Closeup of dog sneezing

Key takeaway

If your dog can’t stop sneezing, there can be several reasons why, including seasonal allergies, regular dog communication, dental problems, and serious health concerns like tumors. Sneezing is not a serious condition, but it can be a symptom of something more sinister.

Dogs sneeze just like humans, and like their human companions, sometimes dogs can’t stop sneezing. If you’ve noticed your dog has a sneeze attack for a few minutes or they’ve been sneezing for days, you might be wondering why your dog can’t stop sneezing. From seasonal allergies to having something stuck in their nostril, your dog could be sneezing for several reasons. In most cases, this doesn’t pose any serious medical concerns, but it can indicate something is wrong if the sneezing persists.

Before you decide to start trying to treat your dog’s sneezing, it’s important to learn why they might be sneezing and to consult with a vet who can provide a proper diagnosis. This article will suggest the possible reasons your dog can’t stop sneezing and how you can help them feel a little better.

  1. Food Allergies
  2. Seasonal Allergies
  3. Play Sneezing
  4. Nasal Mites
  5. Nasal Tumor
  6. Nasal Infection
  7. Foreign Object
  8. Dental Conditions
  9. Reverse Sneezing

What can cause dogs to sneeze

1. Food Allergies

Food allergies in dogs are more common than most pet parents think. Common food allergens include beef, dairy, chicken, and wheat.1 Food allergies may make your pet sneeze after eating because of an inflammatory response in the body, but you can work with your vet on an elimination diet to help find the ingredient your dog is allergic to and avoid it to prevent sneezing down the road.

Food allergy elimination diets use novel protein diets.1 These dog foods are made with a protein very different from the regular proteins you’ll find in the pet section of the grocery store; instead, your vet may have your dog eat foods made from alligator, kangaroo, and rabbit. These foods are typically part of a veterinary diet that you’ll need a prescription for, so it’s always important to visit your vet if you suspect your dog has food allergies.

Common signs of food allergies in dogs are itchy skin, hair loss, and digestive disturbances. However, your dog may also lose weight or become hyperactive. Sneezing is one of the more uncommon signs of food allergies, but sneezing can occur because of food allergies.

Common food allergens in dogs

Your vet will perform a radioallergosorbent (RAST) test by taking your dog’s blood to determine what they’re allergic to. However, your vet may also decide to figure out if they’re allergic to their food simply through an elimination diet. For a few months, your dog will eat a novel protein, and you’ll monitor their symptoms to observe whether they’ve subsided or worsened. If symptoms have not cleared up, your vet may suggest another food or do further testing to see if your dog might be suffering from something other than food allergies.

2. Seasonal Allergies

One of the most common reasons dogs can’t stop sneezing is because they have seasonal allergies. Seasonal allergies are common in humans and dogs, and environmental allergens like pollen, mold, dander, and dust can cause uncontrollable sneezing.2 The symptoms of seasonal allergies vary depending on the allergen.2 Other symptoms of dog allergies include:

  • Watery eyes: Like with humans, watery eyes are a common sign of allergies in dogs. If your dog’s eyes seem more watery than usual, consider what season it is. If it’s spring or summer, your dog might just have seasonal allergies. Continue to monitor their eyes to ensure it clears up over time.
  • Runny nose: Dogs naturally have wet noses, but if your dog has a runny nose, it could mean they’re either sick or have allergies. As we’ve stated, allergies are common, especially after the winter, so if your dog is sneezing because of seasonal allergies, it may also have a runny nose.
  • Congestion and/or dog mucus: Congestion is common in dogs with allergies, but so are running noses and excess mucus.
  • Itchy skin: Seasonal allergies might also cause skin allergies because dust and other allergens can cause reactions on your dog’s skin. During spring, your dog might get itchy skin after playing outside due to pollen.
  • Dirty ears and ear infections: Dogs with allergies are more prone to ear infections, which have a musty odor and can make your dog’s earwax dark brown and even black. If you suspect your dog has an ear infection, take them to the vet immediately before it gets worse and becomes painful.

If you notice your dog is dry coughing or if your dog is coughing and wheezing during certain times of the year, they most likely have seasonal allergies. However, if your dog has never wheezed before or is having trouble breathing, it might indicate a medical emergency. If it seems like your pet can’t breathe, take them to the nearest emergency vet immediately.

