Everybody sneezes–sometimes–humans and dogs alike. A sneeze is an involuntary, forcible expulsion of air through the nose and mouth in response to irritation of the nasal passages. In other words, the body is trying to get rid of something that doesn’t belong.
An inhaled irritant can make your dog sneeze the same way you would.
Those can include dirt, dust particles, perfumes, pollens or, in Cookie’s case, I suspect she often inhales the flower with its scent when she’s sniffing out critters or examining the environment for presence of intruders. And then she’ll sneeze. A couple of times. And that’s that, and she’s ready to continue her reconnaissance work.
A few sneezes every now and then are perfectly normal and of no concern. Some dogs, especially small breeds, can start sneezing at the anticipation of excitement. No, I don’t get that one. But it can happen.
What if your dog keeps sneezing, though?
The first thing that comes to mind, it seems, is allergies. I often feel I’m going to sneeze my brains out during allergy season. Is the same true for dogs? Not really.
This is not to say that a dog could never sneeze from allergies. It is to say, however, that is quite unlikely. In fact, in dogs, sneezing is the least likely reaction to an allergen. Allergies in dogs typically manifest through the skin, not the nose.
Let’s forget the connection between sneezing and allergies.
There are much more likely and quite more serious potential causes behind your dog’s excessive sneezing.
Well, yes, pollen or dirt particles and the like are technically foreign bodies as well. The difference is that they are tiny and a healthy sneeze or two should be enough to get them out of there. Right?
Sneezing is a perfectly good system that should be able to take care of such things easily. If your dog keeps sneezing on, and on, and on, it means that whatever there is in there isn’t likely to come out on its own. Yes, your dog could end up with a twig or a stick up their nose or, the most treacherous of them all, foxtails. That is no light matter. A foxtail can cause a substantial injury, and it can travel further in, all the way to vital organs!
|Here you can see how the foxtail traveled through tissues after entering between the toes.|
Image Brentwood Veterinary Hospital
Such foreign bodies require veterinary intervention. Other potential signs of a foreign object in your dog’s nose include pawing at the nose, nasal discharge and nosebleeds. Uncontrollable, violent sneezing is a red flag signaling a major problem such as a foxtail stuck in your dog’s nose. These things are very good at getting into places and stay there.
Nope, we’re not talking a common cold type of infection. Bacterial or viral upper airway infections in dogs are much more likely to cause coughing than sneezing, and dogs do not get a primary bacterial infection in the nasal passages, however, they commonly get bacterial infections secondary to foreign bodies or neoplasia. A fungal infection, namely Aspergillus (or penicilliosis), is a much more likely suspect behind your dog’s excessive sneezing.
Other potential symptoms that come with that beauty include pain, visible swelling, and discharge or bleeding from the nose.
Nasal mites are technically an infection too. These tiny bugs can cause terrible itching and trigger sneezing fits. And yes, often come with a side of nasal discharge and bleeding as well.
And here is a twist for you. The infection making your dog sneeze might not even be in their nasal passages. An infected tooth or its root, particularly the third upper premolar, can cause sneezing and nasal discharge.
As long as we’re listing all the nasty and scary things that can be behind your dog’s excessive sneezing, we must not forget about tumors. Unfortunately, that can be the cause, and it’s not as uncommon as you’d wish.
The anatomy of smushed-faced/brachycephalic breeds makes them more prone to sneezing or reverse sneezing spells in response to irritants or upper respiratory infections.