Why Do Dogs Sneeze (And Why Is It So Cute)?

why do dogs sneeze

Dogs express themselves through a variety of body language, vocalizations, and involuntary actions, just like humans. Watching your pup’s feet twitch while they sleep or hearing their adorable play growls is one of those cute moments dog owners love.

However, it’s normal to be a little concerned when your dog displays other behaviors you can’t explain, like yawning or hiccuping.

Sneezing is an involuntary action for dogs, just as it is for people. It’s usually a means to clear their airway, but it could also be caused by allergies or inhaling an irritant.

There’s usually nothing to worry about when your dog sneezes, but we understand the need to reassure yourself and your pup. That’s why we’re going to walk you through all the reasons why dogs sneeze, how to prevent it, and when you should be concerned.

Why Do Dogs Sneeze Sometimes?

That moment when your dog scrunches up their face, squeezes their eyes shut, and lets out a big achoo is hilarious, but it can be concerning for pet owners. There are tons of factors that can cause a dog to sneeze.


The biggest reason dogs sneeze is exposure to an environmental irritant. If your dog is sneezing every time you bring them to a certain park or outdoor area, then it’s a good sign they’re sensitive to something in that environment.

Other environmental irritants that could cause sneezing in dogs include potent scents like perfumes or soaps, household cleaners, dust, or pollen. Digging in the dirt will often throw a cloud of dirt straight up your dog’s nose, leading straight to a body-shaking sneeze!


Dogs communicate through lots of facial expressions, vocalizations, and even sneezing! While sneezing is generally considered an involuntary action, there are some instances where dogs sneeze to communicate with people or other dogs.

If you see your dog sneezing during an intense play session, it could be your dog’s way of communicating they need to slow down and take a breath. This is a well-recognized calming signal for dogs and shows they need a short break.

Some wild dogs sneeze to communicate with their pack and make group decisions. Domesticated dogs will often sneeze while playing together to communicate excitement, happiness, and willingness to continue playing.

Often when dogs start play sneezing, it’s a short sound that comes from their nostrils rather than their lungs. The play sneezing is a sign they’re having a good time and tends to happen when dogs curl their teeth over their lips in a playful smile. This position scrunches up their nose and often leads to the adorable play sneezing all dog owners know and love!

Fake Sneezing

Have you ever seen your dog sneeze and knew it was forced? It’s usually pretty easy to tell when your pup is forcing a sneeze versus when it’s a genuine reaction to an irritant in their nasal cavity.

Fake sneezing is usually a form of communication dogs use to try to engage their owner in something. If you find your dog sneezing around mealtimes or walking times, then it’s likely a fake sneeze designed to get your attention.

red dog nose

Should You Be Worried About Your Dog Sneezing?

There’s usually nothing to be worried about when your dog is sneezing. Most dog sneezes are caused by innocuous things like environmental factors or minor irritants in the dog’s nasal passages. However, excessive sneezing can be a sign of something more serious.

The Common Cold

Even our sweet canine friends can become afflicted with the common cold. Just like in humans, a cold will cause your dog to have a runny nose, sneezing, and fatigue.

This is a condition that will go away on its own. Try not to worry too much about your dog’s sneezing when they have a cold. Try to keep your dog clean when those almighty sneezes clear out their nasal passages while they’re sick.

Offer plenty of liquids, let your pup get plenty of rest, and trust their body to fight off the cold.


Many dogs go their whole lives without any allergies. But, for other dogs, allergies are a common cause of sneezing.

Seasonal allergies are most common during the spring and summer months when there’s an excess of pollen and other irritants in the air. Allergies generally aren’t a cause for concern, but if you notice your dog experiencing noisy breathing, then you’ll want to contact your vet and see if there’s a medication available to help ease your dog’s symptoms.

Breeds With Difficulty Breathing

Some breeds are, unfortunately, more prone to experiencing breathing difficulties than others. Brachycephalic breeds have compressed nasal passages due to the shape of their muzzles and throats, which leads to more frequent sneezing.

A Pug, Bulldog, or Boston Terrier are all examples of a Brachycephalic breed. The mixed offspring of these breeds, like the Puggle or the Chug Dog, are less likely to suffer from these problems, although they still might.

Reverse Sneezing

Reverse sneezing is very common in toy breeds, like Shih Tzus and Chihuahuas, and sounds slightly different from regular sneezing. Inflammation, irritants, or overexcitement usually cause reverse sneezes.

Dogs reverse sneeze by making sudden, sharp inhalations through the nose rather than exhalations. A reverse sneeze is generally nothing to be concerned about, although you should always check with your vet if you’re nervous!

When To Consult With A Vet

Most causes behind a dog sneezing are nothing to be concerned about. However, there are indications that something more serious is going on. If you notice nasal discharge when your dog sneezes, then that could be a sign of a nasal infection.

Nasal and sinus infections are most common in Greyhounds, Border Collies, and Collies. If you suspect a nasal infection, make sure to visit your vet right away.

If your dog’s sneezing is very frequent and forceful, then this could indicate foreign objects stuck in the nasal cavity or passage. Pieces of food, fluff from toys, or small pebbles are all common foreign bodies that get stuck in a dog’s nose. If it isn’t ejected by sneezing, then your vet will need to remove the foreign body from their nose.

Nasal discharge, itchiness, and pain while sneezing could also indicate nasal mites. Nasal mites are tiny bugs that can affect dogs in any region of the world and often cause awful itchiness and discomfort for your pup.

Another possibility of frequent sneezing is nasal tumors. A nasal tumor will often present similar symptoms as nasal mites, but there are a few symptoms that set it apart.

Labored breathing or breathing difficulties, along with nasal discharge, itchiness, and pain, are signs of a nasal tumor rather than nasal mites. Nasal tumors can be very serious and should be brought to the attention of your vet right away.

Additional symptoms could indicate any number of issues, including fungal infections or a deviated septum. Many dogs will display other signs to indicate these issues, and you’ll need a vet to make a proper diagnosis.

If you’re concerned about your dog’s nose or the cause behind your dog’s sneezing, then it’s important to see your vet. Regular vet visits will give you the opportunity to bring up any concerns as they pop up, but never be afraid to contact your vet outside of your usual appointments. You can find out more about when to visit your vet here.

happy dog nose

Can You Prevent Sneezing In Dogs?

Have you ever watched your dog sneeze and wondered if it was an annoyance to your pet? Well, aside from a play sneeze or reverse sneeze, there are ways you can prevent environmental-related sneezing in dogs.

The first step is to get your pet on a well-balanced diet. Some pup owners recommend fresh food. This is great for allergies and will help build your pup’s immune system.

Another idea is to talk with your vet about seasonal allergies and see if it’d be worth it to get your dog on some type of medication. Regularly vacuuming your home will prevent a build-up of dust and other irritants, but you can’t control nature! So, finding an alternative solution, like medication, would be best for sensitive dogs.

Is Sneezing Something To Worry About?

Sneezing is generally nothing to worry about. However, if you notice other symptoms like a reduced appetite, watery eyes, runny nose, nose bleeds, facial itching, or head shaking, then you should contact your vet to see what’s affecting your pet.

Sneezing is usually just an adorable, involuntary action that helps to clear your dog’s nasal passage or indicate their excitement.