If you’ve ever seen a dog sneeze, you know that it’s super cute to watch. But, unlike human sneezes, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your dog is getting a cold or having an allergic reaction. Sneezes are common and usually nothing to worry about, though there are exceptions. Don’t worry—we’re here to give you some tips on recognizing when a sneeze is just a sneeze or when it could mean something else.

Why Do Dogs Sneeze?

Dogs sneeze for lots of different reasons, including seasonal allergies. Here are a few of the most common:

  • There could be an environmental irritant in their nose like dust, pollen, household products, or even perfume. Be extra careful when spraying anything around your pets.
  • There might even be a foreign object in your dog’s nose like a blade of grass, dirt, or twig and leaf fragments from digging and playing outside. A sneeze or two will usually help your dog expel the object, but if you notice any blood, continued sneezing, or they’re pawing at their snout, contact a vet right away.
  • You might have noticed that your dog often sneezes when playing or excited. These are called “play sneezes”—they’re normal and completely harmless. All it means is that your dog is having fun.

Dog Sneezes 101

Who knew dog sneezes were so complex? Here’s more info to keep in mind when your fur baby starts to sneeze:

Snorting — Was that a sneeze or a snort? Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference. Snorting could mean that your dog has an upper airway obstruction, but you’ll have to take your dog to a vet to confirm. Snorting is also common in overweight dogs—the excess weight can sometimes make it harder for dogs to breathe.

Reverse sneeze — During a regular sneeze, air is forcefully and quickly pushed out of the nose, but in a reverse sneeze, the air is sucked in, sometimes creating a honking or laughing sound. Your dog might reverse sneeze to get rid of an irritant or obstruction. Though reverse sneezes rarely require treatment, you should monitor your dog for any troubling symptoms like a nosebleed or repeated sneezes.

Breed — Certain breeds have compressed nasal passages, so if your dog is a brachycephalic breed like a Boston terrier, bulldog, or pug, they might be more likely to sneeze than other dogs.

When a Dog Sneeze Means Something Serious 

Unfortunately, a sneeze can sometimes be a sign that something serious is going on. Possible conditions include:

  • Some teeth have roots that are really close to the nasal passages, so if there’s an infected tooth, it could cause your dog to sneeze.
  • Persistent sneezing in dogs can even be a sign of a nasal tumor. Tumors in dogs are primarily caused by second-hand smoke. Talk to your vet if you suspect that your dog might have a tumor.
  • If your dog has sneezing attacks or nasal discharge, it could indicate nasal mites. These tiny critters —they’re about 1 millimeter and can be seen with the naked eye—can live and breed in your dog’s nasal passages. If you think your dog has nasal mites, take them to the vet as soon as possible.
  • Your dog could also have a nasal infection like sinusitis. Another type of infection, Aspergillosis, is caused by inhaling a species of mold found in dust, hay, and grass. Keep an eye out for a runny nose, a swollen nose or nostrils, blood, and nasal discharge. Nasal infections in dogs are usually treated with antibiotics or antifungal medicine, but your dog will need to be examined by a veterinarian to confirm.

We know that some of these symptoms are troubling and downright scary. Keep an eye out for any warning signs and contact your vet if you have any concerns about your dog. Otherwise, enjoy watching those adorable sneezes.

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