Dogs can have skin allergies, food allergies, or both at the same time, making it difficult to determine which type of allergies your dog has at home. However, seasonal allergies tend to flare up at a certain time of the year, while food allergies are for as long as your dog is consuming the same food.

Seasonal allergies can be diagnosed by vets with skin testing that’s similar to allergy testing. Depending on your dog’s level of an allergic reaction, your vet might treat your pet with a specialized allergy shot. However, most dogs are typically given an antihistamine to reduce their symptoms during allergy season.

That being said, you shouldn’t give your dog any type of antihistamine without consulting your vet. Many vets will tell you to give your dog Benadryl, but they’ll be able to tell you the correct dosage and how often to give it. Taking your dog’s allergies into your own hands can be dangerous for them, so never try to treat your dog on your own without talking to a professional.

3. Play Sneezing

Do you ever get on the floor and play with your dog? Maybe you play chase, or maybe the two of you play wrestle. Whatever games you play with your dog, you might hear them sneeze at you while they’re playing. Play sneezing is your dog’s way of communicating with you. Most experts believe that dogs play sneeze to tell the person or animal they’re playing with that they’re just playing and aren’t trying to be threatening.

Sometimes, your dog might even walk up to you and start playing and sneezing to try to get you to interact with them. Typically, when play sneezing, your dog will let out one sneeze at a time instead of consistent sneezing, but it depends on your dog and its own personality. Play sneezing is common, and there’s no reason to worry about your dog’s consistent sneezing if they’re just trying to signal that it’s playtime.

Play sneezing is typically harmless since it’s your dog’s way of communicating. Dogs can sneeze when they’re happy and excited, so you might even hear some sneezes when they come to greet you when you come home from work.

4. Nasal Mites

Nasal mites can affect dogs of all ages, breeds, and sexes.3 These mites live within your dog’s nasal passages and sinuses and can be transferred through direct and indirect contact between dogs.3 Nasal mites can cause your dog to sneeze uncontrollably because they cause irritation and inflammation in the sinuses. One significant sign of nasal mites in dogs is a bloody nasal discharge.3 Nasal mites are rare, but they can be treated with parasite medication.

Symptoms of nasal mites in dogs

If you notice your dog is sneezing or they have a bloody nose, it could indicate the presence of nasal mites. Since these mites can make your dog uncomfortable and spread to other dogs, especially those in your household, it’s best to get your dog treated by a professional vet immediately.

5. Nasal Tumor

Nasal tumors are common in dogs, with about 1 to 2% of all tumors in dogs being nasal tumors, although it’s more common in older dogs and males.4 Most nasal tumors are cancerous, and breeds with long or medium noses are at a higher risk.4 If you believe your dog has a nasal tumor, it’s important to get to the vet immediately because it can affect the lymph nodes, lungs, and brain, eventually leading to death.4

Nasal tumors can also cause frequent or uncontrollable sneezing, although this symptom isn’t entirely common. Typically, nasal tumors cause labored, difficult breathing through the nose with a bloody discharge. Additionally, instead of sneezing, your dog might sound like they’re snorting because it’s having a difficult time getting air through its nasal passageways. Dogs with nasal tumors might be treated with radiation or chemotherapy, depending on their age.

6. Nasal Infection

One of the most common reasons your dog can’t stop sneezing might be because they have a nasal infection. Nasal infections, including rhinitis and sinusitis, are common upper respiratory infections and can be associated with inflammation of the sinuses.5 Upper respiratory infections can either be fungal or bacterial in nature and cause uncontrollable sneezing. Dogs can also get bloody noses, lack of appetite, and coughing associated with post-nasal drip.

Signs of rhinitis in dogs

Dogs can get sinus infections due to allergies, weakened immune systems, cancer, and even a foreign body like a blade of grass getting stuck in the nasal cavity. However, there are many causes of nasal infections.

If you believe your dog has a nasal infection, you should take them to the vet so they can get put on antibiotics or other medications to eliminate the infection.

7. Foreign Object

Your dog uses its nose to learn about the world, so they typically have their noses to the ground on walks, which means they can get anything from the outside world stuck in their noses, including grass, small rocks, dirt, and bugs. If your dog gets something stuck in its nose, its body’s natural response is to sneeze it out.

The next time you’re on a walk and your dog starts sneezing, don’t assume it could be seasonal allergies. Instead, take the time to check inside their nose to see if they might have a blade of grass in it or another foreign object. In most cases, your dog will be able to sneeze it out or allow you to remove a foreign object from its nose. Once the object is removed, your dog will stop sneezing.

