Why Is My Puppy Sneezing?

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Anything a puppy does is cute. Whether it’s the mess they’re making, their underdeveloped bark, or simply their gait, that little fluff ball is nearly incapable of upsetting you. Sneezing is no exception. That little pup is overcome with some alien force, sneezes his heart out, and then looks up at you half-dazed and half-confused as to what on earth just happened.

Of course it’s cute. He’s a puppy. If it becomes a reoccurring event, however, you might grow worried that these bouts of sneezing are indicative of a deeper, more malignant problem. While it’s not wrong to associate sneezing with sickness, a majority of the time it’s symptomatic of a problem easily fixed.

It is your responsibility as the owner to ensure your canine has a healthy puppyhood and adulthood. If his sneezing continues without any sign of waning, at least for peace of mind you should schedule an appointment with a veterinarian. Most likely it’s going to be something minuscule but in the off chance there is a serious health complication present, you’ll catch it early.

What happens to a dog’s body when they sneeze?

Being that a dog’s nose is a gateway to their lungs, they’re by default a line of defense for the respiratory system. The nose has a built-in defense mechanism to rid of anything irritating or harmful to the inner nasal tracts. It’s called sneezing. Sneezing basically serves a single purpose: to clear the upper airway. Random sneezes are usually brought about by foreign airborne particles invading the nose. This could be dust, pollen, hair, or any similar particle.  

The body uses a sneeze to dislodge particle buildups within the nose in an attempt to curb congestion. This is why consistent sneezing is indicative of something outside of the nose trying to rid of a random foreign particle, as it shouldn’t take but one or two involuntary contractions to clear the nasal passages.

While this is common knowledge, the physical act of sneezing occurs when there is an explosive exhalation from the mouth of nose. Believe it or not, it is the puppy’s mouth that takes the brunt force of the sneeze but a sizeable amount of the exhalation leaves the nose too.

Being that it is a reflex reaction brought about by nerve endings interacting with a foreign element, zero part of the ‘voluntary’ brain is responsible for a sneeze.

Causes of Puppy Sneezing

Foreign Particles

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When a random particle invades your puppy’s nose—like smoke, hair, dust, or pollen, his sneezing could be an attempt at dislodging it. One of a puppy’s primary senses is smell. This is magnified when it comes to the breed, as if you own a hound or hunting-specific canine they’ll utilize their nose tenfold. Combine that with his nearly insatiable curiosity and you have a puppy that will put his nose up to just about any foreign body.

This puts them at higher risk of ‘nasal invaders’ as unlike humans, dogs lead with their head. The risk increases the more exposure they have to natural environments (think twigs, dirt, etc.)

Sneezing could be your puppy’s attempt at expelling these foreign particles lodged in his nose. If the sneezing is recurrent, then it’s largely possible whatever is stuck doesn’t want to come out. This foreign body will continuously activate his sneeze reflex.

Other symptoms of ingestion of foreign particles include nosebleeds, nasalized breathing, difficulty breathing, wiping his nose against the floor in an attempt to it, or pawing at his nose. Veterinarians are veterans when it comes to extracting gunk from a puppy’s nasal passage, and sometimes that’s the only way to stop the sneezing.

Infection in the upper respiratory tract

This is a result of Aspergillus fungus. Typically, a viral infection in the respiratory tract will primarily cause fits of coughing. There’s a common viral infection coined the kennel cough, which you might be familiar with. But in some cases infection can be spurred from a fungus found in outdoor environments.

Once the Aspergillus contacts the nose and sinuses of a puppy, the infection that follows can cause consistent sneezing in dogs. Other symptoms include nosebleeds, puss, or discharge in the nasal area, pain, and significant swelling.

Another type of infection that can cause sneezing occurs in the tooth. Quite a few teeth in a puppy’s mouth have roots adjacent to his nasal passage. If the infection extends up towards the root ending then sneezing can ensue.

Foxtails

Remember when you were a kid running around and those prickly little fuzzies would build up in your socks? On the west coast in particular, foxtails are annoying plant awns that shed like wildfire. Come the spring and summer, once a region begins to dry out, and these spiky awns are even more prevalent.

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Being that your puppy has no intention of not running over to the shrubbery and rolling in it, there’s a large chance that if you’re on the west coast, they’re going to bear some foxtails. At the very least these awns will find their way into your puppy’s coat and in the worst cases they’ll burrow into an opening.

If your puppy accidentally inhales a foxtail and it lodges into his nasal cavity, then consistent sneezing could be a symptom. Foxtails — while not particularly dangerous — can cause more harm than smaller foreign particles. This is why it’s important that you take your pup to the vet should your pup encounter a foxtail. If a foxtail is stuck in his nose then other complications can arise.

