Dogs’ sense of smell is their superpower; They decipher the world with their noses. So it’s no wonder that like us, they sneeze occasionally and often for the same reasons. Accidental sneezing is not necessarily a cause for concern. Common irritants are pollen; Household products (another reason to always use pet-safe versions), second-hand perfume and smoke; or water inhaled while swimming or taking a bath. Dogs also sometimes sneeze when excited or while playing. However, some sneezes are worth paying attention to and treating or ruling out their causes. Read on for more details.
Common causes of sneezing in dogs
Note: If your sneezing dog has a swollen nose, a persistent runny nose or nosebleed, or scratching its nose, there is likely a reason. Have your veterinarian examine them immediately.
Dog noses and plant material
Most often, sneezing is the result of temporary irritation to a dog’s nasal passages. In these circumstances, sneezing is the body’s way of removing or driving out the irritant. For example, if this irritant is a stray piece of leaf, freshly cut grass, or some other small object that is sucked in by your dog while examining your surroundings, a sneeze or two is usually enough to perform the trick. However, this is not always the case.
If your dog has sniffed a foxtail – a fish-hook-like dried grass seed – even repeated sneezes most likely won’t expel it. Foxtails are designed to be transferred from the plant to a host faster than the speed of light, embedded, and then migrated in one direction only: forward.
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If your dog is unlucky enough to inhale a foxtail or other barbed pit, it will most likely sneeze like crazy for a few minutes and then stop. Most of us will then think, phew, she sneezed it, but often this is not true. Rather, it can mean that the foxtail has already got further into the nasal cavity. A tiny little drop of blood may appear at the tip of the nostril. This may be an indication that the awn actually went up the nostril.
It is a good idea to get out of the area, keep your dog calm, and watch him closely. Unfortunately, spotting a foxtail in a dog’s nostril can be both difficult and painful, and most dogs won’t let you run around looking for it. If you think your dog has inhaled a foxtail, a visit to the vet is definitely in order. Don’t dawdle; The longer you wait, the more difficult (and costly) it will be to remove the foxtail. (Even if it turns out to be not a foxtail, knowing it is certainly worth the cost of the visit.)
Just like us, dogs can have seasonal allergies. Plant or grass pollen, dust mites, and certain household chemicals are the most common culprits for allergy-related sneezing in dogs. Dogs with allergies are also often more prone to skin and ear infections. Talk to your veterinarian about the best ways to treat these allergies.
Nasal and respiratory infections in dogs
Frequent sneezing sometimes signals an infection caused by a virus, bacteria, or fungus. Viruses (including distemper and parainfluenza) can cause a dog to sneeze. Bordetella is one of the bacteria that causes kennel coughs and sneezes. Aspergillosis is a common nasal infection caused by inhalation of Aspergillus fungus and it appears basically anywhere. Other inhaled fungi, such as cryptococci and blastomycosis, also affect a dog’s airways and cause sneezes. All of this is treatable and can be diagnosed (or ruled out) through a visit to the veterinarian.
In rare cases, persistent sneezing can be caused by nasal mites. These tiny insects, only about a millimeter tall, are in the dirt, and dogs that dig their noses (as some dogs are used to) can contract this way. These mites, which can be very irritating to dogs, are contagious and require treatment. Your veterinarian can prescribe topical or oral medications to remove and prevent nasal mites.
Canine nasal cancer
A cancerous tumor in a dog’s nasal passage is sometimes the cause of excessive sneezing. Nasal cancer makes up 1 to 2 percent of cancers in dogs and has a malignancy rate of 80 percent. While, as with most cancers, no single cause is known, it is believed that this cancer is both environmental (e.g., second-hand cigarette smoke) and genetic in origin. Longer-snouted breeds such as collies and dachshunds are the most vulnerable. In addition to sneezing, symptoms of nasal tumors include difficulty breathing, loud breathing, bloody nasal discharge, cough, loud snoring, seizures, and facial swelling. Of course, if your dog has some or most of these symptoms it should be examined by your veterinarian as soon as possible.
Sneezing dog game
Does your dog sneeze when excited? If your dog is enjoying playing around with his pals, he may be doing something called a sneeze. Sometimes a dog does this to signal to other dogs that they are “just playing” or “just a game”. Or they sneeze when they zoom into the courtyard for the sheer joy of it. (Smaller dogs are more likely to do this.) Don’t worry.
Then there is reverse sneeze, which really isn’t a sneeze at all – it sounds more like a honking horn. Veterinarians call it inspiratory paroxysmal breathing, which is caused by a muscle spasm in a dog’s mouth where the mouth meets the throat. The cramp makes it difficult for the dog to breathe in. (Interestingly, many of the same things that trigger other sneezing fits described in this article also trigger reverse sneezing.)
Dog breeds likely to sneeze
There are also structural reasons for a dog to sneeze fits. The nasal passages of brachycephalic breeds – short-mouthed types like Bulldogs, Pugs, and Boston Terriers – are compressed, causing quite a bit of sneezing, snoring, and snorting. In fact, dogs of these breeds can have a condition known as brachycephalic airway obstruction syndrome (BAOS); Sneezing is one of the symptoms associated with BAOS.
Dental problems in dogs
While this doesn’t seem to be an obvious cause, dental problems in dogs such as infected teeth or gums and abscesses can cause infection in the nasal cavities, causing a runny nose and sneezing.