If you believe there’s something in your dog’s nose but you can’t get it out, take them to the vet immediately. Signs there’s something stuck in your dog’s nose include excessive sneezing, pawing at their face, and sneezing blood. Your vet will look inside your dog’s nose and see if they can remove it.

8. Dental Conditions

Dental conditions can also cause sneezing in dogs because tumors in the mouth and gums, along with rotting teeth and oral infections, can cause sneezing due to inflammation in the sinuses. Dental conditions can also cause sinus infections. If you believe your dog might have some sort of dental condition, look in their mouth. If you notice something like a strange lump or bump, talk to your vet about performing a dental exam for teeth cleaning and x-rays to ensure your dog has healthy teeth and gums.

9. Reverse Sneezing

Have you ever heard your dog make a sound that sounded kind of like a sneeze but not quite? That’s called reverse sneezing, and it’s an involuntary respiratory reflex that sucks air through the nose with rapid inhalations.6 Reverse sneezing is normal, but it can sound like choking or gagging. Reverse sneezing might be your dog’s natural response to inflammation or an irritant to help your dog get rid of any foreign particles in their respiratory system or manage their allergies.

For the most part, reverse sneezing is harmless if it only happens occasionally. However, if your dog is doing it frequently, it might indicate your dog has allergies, and your vet will likely prescribe an antihistamine.

Dog Sneezing Frequently Asked Questions

Dog sneezing outside with leaves falling

When should I take my sneezing dog to the vet?

If your dog keeps sneezing, it might not be a medical emergency. Instead, it could be a sign of seasonal allergies that you and your vet can treat at your next appointment. Seasonal allergies are not life-threatening, and your dog can live a happy, healthy life, so there’s no reason to panic if your dog gets seasonal sneeze attacks every spring due to pollen, dust, or mold.

However, if your dog is sneezing frequently or has a bloody discharge from their nose, they could have mites or another illness, such as a tumor, that could be impacting their ability to breathe. Sneezing with blood is a sign that something is seriously wrong with your dog’s health, so any time your dog is bleeding from its nose, they need to be taken to the vet immediately. You should always take your dog to the vet when they have a fever or swelling of the nasal cavity.

Additionally, if your dog is wheezing, it might need medical attention, especially if they don’t normally wheeze. Wheezing may also sometimes accompany sneezing. While wheezing might be due to seasonal allergies or asthma, it can also be a sign that your dog has ingested one of many dog poisons, especially if accompanied by a cough. If your dog can’t breathe, take them to the nearest emergency vet immediately.

Can frequent sneezing be a sign of a more serious health condition?

For the most part, sneezing is not a serious medical condition and could be just your dog’s natural process for eliminating foreign particles and dust from their airways. In some cases, your dog will even sneeze when they’re playing or happy to communicate that they’re excited and not trying to be aggressive.

However, if the sneezing doesn’t stop or it starts to sound like honking or an inability to breathe, it can be a sign of tracheal collapse. Tracheal collapse typically occurs in smaller dogs, and it’s a very serious medical condition.

Tracheal collapse is an irreversible disease of the trachea that affects your dog’s ability to breathe.7 Symptoms associated with tracheal collapse include coughing, difficulty breathing, and wheezing. Instead of sounding like a normal sneeze, your dog’s sneezes may sound more like honking.7 After diagnoses through tests, your vet may choose to medically manage your dog with weight loss and medications, or they can choose to surgically insert plastic rings around the trachea.7

That being said, in most cases, frequent sneezing is not a sign of a more serious health condition; it’s typically due to seasonal allergies in dogs, which can be managed through antihistamines.

What dog breeds are prone to sneezing?

All dogs sneeze at one point or another, but sneezing is more common in dogs with flat faces (brachycephalic). Brachycephalic breeds include the Pekingese, Boxer, Pug, French and English Bulldogs, and Boston Terrier. Dogs with flatter faces may also snort, which is similar to a sneeze, but because their faces are flatter, it produces a different sound.

Dog breeds prone to sneezing

Of course, any dog, especially those with allergies, is prone to sneezing. Sneezing is a dog’s natural response to an allergen, so dogs with all types of faces and snouts can sneeze if they’re in the presence of dust and pollen. Additionally, dogs will sneeze if they get dirt in their noses while sniffing the ground and exploring outside.

