A dog sneeze is a common and often entertaining sound. And even though he usually seems shocked that a sneeze has occurred, his sneeze undoubtedly brings him relief. All dogs sneeze, but some breeds are more prone to having sneezing spells. Sneezing is simply expelling air to remove foreign substances in the nasal cavity. Dogs also have a talent for a reverse sneeze and it is useful for purposes both similar to and different from the sneeze. A reverse sneeze can look even more comical and sound harsher than a traditional sneeze, yet it is just as common in dogs. Reverse sneezing is bringing air into the body to remove irritants that are beyond the nostrils. While sneezing is common, there are some times when a visit to the veterinarian may be necessary.
The Root of the Behavior
Sneezing is sudden,
occurs with a closed mouth, and causes your dog’s head to thrust downward,
sometimes hitting his head on the floor. Some dogs sneeze as part of their
playful behavior, while greeting you or a new friend. Sneezing is one way your
dog can express his happiness in seeing you or another animal. A play sneeze is
a sharp and short exaltation of air from his nasal passages and tends to be
more common in smaller breeds.
A sneeze that is involuntary and done to remove an object tends to be more intense and come from deep in his chest. It also releases fluids like mucus and saliva from his nose and mouth. Dogs use their snouts to investigate their world, so chances are pretty great that they will get something foreign in their nose that they need to sneeze out. Nasal mites are often found in dirt and can enter your dog’s snout easily during one of his curious ‘nosing around’ moments. A nasal mite infestation will cause your dog a lot of discomfort, itching, sneezing, and even some bleeding. Your household also contains many potential irritants for your dog’s snout including cleaning products, smoke, and dust. He could also be suffering from allergies or canine flu.
A reverse sneeze, called mechanosensitive aspiration reflex, is a common occurrence but not necessarily a sneeze. A reverse sneeze is a rapid inhalation that can sound like your dog is having an asthma attack or choking. Typically, the reverse sneeze causes your dog to throw his head back and make a strange honking sound. Lhasa Apsos, Pugs, Boston Terriers, Shih Tzus, and other small breeds commonly have a reverse sneeze reaction.
If your dog’s sneezing is accompanied by a thick green or yellow discharge from his eyes, nose, or mouth then there is an underlying health issue that needs medical attention. Insect bites could cause an allergic reaction and sneezing, and might also cause his face to swell. If you see any swelling, he needs to be monitored. If it increases, you need to take him to the vet.
Encouraging the Behavior
A play sneeze is meant
to be fun. If your pup is sneezing because he is excited, try sneezing back. He
may become even more excited, wag his tail, bow his head, or look at you like
you are crazy. Either way it will be a bonding moment for you both. An occasional sneeze
is pretty normal, but if he tends to be sneezing a lot and often it may warrant
further investigation. If your dog seems stuck in a sneezing spell, you can
help him by encouraging him to swallow by gently rubbing his throat. One reason
dogs sneeze is they have an airway obstruction or excess tissue in his nasal
passages. This could be from polyps, foreign bodies, or a tumor. While tumors
sound scary, they are quite common, especially in Irish Wolfhounds, Collies, and dogs eight years old or older. Most tumors are benign, but can cause
discomfort and should be monitored. The most common cause of airway
obstruction, especially in breeds such as Boxers, Pugs, and Bulldogs is called brachycephalic syndrome. Sneezing often could also be a sign of an upper
respiratory infection, dental infection, distemper, or nasal aspergillus from
contact with fungus. Any time your dog’s sneezing is accompanied by blood you should
take him to the veterinarian. A nasal
swab by your veterinarian can determine whether or not he has an infestation of
nasal mites and can easily be treated as well.
Other Solutions and Considerations
In most cases, sneezing and reverse sneezing over a period of time will stop on its own. If there is an underlying medical condition, it can be treated through the use of antibiotics, antihistamines, or surgery. Because it is involuntary, there is no treatment for simply sneezing. If your dog’s sneezing is a result of illness, he should definitely be kept away from other dogs during treatment and until he is cleared from the veterinarian as being healthy. Sneezing from medical conditions is most common in dogs who are unvaccinated or undervaccinated, so check with your veterinarian to make sure your dog is up to date on his shots. Reverse sneezing can often be triggered by exercise intolerance or too tight of a collar. Before rushing to the vet, ensure his collar fits correctly and note when the sneezing occurs.
Sneezing and reverse sneezing both help your pet remove irritants from his nasal passages. A sneeze is forcing air out and a reverse sneeze is a sharp intake of air. Your dog will sneeze because he is excited, because something is blocking his nasal passage, or perhaps because he is ill. If his sneeze is accompanied by a discharge or other symptoms, then consult your veterinarian.
By a Black Lab lover Zoe Byer
Published: 02/12/2018, edited: 01/30/2020