Why Do Dogs Sneeze?

15 April, 2020
Sneezing is an involuntary reflex when foreign bodies irritate the nose.
 

Dogs are very playful. They have a lot of energy and barely stay still for long. That extra liveliness makes us believe they won’t get sick, and so when they suddenly sneeze it startles us. However, dogs sneeze for many different reasons, as we’ll see below.

A dog’s respiratory system

Although a canine’s respiratory system is, above all, responsible for taking oxygen and removing harmful gases from the body, such as carbon dioxide, it also has another important role – like a cat’s respiratory system.

Neither cats or dogs can sweat through their skin, like humans can. Therefore, the respiratory system helps to regulate their temperature. 

The following make up the canine respiratory system:

  • The mouth and nose
  • The trachea or windpipe
  • The lungs and the lower airways (bronchi and bronchioles)

Different factors affect the respiratory system. This makes way for respiratory diseases. One of the most noticeable symptoms of this type of disease is usually sneezing.

Before continuing, it’s worth answering the following question: what is a sneeze? Well, it’s an involuntary reflex action. That is, it’s a sudden, forced and involuntary explosion of air that’s expelled through the nose and mouth.

Why do dogs sneeze?

Sneezing happens for various reasons, including the following:

Allergies

An allergy is when the body reacts to an allergen. It isn’t dangerous but the body recognizes it as foreign and acts against it. Among the different types of allergies, the most common one in canines is atopic dermatitis (eczema) or atopy.

 

Eczema is a genetic weakness that causes inflammatory disease. Common symptoms are itchy skin along with sneezing and nasal and eye discharge. If the disease isn’t detected soon, it will turn into skin lesions.

In atopy, the body reacts against non-harmful substances, producing antibodies to combat them. Other main allergies include:

  • Pollen
  • Plants
  • Fungi
  • Dust mites or insects

Vets can prescribe hypoallergenic shampoo to alleviate itching and skin discomfort. If symptoms are more severe, you may want to consider prescribing an anti-inflammatory treatment.

A pug sniffing a flower

Colds

If a dog is exposed to low temperatures, it can catch a cold. The most common symptoms in dogs are eye discharge, cough, loss of appetite, lack of interest in playing, or sneezing.

Luckily, most dogs can fight off a cold without needing treatment. In these cases, owners need to make sure their dog stays hydrated, warm and only take them on walks in warmer weather.

Sometimes, a cold can be confused with a highly contagious canine disease called distemper. However, while distemper is caused by Morbillivirus, a cold is a bodily reaction to a change in temperature.

 

Nasal infections

A bacteria called Bordetella bronchiseptica bacteria causes the infectious tracheobronchitis disease in dogs. Also known as kennel cough, it has cold-like symptoms, including sneezing, discharge, or loss of appetite.

Tracheobronchitis can also be caused by fungi, viruses, or parasites. It’s a highly contagious disease but it can be cured easily.

Aspergillus fungus, is another bacteria responsible for respiratory infections. It’s a common type of nasal infection that’s caused by breathing in fungi found in grass, dust or hay. Symptoms include sneezing, secretion, nasal hemorrhages, and visible inflammation.

Emotion

Some dogs sneeze when they’re happy or excited, normally when they greet their owners. They can also sneeze when playing with other dogs.

A dog about to sneeze.

Dogs wrinkle their noses when they’re happy which makes them sneeze. Therefore, if a dog sneezes when you enter your house, it means they’re pleased to see you.

Sneezing itself is simply an involuntary act. Therefore, when a dog sneezes, it isn’t dangerous.

However, if you notice that your dog constantly sneezes and is showing other symptoms, take it to the vet for a checkup.