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X reasons your dog keeps sneezing

The essentials

  • All dogs sneeze — Some causes of dog sneezing require treatment, while others are totally harmless. 
  • Watch for emergency symptoms — Dogs experiencing severe sneezing, shortness of breath, and bloody nasal discharge require immediate medical attention.
  • When in doubt, see a vet — A professional can give you an informed diagnosis and help eliminate the cause of your dog’s sneezing.

Though sneezing is a perfectly normal part of your pet’s life, you may be worried if you notice your dog sneezing more than usual. Frequent or repeated sneezing could be a cause for concern, but it can also be completely harmless. 

To get to the bottom of this mystery, you’ll want to start by whittling down the possibilities. That way, you’ll have a better idea of how to help alleviate the cause of your dog’s sneezing, or if help is even necessary.

10 of the most common reasons dogs sneeze

Dogs sneeze for many of the same reasons humans do, from underlying respiratory infections to the presence of environmental irritants like detergents and cleaning products. However, dogs also use some forms of sneezing to communicate with others. 

Other common causes of dog sneezing include: 


Like humans, dogs can be allergic to pollen, dust, mold, and other things in their environment. This type of sneezing is usually accompanied by other allergy symptoms like watery eyes and itchy skin, which itself leads to scratching and licking of the fur.

 Dogs who suffer from environmental allergies can benefit from regular bathing to keep their coats free of potential irritants. Some dogs may also experience sneezing as a result of food allergies. Your vet may recommend medicine depending on severity.

Airborne irritants

Even without allergies, some dogs may sneeze because they’re sensitive to particles in their environment. Dust, pollen, and other particles from smoke, cleaning products, and perfumes can all get trapped in a dog’s nasal passages, resulting in sneezing. 

Upper respiratory infection

Dogs get viruses too. Although dogs don’t contract the same viruses as humans do (think cold and flu), upper respiratory infections still happen. These infections can be viral, bacterial, or fungal, and are highly contagious. 

Look for symptoms that mirror a cold like an eye and nose discharge, coughing, sneezing, and lethargy. Call your veterinarian right away to avoid complications.

👉 Check for signs of kennel cough if your dog is sneezing and they’ve recently been around other dogs.  

Dental problems

Dogs’ upper teeth have roots that run very close to the nasal passages. Dental infections, abscesses on the gums, tooth damage and decay, and tumors of the mouth or gums have all been linked to sneezing and nasal discharge in dogs, especially when they’re left untreated. 

It’s sometimes possible to see dental problems by looking inside your dog’s mouth, but we recommend having a licensed vet conduct a proper dental examination.

Nasal mites 

The problem of microscopic mites living in a dog’s nose and sinuses is widespread. Some dogs will be unaffected, while others will experience significant issues. You’ll need a vet’s diagnosis to confirm if your dog carries nasal mites, but be on the lookout for symptoms including sneezing, nose bleeds, and facial itching. Ask your vet if antiparasitic meds or nasal flushing can help.


Ever heard your dog let out a quick, snort-like sneeze? It might seem like cause for concern, but snorting is actually a sign that your dog is having a great time. They do this to people to let them know they’re happy and excited during playtime, and to other dogs as a way of showing submission. This particular sneeze is just part of the way dogs communicate, and it’s totally harmless. 

Dogs use a lot of different noises and body language to communicate. Many dogs will growl while playing, but you may also notice them make short sneezes or huffing noises at the same time. These noises are to let other dogs know they are only playing!

Dr. Jennifer Schott

Foreign objects

In some rare cases, dogs can inhale objects like food crumbs and small toys when they’re out sniffing around, resulting in an obstruction of the nasal passages that can produce a lot of sneezing. 

Swelling, nasal discharge, and pawing at the nose are other signs to look out for if you suspect a foreign object. Try to assess any missing pieces of a toy or object your pet has been around to help your vet know what to look for.

🚨 Take your dog to the vet immediately if you think they inhaled a foreign object. 

Weight gain 

While most dogs snort to let out excitement during playtime, snorting is also common among obese and overweight dogs This happens as excess fat pushes against the airways and makes it harder for them to breathe. If you regularly hear your dog snorting or snoring, ask your vet for some tips to help them maintain a healthy weight. 

Nasal tumor

Nasal tumors make up about 1 to 2% of all cancers in dogs, though some are benign. There’s no one cause, but exposure to cigarette smoke and living in urban areas are among the most common risk factors. 

