Why Is My Puppy Sneezing?
A sneeze is a sudden, involuntary outflow of air from the lungs through the nose and mouth. It’s usually a response to an irritant finding its way into the upper airway, most often to the delicate mucous membranes that line the nasal passages. While a semi-regular occurrence for humans and dogs, sneezing can indicate a larger problem for a puppy.
Understanding the Cause of Sneezing
Although normal and healthy puppies may occasionally sneeze or have nasal discharge (running nose), severe, chronic, or recurrent bouts of sneezing or nasal discharge suggest a more serious problem. Sneezing and runny nose often occur together and may be accompanied by postnasal drip, gagging, and/or a snorting-sounding noise that resembles a swallowed sneeze.
Sneezing and nasal discharge can be caused by dozens of conditions. Some causes are brief and self-limiting, such as acute viral infections. Other problems are recurrent, like seasonal allergies. More serious causes (tumors or lodged nasal foreign bodies) are relentless and chronic unless the problem can be resolved.
Common Causes of Puppy Sneezes
Sneezing is a common dog symptom that has a variety of causes. Some of the most common conditions include:
One of the most common causes for sneezing dogs is allergic rhinitis (allergies). Environmental allergies have similar symptoms in puppies as they do in humans: nasal inflammation, chest congestion, running noses, and, you guessed it, sneezing. If you suspect your pup has allergies, visit your vet and discuss treatment options. The key will be identifying what your little pal is allergic to and creating a plan for keeping your pup away from the irritant. Dogs can be allergic to a variety of tree and plant pollens, mold, dusts mites, and even to cats! Occasionally, dogs having an allergic reaction, such as to an insect bite or vaccine, can lead to sneezing.
Objects such as small particles of dirt, mold, blades of grass, foxtails, thorns, or even small parts of toys can accidently go into the nose, which is irritating. Foxtail is a plant that has barbed seed on the top that dogs can inhale or run into while playing. Treatment involves removing the foreign body from the nasal cavity.
Dogs will roam throughout your house sniffing around, and occasionally they’ll inhale something that doesn’t sit right. While the irritants are in their nasal passages, they’ll try and sneeze them out. Perfume, spray deodorant, air-freshener, carpet powder, pollen, hair spray, cleaning products, cigarette smoke, detergent, sunscreen, bug repellent, and burning fragranced candles, as well as small particles of dust, are some of the most commonly-inhaled irritants that can cause your puppy to sneeze.
Both cats and dogs can suffer infectious diseases of the nasal cavity that include the symptom of sneezing. In fact, most infectious diseases that affect the upper respiratory system of your puppy will result in sneezing. In dogs, anything from kennel cough, canine distemper virus, or the canine flu can cause sneezing, which can be more common in puppies with a compromised immune system. Another cause of an upper respiratory infection is due to fungal organisms, such as from Aspergillus, Blastomycosis, Cryptococcus, and Histoplasmosis. Fungal infections can be severe and life-threatening.
Upper Airway Obstructions
There are a number of things that can build up and block a puppy’s airway. Anything from canine cancers to polyps to excess tissue in the upper airways can build up, cause irritation, and disrupt the flow of air through your pup’s nasal passages. When that happens, your puppy will labor to breathe and sneeze.
A small nasal mite, known also as Pneumonyssoides caninum, can live in the nasal cavity of dogs. Any age, breed, or size of dog can be affected and the most common symptoms are a runny nose, sneezing, and reverse sneezing. It can be spread from dog to dog and does not appear to infect humans. Diagnosis is made by examining the nasal cavity using a fiberoptic scope and visualizing the mites, or based on seeing the nasal mites in collected discharge. Treatment may include antiparasitic medications.
Tumors can invade the nasal cavity, leading to a variety of clinical signs including a bloody nose, sneezing, trouble breathing, decreased activity levels, and a decreased appetite. However, nasal tumors in this area are fairly uncommon in puppies.