Can I treat my dog’s sneezing at home?

You should never try to treat your pet for any conditions, including sneezing, without consulting a vet. In some cases, it might be as simple as calling your vet and asking them what you can give your dog for seasonal allergies. Other times, your vet might want to see your dog in person to diagnose what’s making them sneeze excessively.

Trying to treat your pet without first talking to a vet can be harmful to their health. For example, some over-the-counter antihistamines are safe for dogs when dosed correctly. However, others can be poisonous to them. Additionally, you could be easily treating your pet for the wrong cause of sneezing because they haven’t been diagnosed by a professional. Instead of trying to treat your dog yourself, it’s always a good idea to take your dog to the vet and let them know what your dog’s symptoms are, when they started, and how often your dog sneezes.

A vet will likely run some tests to determine the exact cause of your pet’s sneezing before coming up with a treatment plan that can help your pet stop sneezing.

Final Notes

If you’ve ever noticed your dog can’t stop sneezing, it could be for a variety of reasons. Whether your dog has allergies or simply started sneezing due to an allergen in the air, such as dust, they will sneeze. Additionally, most dogs will use sneezing to communicate with one another and their humans. Dogs can sneeze to show happiness and playfulness, so if your dog walks up to you and lets out a sneeze, it might mean they want to play.

Whatever the reason for your dog’s sneezing, there are sometimes when sneezing isn’t harmless. Even though allergies are not a threat to your dog’s life, they can make it difficult for your dog to enjoy digging in the yard, so it’s always best to visit your vet to try to come up with a solution so your dog can enjoy the outdoors. Additionally, sneezing can be a sign of something more sinister, such as a sinus infection or tumor that can impact your dog’s health and wellness.

If you’re worried about your dog’s frequent sneezing, it’s always best to talk to a vet. Vets can help you uncover the root cause of the sneezing and treat the symptoms or underlying conditions. You know your dog best. If they have a bout of sneezing when going for walks, they might have a pollen allergy. However, if they’re sneezing non-stop, no matter where they are and what they’re doing, it could indicate your dog has a more serious problem. If you’re concerned about your pet’s sneezing, it’s always best to find a vet who can help improve your dog’s life.

That’s where Dutch comes in. Dutch offers non-emergency telemedicine for pets to help you manage your dog’s sneezing without getting them stressed out during a car ride to the vet. Instead, your dog can get the help they need from the comfort of their own home. With Dutch’s licensed veterinarians, you can get the advice you need to help your dog live life to the fullest.

References

  1. Pucheu-Haston, Cherie M. “Cutaneous Food Allergy in Animals - Integumentary System.” Merck Veterinary Manual, Merck Veterinary Manual, 18 Apr. 2022, https://www.merckvetmanual.com/integumentary-system/food-allergy/cutaneous-food-allergy-in-animals

  2. Burke, Anna. “Dog Allergies: Symptoms and Treatment.” American Kennel Club, American Kennel Club, 21 Sept. 2021, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/dog-allergies-symptoms-treatment/

  3. Kuehn, Ned F. “Canine Nasal Mites - Dog Owners.” Merck Veterinary Manual, Merck Veterinary Manual, 18 Apr. 2022, https://www.merckvetmanual.com/dog-owners/lung-and-airway-disorders-of-dogs/canine-nasal-mites

  4. Kuehn, Ned F. “Cancers and Tumors of the Lung and Airway in Dogs - Dog Owners.” Merck Veterinary Manual, Merck Veterinary Manual, 18 Apr. 2022, https://www.merckvetmanual.com/dog-owners/lung-and-airway-disorders-of-dogs/cancers-and-tumors-of-the-lung-and-airway-in-dogs

  5. Kuehn, Ned F. “Rhinitis and Sinusitis in Dogs - Dog Owners.” Merck Veterinary Manual, Merck Veterinary Manual, 18 Apr. 2022, https://www.merckvetmanual.com/dog-owners/lung-and-airway-disorders-of-dogs/rhinitis-and-sinusitis-in-dogs

  6. “Gesundheit! Reverse Sneezing in Dogs.” CVMBS News, 11 Mar. 2022, https://vetmed.tamu.edu/news/pet-talk/gesundheit-reverse-sneezing-in-dogs/

  7. “Small Animal Topics.” ACVS, https://www.acvs.org/small-animal/tracheal-collapse