Sneezing and snorting seem like obvious enough actions to define, yet it’s not always easy to tell the difference between the two in pets. Indeed, these two symptoms can sometimes look so similar so that many people use the terms interchangeably. Sneezing is generally defined as a sudden, involuntary outflow of air from the lungs through the nose and mouth. It’s usually caused in response to some irritant of the upper airway, most often to the delicate mucous membranes that line the nasal passages.
There are loads of reasons why your dog is sneezing. It could be an irritant in their nose like dust, household products, perfume or even pollen. Sneezing in dogs can also be due to something stuck in their nose, such as dirt from digging!
If your dog is sneezing a lot, it may be a reaction to something in the atmosphere. Be careful when spraying items around your pet as it may irritate their nose. Hunting dogs and those that snuffle in the undergrowth can also get lots of unusual things stuck up their nose like fragments of twigs and leaves. If your dog likes to wander nose-first through the undergrowth, be sure to be on the lookout for this
Dogs with a stubborn irritant in their nose will relentlessly rub their noses or heads against couches, trees or the ground, or start pawing continuously at their faces. The longer an external irritant or foreign object is caught in a dog’s nasal passage, the greater the chance that it might lead to fluid buildup and discharge. This can be mucus, pus or even blood, given enough time. Any of these can spur a secondary infection.
Start your assessment by offering your dog a drink of water. Occasionally a drink alone will clear the oronasal passage of some irritant and resolve the sneezing. Next, look your dog straight in the eye and get an idea if there are any asymmetries of his eyes, face, or muzzle. If you have some sort of protective face- and eyewear, use it to prevent getting oral or ocular exposure to your dog’s nasal discharge. Listen carefully to your dog’s breathing in between the sneezing episodes
A dog that is excessively sneezing should be seen by a veterinarian. A veterinarian will be able to determine what is causing the condition. The veterinarian will look inside the dog’s nose and mouth, check the teeth, and palpate for facial swelling. Depending what other symptoms your dog may be experiencing, the doctor may recommend x-rays, and bloodwork. He may also take a skin scrape of the nasal mucosa to be examined under a microscope. If the veterinarian suspects allergies he may also recommend allergy testing
Dogs, of course, have a very strong sense of smell. Scientists, interviewed in a PBS article, estimate that dogs sense of smell to be 10,000 to 100,000 times more sensitive than a humans. This can lead to their cute noses being particularly sensitive to irritants and must be protected at all times. There are a lot of different reasons why dogs sneeze when they are playing or excited. One reason is that dogs tend to curl their lips when playing or having fun. This causes the dog to wrinkle their highly sensitive nose, which can cause a tickle that the body interprets as a signal to sneeze. When a dog sneezes, it’s usually a sign that the dog is healthy, and the body is doing its job.
Most of the sneezing dog that veterinarians examine have contracted an upper respiratory tract infections. Often, the only symptom of these mild infections is the sneezing. Pets commonly get exposed to these organisms at grooming salons, doggy parks and kennels. In people, we would call it a cold and it moves from person to person in the same way. Dogs and cats invariably sniff new objects so the chances of them becoming infected are far greater. These pet “colds” are caused by airborne virus and bacteria. The virus that cause them do not jump from dogs to cats or vice-versa, but the bacteria involved do.
If you live in California, you’re likely familiar with these small, spiked balls of pain. A short hike through a canyon can leave you and your dog covered in them. Late in the spring, Foxtail plants dry out and send their prickly buds blowing across the landscape – and they’re particularly attracted to dogs. Your dog may end up with Foxtails in his fur, embedded into his paws, or any other orifice they can find – including your dog’s nostrils.
If you find your dog tends to get the sneezes during certain times of the year, the issue may be seasonal allergies. Pollen from plants and trees can cause inflammation in the nasal passages, which leads to sneezing. If you find the sneezing is most common in the late spring-early summer, they may be allergic to tree pollen. If the sneezing occurs mid-summer, the culprit is likely grass allergies. If your dog’s sneezing is most common in fall, the cause may be weeds and other types of plants. No matter what the cause, the period they are effected should only be around two weeks.