their pals, they might start sneezing.

When a dog is playing and begins to sneeze, it’s their way of letting you and other dogs know that they’re not taking rough play seriously, and that everyone can relax. Sometimes playtime can involve aggressive “acting” like grumbling, howling, baring teeth or biting at one another. That’s why it’s important for dogs to have a behavioral cue to ensure everyone understands that it’s all in good fun!

If you’re wrestling or rough housing with your dog and they start sneezing, they’re letting you know they’re having a blast and they hope you are too. 

Why does a dog sneeze back-to-back

Back-to-back sneezes that seem uncontrollable are likely indicative of a sensitivity to something your dog inhales. Most times, dogs will clear whatever is irritating their snout after a few sneezes. Others may take a little longer, so hang in there if your furry friend’s sneezes start to get annoying.

If your pup seems to have suddenly taken on a sneezing fit that won’t quit, even after a few days, it could be an indication of some other health challenge.

Brachycephalic Breeds

Brachycephalic Breeds are those short-snouted dog breeds with wide heads. These breeds have narrow nostrils and shorter nasal passages. Some brachycephalic breeds include pugs,  American and French bulldogs, boxers, bull mastiffs, and Boston terriers, to name a few. You can find an expanded list from the American Kennel Club here.

These breeds sometimes have complications with breathing, so they can be prone to sneezing as an added complication. They can also be prone to eye and nasal discharge, noisy breathing and occasionally, nasal infections and nasal mites. 

You might sometimes hear your dog working through a reverse sneeze, or inhaling while covering the soft palate with their tongues in order to clear a nasal obstruction. If this is part of your short-snouted dogs’ normal clearing behavior, you can relax. If this behavior is new, comes with additional symptoms, or seems to cause your pet to struggle to breathe, get them to your vet.

How to help a pup with allergies or illness

From a dental problem in the back of the mouth to a suppressed nerve, bacterial infection, respiratory infection, or a cellular growth, excessive sneezing can indicate a variety of allergies or illnesses. 

Most often, simple solutions from your regular veterinarian can help you understand and manage your pet’s illness or allergies. If your dog is showing signs of pain, has excess discharge from the nose or eyes, is having trouble breathing, or can't stop sneezing, get them to a vet.

Medical attention may be required, especially if your dog has other preexisting health issues or allergies. Pay attention to body language to identify whether your dog is sick, taking note if other symptoms appear. These can include a number of behavioral changes, including appetite loss, chronic itching, nasal swelling, or a persistent cough. 

If you’re new to the Charlotte, NC area or recently got a pet and need a good vet, check out our resources page listing the best veterinarians in the Charlotte area here.