Bloody nasal discharge is the most commonly reported sign of nasal tumors, along with facial swelling, exophthalmia (a condition in which the globe of the eye is pushed out of the orbit), sneezing, and reverse sneezing, which we break down below. 

Reverse sneezing

Reverse sneezing is a harmless condition where a dog pulls air into the nose instead of pushing it out. This type of sneeze will sound like a loud, prolonged snort, and it can be caused by any irritation to the nose, sinuses, or back of the throat. 

While reverse sneezing can be indicative of a serious problem, the symptom itself is painless and can be likened to a short-lived allergy attack. Dogs with longer snouts (and narrower nasal passages) are particularly susceptible to reverse sneezing.

Special considerations for short-nosed dogs

Brachycephalic breeds are dogs with a short nose and flattened faces. Some examples are pugs, boxers, and American bulldogs to name a few. This particular breed is at a higher risk of breathing problems due to narrow airways.

If your dog falls into this category, you’ll want to be especially mindful of certain symptoms. It can be harder for brachycephalic breeds to get the needed air to cool and calm them after play or heat exposure. 

If sneezing accompanies any of these symptoms, you may need intervention. Cooling your dog can help, but your vet might give oxygen or sedatives depending on the situation.

When to see the vet

Any question about your dog’s breathing can be very distressing. If your dog is truly struggling to breathe, you should call your vet immediately. Panting because of heat or exercise isn’t cause for concern under normal circumstances. 

Pale gums, heavy mouth breathing, discolored tongue, and raspy breathing shouldn’t be ignored. If there’s any doubt about your pet’s well-being, go ahead and call the vet.

Treatment options for when your dog is sneezing a lot

The best treatment for your dog’s sneezing depends on the cause. If they’re just sneezing to communicate or get some irritating particles out of the nose, you may not need to do anything to treat them. 

In other cases, vets employ these strategies to treat different types of dog sneezing: 

  • Obstruction removal. Vets can usually remove foreign objects in the nasal passages fairly easily, though many dogs still need an anesthetic or sedative for this procedure. Masses like tumors and polyps are more difficult to remove, as some can be too close to the brain for surgery. Ask your vet to refer you to a specialist for further treatment of your dog’s nasal growth. 
  • Medications. Dogs with bacterial or fungal nasal infections can alleviate their sneezing with the help of antibiotic and antifungal medications. Further treatment may be required in these cases if the infection has an underlying cause, such as a weakened immune system or tumor. 
  • Limit exposure to irritants. If your dog’s sneezing started when you introduced a new cleaning product or perfume to the house, try keeping it away from your dog and see if it makes a difference. If their sneezing goes away, you’ve found the culprit. 

👉 Outside of removing irritants from the environment, you should never attempt to cure your dog’s sneezing with a home remedy or medication. 

More often than not, sneezing among dogs isn’t serious. If your dog is sneezing with no other symptoms, it’s probably okay to wait a few days to see if it subsides on its own. If the sneezing hasn’t improved after that time, gets worse, or is accompanied by bloody nasal discharge, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian.

Frequently asked questions

Is it reverse sneezing? 

Reverse sneezing is a loud, prolonged snorting sound caused by a dog pulling air into their nose instead of pushing it out. A reverse sneezing episode can go on for a few seconds, or for a full minute. It can be triggered by any irritation to the nose or sinuses, but it most commonly affects dogs with longer snouts.

Can dogs get the common cold?

You can’t pass your cold to your dog. In fact, dogs can’t get colds at all. However, allergies and infections can mirror cold-like symptoms in some cases. If your dog has cold symptoms accompanied by a cough, you may be dealing with a bacterial infection known as kennel cough. 

Dogs typically pick it up through exposure in crowded conditions like in kennels and shelters, but you can lower their risk of getting it by keeping them up to date on their Bordetella vaccine.

When should I be worried if my dog is sneezing?

See a vet if your dog’s sneezing hasn’t cleared up after a few days. Severe sneezing, affected breath, and bloody nasal discharge are indicators of a serious problem and should be treated as emergencies.

What can I give my dog for sneezing and a runny nose?

If your dog’s sneezing is caused by environmental or food allergies, your vet may recommend a suitable allergy medication for them. Similarly, dogs who are sneezing as a result of a bacterial or fungal infection can be treated with antibiotic and antifungal medications. 

👉Never give your dog any kind of medication without a vet’s approval.

Will Benadryl help my dog stop sneezing?

Benadryl is commonly used to treat mild to moderate allergies in dogs, and can help relieve symptoms including itching, sneezing, and watery eyes. Talk to your vet to learn more about this medication and see if it’s a good option for your dog.