This adorable behavior, referred to as play sneeze, can be a normal part of excited canine play. Some behaviorists view this as a method of dog-to-dog communication, as though they were saying “we are just playing” or “this play is just for fun.”
Dog breeds with pushed in faces and short snouts, referred to as brachycephalic breeds, are more prone to sneezing. These breeds include Boston Terriers, Boxers, English and French Bulldogs, Bull Mastiffs, Chow Chows, Lhasa Apsos, Pekingese, Pugs, Shih Tzu, and Mastiffs, just to name a few.
Also known as a mechanosensitive aspiration reflex, the reverse sneeze is a noisy event. It occurs when dogs pull air in through their noses, as opposed to out through their nose with a regular sneeze. The sound produced is unique and can be alarming to pet owners, who often mistake it for choking.
Sinusitis, the inflammation of the lining of the sinus cavity, can cause a dog sneeze. It can be provoked by an infection or tumor.
What to Do at Home to Prevent Your Puppy from Sneezing
If your puppy is sneezing regularly, the best course of action is to take them to see your vet. If the sneezing is infrequent, here are a couple tips to try to prevent it:
- Confine and Monitor Your Puppy. It is a good idea to place your dog in a crate or small space (such as a bedroom or bathroom) to observe this behavior. By doing this, you can try to narrow down what is causing your puppy to sneeze. Observe for concurrent problems, such as a runny nose, blood around or dripping from the nose, decreased or lack of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, trouble breathing, watery eyes, eye redness, or a decreased activity level. Any of these additional problems should increase your level of concern.
- Ease Up on Exercise. Don’t overexercise your puppy if they’re sneezing. If the culprit is an infectious disease, exercise will only make it worse. Once you’ve seen your vet and have pinpointed the cause, ask your vet for a recommendation for when they can start exercising again.
- Evaluate your Home. Look around your house for respiratory irritants that could be bothering your puppy. Items can include new carpet, scented candles, air-fresheners, vaping chemicals, or other household products. If possible, remove irritants to see if they eliminate the symptoms in your puppy.
- Take Your Puppy’s Temperature. If you have a thermometer at home, take your puppy’s temperature. If your puppy has a fever exceeding 103 degrees Fahrenheit, call your vet clinic for advice or an evaluation.
- Medication. Do not use any medication without the advice of your vet. Some human medications can be toxic to dogs.
Frequently Asked Questions About Puppy Sneezing
Is it normal for a puppy to sneeze a lot?
It is normal for puppies to sneeze occasionally just like we can have the occasional sneeze. Excessive sneezing or sneezing associated with a runny nose or eyes, lethargy, decreased activity level, or a decreased appetite can all be signs of problems.
What should I do if my puppy is sneezing?
If your puppy is suddenly sneezing a lot, monitor them closely for other abnormal symptoms that may be a concern. Look around the house for any potential new irritants and remove them if possible. If you are concerned, the safest thing to do is to call your vet clinic.
Why is my 8-week-old puppy sneezing?
An occasional sneeze in an 8-week-old puppy is normal. They will sometimes sneeze when playing or when they inhale dust or an irritant.
Why is my dog sneezing so much all of a sudden?
New onset severe sneezing can be caused by an inhaled irritant or foreign body. Dogs can get things up their noses, such as plant awns or blades of grass, that can cause sudden and severe signs.
When to Call Your Vet
When your puppy is sneezing, the cause can range from a benign environmental allergy or irritant to rather serious condition (such as a nasal tumor). The occasional dog sneeze is not a problem and relatively normal. When the sneezing is considered abnormal, various diagnostic tests may be recommended including blood tests, radiographs (x-rays), sedation with fiberoptic scoping of the nasal cavity, cytology, and culture of any discharge.
When in doubt about your dog’s symptoms, always stick to the safe side and have your puppy examined by your veterinarian. Some pet owners, understandably, try to avoid the vet due to the hefty costs that accompany visits. That’s where pet insurance comes in handy. Pet insurance provides pet owners with the freedom to make veterinary decisions without stressing the financial implications. Learn why most vets recommend pet insurance to pet owners.