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Dog sneezes are common and often cute! Our canine companions squeeze their eyes shut and scrunch up their noses right before a big achhoooo. But there are many reasons dogs sneeze, ranging from playful behavior and communication to more serious reasons health concerns. You could even say it’s nothing to sneeze at.

Why Does My Dog Sneeze?

Just like humans, dogs sneeze for lots of reasons. Some sneezes are more serious than others.

Environment

The most common reason dogs sneeze is because they inhaled something irritating that’s stuck in their nose. This is why dogs sneeze after sticking their snout into the grass or digging in the dirt.

Sometimes they’ll smell something irritating, like perfume, household products and cleaners, or dust that makes them sneeze.

Communication

Dogs use their sneezes to communicate with humans and other animals. Sneezes are just one method of communicating, just like a dog’s body language or facial expressions.

In fact, one 2017 study found that wild African dogs used sneezes for negotiating that shaped collective decision making.

When dogs play together, they constantly communicate through sneezes.

Dogs will also use sneezes as a “calming signal” to show that they need to slow down, take a break, or express that they are comfortable with what’s happening.

Playfulness

Many dogs like to sneeze when they play with other dogs or humans. This “play sneezing” is normal and something dogs use to show that they are excited and having a good time. Dogs will also use play sneezing to show that their behavior is only playful.

Dogs also tend to curl their lips while they are playing a fun activity. This lip curl creates a wrinkled nose that can cause their body to erupt in a sneeze. Playful sneezes tend to be a short snort that comes from the nose instead of the lungs.

Attention

Dogs sometimes “fake sneeze” to get attention or express an interest in playing.

If your dog sneezes around meal time or regular walk times, there’s a chance they are fake sneezing to get what they want.

When a dog fake sneezes, they tend to watch you as they sneeze to make sure they’ve got your attention. They may even move closer and sneeze on or near you so you can’t ignore them.

Health Problems

Sneezing is actually healthy because the body is doing what it needs to do. It can also be a symptom of a mild health condition, like a cold.

But sometimes it can be a sign of more serious teeth or nasal passage problems. There may be a nasal obstruction that could range from a piece of grass to a cancerous tumor.

Allergies

Just like humans, sometimes dogs sneeze because of pollen from seasonal pet allergies.

Breed

Brachycephalic breeds have more difficulty breathing because of the shape of their muzzle and throat. These breeds, including Pugs, Pekingese, Bulldogs, and Boston Terriers have compressed nasal passages that make them more likely to sneeze.

Excellent Sense of Smell

Dogs are extremely sensitive to their environment. They’re able to leverage their sense of smell to find a hidden treat, hunt creatures, and scent out unfamiliar dogs on their territory.

Reverse Sneezes

Reverse sneezes, which are sudden and repeated inhalations through the nose, are reactions to inflammation, irritants, or excitement. Reverse sneezes are common to toy breeds like Terriers.

When a Dog Sneeze Means Something Serious

If your dog is frequently sneezing, experiencing nasal discharges, or appears to be in pain while sneezing, they need to be seen by a veterinary professional. Keep an eye out for any unusual behaviors paired with frequent sneezes, like bleeding or frequent pawing at their nose.

Frequent sneezes could mean that there is something obstructing the nasal passage that needs to be examined by a vet. Hunting dogs are at a higher risk for getting unusual items stuck up their snout since they’re always investigating the outdoors. It’s a good idea to check their snout daily in case leaves, twigs, or other outdoor fragments are stuck inside.

Deep sneezes that come from the chest can be a sign of a medical condition, like a cold. In rarer cases, nasal infections or nasal mites may be to blame.

While sneezing is usually normal, you shouldn’t hesitate to consult your vet if you think something is wrong.

Related article: Why Does My Dog Eat Grass?
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