Like us, dogs sneeze from time to time. Occasional sneezing in dogs is normal and is no cause for worry. However, repeatedly sneezing is another story.
Repeated sneezing is a symptom and not an illness by itself. It is an early indication of some type of nasal irritation.
In particular, if the sneezing is violent, non-stop, or accompanied by a nasal discharge, it can mean your dog is suffering from a health problem. Be sure to visit the veterinarian to find out the underlying cause so that appropriate treatment can be given.
Sneezing in Dogs – Checking Your Dog’s Nose
If your dog is sneezing non-stop, you should check his nose carefully to see if there is a nasal obstruction. Here are some ways to check for nasal obstructions:
- Use your finger to cover one nostril and then the other to determine whether there is any form of partial or complete obstruction in either of the nasal passages.
- Hold a small mirror under your dog’s nose and look at the mirror. If you do not get equal fogging from both nostrils, it is likely that a foreign body is obstructing one nasal passage.
- Use a flashlight and try to get a look into each of your dog’s nasal openings to see if you can find any foreign body inside.
Sneezing in Dogs and Nasal Discharge
A dog with a runny nose usually means that there is some kind of irritant in the nasal passages. Irritants also cause sneezing, so sneezing and nasal discharge tend to happen together and can sometimes mean a serious condition.
Different types of discharge indicate different conditions:
- Watery discharge: Sneezing with a watery discharge, accompanied by rubbing the face on furniture or with the paws, is indicative of canine atopy.
- Thick discharge: A thick, creamy, foul-smelling discharge accompanied by gagging and retching often indicates a postnasal drip, usually caused by rhinitis (a nasal infection) or sinusitis (a sinus infection).
- Blood-streaked discharge: Nasal discharge streaked with blood can be caused by foreign bodies, tooth abscess (especially when an upper canine tooth becomes infected), or tumor in the nose.
- Discharge from only one nostril: A nasal discharge coming from only one nostril means either foreign bodies, an abscessed tooth, or tumors in the nose.
Possible Causes of Sneezing in Dogs
You can try to determine the cause of sneezing in your dog by asking some of these questions:
Does your dog sneeze only in the spring and summer?
Allergies such as canine atopy are often the cause for seasonal bouts of episodic sneezing. Look for other symptoms such as a watery nasal discharge, face-rubbing, scratching, and chewing on the skin. See our page on canine atopy for treatment.
Does the sneezing happen right after coming back from the outside?
Dogs like to sniff and sometimes they may have inhaled foreign bodies such as grass seeds, wood chips, etc., resulting in partial or complete obstruction of a nasal passage, pain, inflammation, and sneezing.
Usually, if the sneezing is caused by foreign bodies, you will also find nasal discharge from one nostril. Sometimes the discharge will be blood-streaked because foreign bodies erode and irritate the the mucous membranes.
If you can see a foreign body that is close to the opening of the nostril, you can try to remove it using tweezers. If that is unsuccessful, you need to take your dog to the vet because the foreign body tends to migrate deeper into the nasal cavity.
Did you see any swelling to your dog’s face?
Trauma to the face and insect bites or stings are common causes of facial swelling associated with sneezing. If your dog seems to be in great pain and you suspect blunt trauma, get him to the vet immediately.
If it seems like an insect bite or sting, so long as he is not wheezing or having difficulty breathing, you may want to give him a dose of Benadryl. This may reduce the swelling and possibly stop the sneezing.
Does your dog have a fever?
Sneezing accompanied by fever indicates upper respiratory tract infections caused by virus (such as parainfluenza virus) or bacteria (such as Bordetella, Streptococci). It may also indicate nasal tumors. Veterinary care is necessary.
Any blood-streaked nasal discharge coming from one nostril of your dog?
This may indicated foreign bodies in the nostril, tooth abscess, or tumors in the nose. Check your dog’s nostril for foreign bodies as described above. If you cannot see any foreign bodies, get your dog to the vet for further check-up.
To recap, take your dog to the vet if:
- The nasal discharge is blood-streaked.
- Your dog has difficulty breathing.
- Your dog continues to sneeze for more than 3 days.
- Your dog looks weak and lethargic.