Excessive Sneezing in Dogs: How Much Sneezing Is Too Much?

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.

Excessive Sneezing in Dogs: How Much Sneezing Is Too Much?

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.

Foreign bodies

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.

Infections

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.

Nasal tumors

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.

Breed-related issues

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.

When your dog is sneezing a lot, please, forget allergies and see that you get to the bottom of it.

Categories: Excessive sneezingSymptoms

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Jana Rade edited by Dr. Joanna Paul BSc BVSc

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience. Dr. Joanna Paul BSc BVSc is our wonderful sponsor and has been kind to edit and fact-check my important articles.

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