Why Is My Dog Sneezing a Lot?

Heather Hoffmann, DVM
By Heather Hoffmann, DVM. Reviewed by Barri J. Morrison, DVM on Mar. 31, 2024
A Beagle sits in a field.

Why Is My Dog Sneezing a Lot?

Sneezing can be a normal occurrence in dogs. But in certain situations, you may wonder if excessive sneezing is a cause for concern.

There are many reasons why dogs sneeze, so it’s important to distinguish between playful or communicative dog sneezing versus an indicator of a more serious underlying health condition.

Let’s look at some common reasons why your dog might be sneezing a lot, other symptoms to watch out for, and when to take your dog to their veterinarian.

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What Is Sneezing in Dogs?

Sneezing is a dog's way of forcibly removing any discharge, foreign material, or irritants from their upper airway.

The upper airway consists of the nose, nasal passages, throat (pharynx/larynx), and trachea/windpipe.

While sneezing in dogs is a normal response, it can also be a symptom of illness.

For example, if your dog gets some pollen trapped in their nose, a few sneezes will follow that only last for a few episodes. However, if your dog has an allergy to that pollen, the sneezing can become excessive and may result in other symptoms.

Uncontrollable Sneezing in Dogs

Severe sneezing in dogs can be concerning as a pet parent.

Severe or excessive sneezing often results in discharge or blood coming from the nose, or an audible congestion.

Severe sneezing can also affect a dog’s appetite causing them not to eat much, or not at all. It can also be characterized by multiple sneezing fits that cause your dog to be lethargic or less active.

The most common causes of uncontrollable sneezing in dogs are nasal foreign bodies, nasal mites, or a nasal tumor.

If your pet is incessantly sneezing—especially if it is accompanied by a nasal discharge—take your pup to an emergency vet immediately.

Dog Sneezing vs. Dog Snorting

Sometimes it can be difficult to tell the difference between a dog sneezing and snorting.

One way to help differentiate is that sneezing is usually an outward expulsion of air, while snorting is drawing air in with an accompanying sound.

Snorting is common in brachycephalic dogs, but it can also be seen with overweight dogs or those that have underlying medical conditions.

Causes of Sneezing in Dogs

There are several common reasons why your dog may be sneezing a lot. These include:

  • Allergies—If your dog is sneezing, it can sometimes be an indicator of underlying environmental allergies. You may notice sneezing in addition to other allergy signs, such as watery eyes or scratching and licking their fur due to itchiness.

  • Play sneezing—Dogs often sneeze while they are playing as a sign of happiness. This also alerts the other dog that they are exerting play behavior. If you see your dog sneezing during a playdate, and there are no other symptoms, there is likely no need to worry!

  • Reverse sneezingReverse sneezing in dogs is an interesting phenomenon that usually occurs in response to excitement, irritants, or inflammation. Dogs will exhibit sudden, repeated inhalations through the nose that sounds like honking. It almost seems like they are having trouble breathing when dogs reverse sneeze. Although it may sound dramatic, petting your dog and calming them down will usually resolve the behavior.

  • Airborne irritants—Certain dogs can be sensitive to irritants, such as pollen or dust, that will cause them to sneeze. The small particles can get trapped in your dog’s nasal passages or pharynx, which incites a sneeze due to irritation. Other common irritants include scented candles, perfume, air fresheners, smoke, or cleaning products.

  • Foreign body—Occasionally, dogs will get a piece of foreign material stuck in their nasal passages, causing severe irritation. Examples of such material include blades of grass, foxtails, or sticks. These objects are extremely irritating, so if this is the case, you will see continuous sneezing and discomfort.

  • Nasal infection—Upper respiratory infections can cause dogs to sneeze. These can be fungal or bacterial in nature, and sometimes they can even originate from an infected tooth root. If your dog has an infection, you will usually see additional symptoms, such as a bloody or mucoid discharge and lack of appetite.

  • Nasal mites—Nasal mites are small bugs that can cause severe nasal irritation in dogs. Dogs often get them when they dig or rub their nose in dirt. Due to the irritation and inflammation caused by these insects, you will usually see a bloody or thick discharge from your dog’s nose in addition to frequent sneezing.

Brachycephalic, or flat-faced dogs, are more prone to sneezing due to the anatomical compression of their nasal passages. The most common brachycephalic breeds with breathing or sneezing tendencies are PugsBoston Terriers, and English Bulldogs.

Dog Sneezing With Other Symptoms

What if your dog is not just sneezing a lot but also has other symptoms? Here are some of the most common symptoms that show up and what they mean.

  • Dog sneezing blood—Sneezing blood is a sign that something more serious is going on with your dog’s nasal passages. Possible causes include foreign bodies, nasal tumors, and bacterial or fungal infections.

  • Dog sneezing and coughing—If your canine companion is both sneezing and coughing, it may be a sign of a more serious underlying health condition. Possible causes of these symptoms include severe bacterial or fungal infections, kennel coughcanine influenza, or respiratory parasites.

  • Dog sneezing and wheezing—If your dog is wheezing in addition to sneezing, it may indicate a problem with your dog’s lungs that needs to be further investigated. Wheezing can be caused by asthma or other respiratory issues.

Home Remedies for Dog Sneezing

There are multiple causes for sneezing in dogs—some require further treatment and others don’t.

Although you may be tempted to reach for over-the-counter human products, such as Benadryl®, to help provide some relief, you should always have your local veterinarian determine the true underlying cause of your dog’s sneezing before starting any type of treatment.

If your dog has congestion along with sneezing, running a cool-mist humidifier in the room they sleep in can be helpful.

You can also accompany your dog into the bathroom while a hot shower runs. Lett them breathe in the steam. This can help with sneezing and upper respiratory conditions in dogs.

Supporting your pup’s immune system through their sneezing can help by offering them a probiotic or other immune-boosting supplement. Allergy supplements can help as well with those dogs that have allergic sneezing.

When To Go To The Vet

Occasional sneezing in dogs doesn’t usually require a vet visit—however, some instances of dog sneezing does. Frequent sneezing in dogs without a clear cause may necessitate more testing.

Bring to your pup to their vet if:

  • You see signs of thick nasal discharge/blood, nasal swelling, lethargy, fever, or reduced appetite.

  • If your dog is experiencing severe signs of allergies (itching, licking, scratching) in addition to sneezing.

Why Is My Dog Sneezing a Lot? FAQs

Why do dogs sneeze when playing?

Play sneezing is often a sign of happiness in dogs.

Lip curling is also a sign of happiness in dogs—which can cause the lower face to crinkle, thus resulting in a sneeze.

It could also be from an environmental irritant such as something in the air or a feather from their toy tickling their nose.

Why does my dog sneeze when I kiss him?

Since sneezing can be a sign of happiness in dogs, they may sneeze when you kiss them.

It’s also possible that something from your clothing like a string—or even pollen you collected accidentally outdoors—can enter their nose and cause a sneeze.

Why is my puppy sneezing?

Occasional sneezing in puppies is quite normal.

If they have other symptoms, it may be the sign of an upper respiratory infection most commonly caused by a virus or bacteria.

If your puppy is excessively sneezing, or has other symptoms in addition to the sneezing, bring them to be examined by your veterinarian immediately.


Heather Hoffmann, DVM

WRITTEN BY

Heather Hoffmann, DVM

Veterinarian

Dr. Heather Hoffmann is a 2018 graduate from the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine. She completed a certificate in...


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