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Health & Wellness

Why is my dog sneezing a lot?

From mild to serious, lots of things can cause dogs' achoos.

If you notice that your dog is sneezing a lot, the cause could be as simple as dust irritating their nasal airways. However, if the achoos are happening more often than not and getting worse over time, it's probably time to take your pup into the vet's office for further investigation. 

Whether your pup sneezes every so often or you’re considering buying them their own tissue box, Fetch's on-staff veterinarian helps us understand the common reasons behind dogs’ sneezing.

‍Why do dogs sneeze? ‍

Dogs sneeze for the same reasons we do — mainly to get something irritating out of their nasal passageway. If you’re catching up on dusting or your pup stuck their snout in the grass, they'll probably sneeze to expel whatever's irritating them. You might even notice your dog shaking their head if the irritant is extra stubborn. 

But sneezing in dogs can vary, and some sneezes may mean it’s time to schedule a trip to the vet — especially if your dog’s sneezing more than usual. According to Dr. Emily Singler, VMD, these are the most common reasons behind dogs' achoos:

What to do if your dog is sneezing a lot

Most of the time, treating your dog’s chronic sneezes can be accomplished by reducing exposure to irritants like household cleaners, dust and pollen. However, if other symptoms accompany your dog's sneezes, it's time to call your veterinarian:

“Any change in a dog’s signs that continues and doesn’t resolve should be checked out by a veterinarian, even if the changes are mild,” Dr. Singler recommends.

The same precautions are true for sneezing puppies. "A vet should also see a puppy who's nursing and has milk coming from their nose to ensure they don't have a cleft palate or are aspirating milk," Dr. Singler adds.

Why’s my dog sneezing a lot after boarding?

Has your pup been sneezing since their most recent visit to their dog daycare or boarding facility? There's a good chance an upper respiratory bug is to blame, Dr. Singler specifies. Congestion, nasal discharge, coughing, lethargy and a decreased appetite can accompany the sneezing in this case, too. 

“Most cases of upper respiratory infection or kennel cough are self-limiting, meaning they’ll resolve on their own without treatment,” Dr. Singler says. “However, some cases will need veterinary intervention and can even progress to pneumonia.”

RELATED: Can dogs have asthma?

What's reverse sneezing in dogs?

You might've heard other dog parents talking about a rapid, snorting noise that their pups make. If you've caught your pup making that sound, too, it's not an unusual type of bark — it's actually called a reverse sneeze. 

Reverse sneezing is a snorting-like type of breathing caused by irritation of the back of the throat,” Dr. Singler explains. Even though it sounds slightly odd, she adds that this sneeze isn't usually a cause for concern. 

If your dog has any changes in behavior, like a reverse sneeze accompanied by nasal discharge, or your pup is reverse sneezing more than usual, it’s a good idea to chat with your vet.

What's brachycephalic airway syndrome?

“Brachycephalic airway syndrome is a set of abnormalities common in certain dog breeds that can make breathing much more difficult and predispose them to other health problems,” Dr. Singler explains. 

Flat-faced pups, like bulldogs, Boston Terriers and pugs, with this condition can have narrowed nostrils, a long soft palate, a narrow windpipe and/or abnormalities in the small bony structures in the back of the nose.

Talk to your veterinarian about your dog's needs if you're a flat-faced pup's parent. But usually, you can expect a dog that snorts, snores or breathes heavily through their nose. 

How to prevent dogs from sneezing

Preventing sneezing in dogs can be as easy as keeping up on all recommended vaccines and preventatives like a kennel cough vaccine. When in doubt about your dog’s sneezing, seek advice from your trusted vet.

The Dig, Fetch's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

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