Have you ever noticed how dogs sneeze, wheeze, honk and snort when they feel playful or happy?
Humans have many ways of showing enthusiasm, but sneezing isn’t typically one of them. Of course, just like us, the number one reason why dogs sneeze is because of a tickling, obstruction, or irritation inside the nose.
The good news is, most of the time dog sneezing is harmless and not symptomatic of any serious problem. But it seems like man’s best friend sneezes a LOT. They can’t be constantly sick or having allergy attacks, so what are some of the reasons why dogs sneeze? And more specifically, why do dogs sneeze when they play?
Common Causes of Sneezing in Dogs
Humans aren’t the only ones to struggle with seasonal allergies. Your dog may be enjoying the beautiful spring weather, but all that pollen in the air and the grass, especially with smaller dogs who are lower to the ground, makes them susceptible to sneezing.
Our pups have a much stronger sense of smell than we do, and they use their noses to get information. Constantly sniffing everything means they’re more likely to inhale an irritant or a scent that needs to be flushed out through a sneeze. If we walked around sniffing every patch of grass, tree, or fire hydrant we passed, we would probably sneeze a lot more too.
Is your dog a brachycephalic breed? No, we didn’t just sneeze, that’s an actual word. In simple terms, brachycephalic breeds are the dogs (or other animals) with cute little smashed faces and noses, like Boston Terriers, Pugs and Bulldogs. As adorable as these flat faces are, they can cause your dog to be more susceptible to nose and throat problems, including sneezing more.
Why Do Dogs Sneeze When They Play?
Lip Curling and Excitement
When dogs curl their lips, it sends a signal to their brains that they have to sneeze. So, whenever your pup is snarling at another dog or the mailman, whether he means it playfully or otherwise, he might follow it up with a sneeze because of the message his facial expression is sending to his brain.
It’s important to mention that dogs curl their lips like that when they’re having a good time with other dogs and people, but they also do it when they’re feeling aggressive or threatened.
Obviously, dogs don’t speak the same language as we do (although it would be pretty cool if they did), but they still have ways of communicating. Sneezing can serve as a sort of calming signal a dog uses to pacify other dogs or to show that he needs a break.
For example, if a large dog is acting too rowdy or aggressive while meeting a smaller dog, the smaller dog might sneeze to signal the large dog to calm down.
When Should Your Dog Be Checked?
Colds and Coughs
Yes, dogs get coughs and colds, especially the infamous kennel cough. Kennel cough causes dogs to make all sorts of strange noises, including sneezes or “reverse sneezing”, which sounds like a honking, hacking, or gasping noise.
If you adopt a dog from a rescue shelter or anywhere they have been contained in a space with lots of other dogs, his sneezing and wheezing may be symptoms of kennel cough. Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you adopted a pup who has a serious terminal illness. It’s likely just a little case of kennel cough that will clear up on its own once he has some time away from other sick dogs to recover.
If your dog is acting lethargic or the excessive sneezing noises don’t stop after a few days, you should get your good boy checked out by a vet.
You know the feeling when you have a really bad cold or sinus infection and all that pressure in your face makes your teeth hurt?
Your dog’s sinuses can also be connected to his dental health. Certain dog teeth are very close to their nasal passages, so if any of these teeth are infected it can cause your dog to sneeze more than normal. You might also notice a foul odor or extra bad breath if your dog has an infected tooth.
If you suspect that dental issues are the cause of your dog’s sneezing, have him checked by a vet. Also, be sure to get your dog’s teeth cleaned regularly to avoid infections (about once a year for most dogs, but this varies depending on home dental care, dog breed, and other factors).
Of course, your dog is gorgeous and perfect just the way he is, and we would never suggest otherwise. But if he’s just ever so slightly pleasantly plump and the tiniest bit overweight, the extra weight can cause pressure on his airways and make him sneeze more often.
If your dog’s weight is causing him to sneeze it might be time to switch to diet food, adjust his feeding schedule or portions, or increase his walks and active playtime.
Talk to your vet about your dog’s brand of food and how much he should be eating per day and be careful not to switch foods suddenly as this can make your dog sick. Food switches should be done gradually by slowly adding some of the new food and removing the old a bit at a time. Again, discuss this with your vet to make sure you don’t upset your pooch’s tummy.
This is rare, but a tumor located in just the right spot can make your dog sneeze more. If you have ruled out other causes and are still concerned about your dog’s sneezing, ask your vet to check for tumors.
Check against this list to see if any of the reasons above could be causing your dog’s sniffles. If you’re worried about excessive, unusual, or prolonged sneezing fits, simply talk to your vet. But remember that for the most part, dogs sneeze when they play because it’s normal behavior for them.
Li-ran is the Founder and Executive Editor at PuppyTip. He is a holistic pet parent and believes that dogs can teach us more than we could ever teach them. He also loves cooking, especially for his dog, Richie!