Allergies

Dog allergies are typically synonymous to human allergies. Their gamut of sources and symptoms are nearly identical. Being that your dog is in his puppyhood, his immune system is stuck in a desperate attempt to keep fighting off illness or harmful ailments… all the while trying to develop properly.

During this time, if your pup has a predisposition to allergies, you’ll see them come to light. Sneezing is a huge symptom of an allergic reaction, as it’s the puppy’s body’s natural way of expelling an irritation.

Here are some common substances a dog can be allergic to:

  • Food: At times a certain grain or ingredient can cause a dog to have an allergic reaction.
  • Grass: Sadly, as much as you adore watching your puppy toss around in the grass, it is a possibility that he’s allergic to it.
  • Dust: Dust, while also being a ‘foreign invader,’ can be an airborne particle that outside of irritating the nasal cavity actually causes an allergic reaction.
  • Mold: If a home is moldy or unkempt, a dog can be allergic to it.
  • Everyday Products: This can be anything from the cleaning spray you used to clean the kitchen, to the scented spray you used to freshen the home. Certain chemicals in these products can cause puppies to have allergic reactions.
  • Smoke: This occurs more than you think. A regular smoker exercises his habit in the proximity of his puppy and the puppy keeps sneezing. It’s not unheard of that a canine is allergic to smoke. In any case, an owner should not smoke near their dog.

Brachycephalic Breeds

It’s important to note that brachycephalic breeds have a higher propensity to be sneezers. Some common brachycephalic breeds are the Pug, Shih Tzus, Chihuahua, Bullmastiff, English Toy Spaniel, and Chow Chow.

What clumps these breeds together is their shortened heads and flatter faces. Being that their muzzles are pushed closer towards their cranium, the airways in the nose are shorter, more compressed, and sometimes deficient. There’s a reason that Pugs are infamous for snoring. In fact, within these breeds, often surgery is required to open their airways.

If a blockage occurs in the nasal cavity, the problem is usually more threatening for these breeds.

Nasal Tumors

Unfortunately, nasal tumors are not altogether uncommon in dogs. The one silver lining is they’re rarely expansive and keep to their location. They do, however, tend to impair the structure of the nose. Like many cancers today, nasal tumors in dogs have been linked to secondhand smoke, only reinforcing that if you’re a smoker you should not be practicing your habit in the proximity of your dog.

If your puppy is constantly sneezing and discharging from the nose, then it could be a nasal tumor. Their prognosis is rather poor but there are treatments available to mitigate the condition. These are usually invasive.

Happiness!

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Sometimes it is perfectly natural that exuberant happiness or excitement can cause a dog to sneeze. When your puppy is basking in eager anticipation, perhaps for a treat, playtime in the yard, a new toy, or a walk around the block, they can sneeze solely from excitability.

While this won’t be as common of an occurrence and probably not a suspicion to you, know that it is perfectly normal in these moments for your dog to sneeze. Of all things we have listed here, we hope this is the reason your dog is sneezing!

Understanding The Reverse Sneeze

Being that we are addressing all facets of sneezing, when it comes to puppies the reverse sneeze needs to be understood. The reverse sneeze, although it has multiple different medical terms, is exactly as it sounds. A sneeze is an explosive exhalation.  You can probably deduce that a reverse sneeze is an explosive inhalation.

More common in brachycephalic breeds, a reverse sneeze is an involuntary gag reflex that forces a rapid inhalation to basically suck as much air up as possible. The sounds that accompany these episodes are typically honks, cough-like chokes, or gurgling. In the event that an ignorant owner witnesses his puppy reverse sneeze, the sudden attack can be misinterpreted as something more serious.

In reality, dependent on the dog, reverse sneezing can be a natural part of his anatomy. What makes it so terrifying is that a sneeze is usually a second-long attack. But a reverse sneeze can last up to two minutes and often result in a rapid transplant to the emergency room. Once the sneeze passes, the canine will begin to breathe and act normally.

While the reverse sneeze can be nothing more than a regular sneeze for some canines, it can also be serious problem. If your dog is experiencing long bouts of reverse sneezing, or if it’s consistent, it is recommended that you take them to the veterinarian immediately.

What to Do If Your Puppy Keeps Sneezing

The simplest answer here is to make an appointment with a reputable veterinarian. Even if you’re not too concerned, by having your puppy examined by a professional you’ll ensure there are no serious problems at play.

This advice is amplified if other symptoms are accompanying the sneezing. These symptoms include nosebleeds, discharge of any sort, constant nasal mucus, difficulty or abnormal breathing, and swelling in the nasal area. Sneezing can be the least severe symptom of a serious problem. If other more alarming symptoms are being showcased, then it’s most certainly time to call the local veterinarian.

More often than not, sneezing isn’t a telltale sign that something is up with your puppy. It’s a natural defense mechanism that will activate every now and then. Enjoy those cute little moments when your pup is startled by a sneeze, and stay keen on the frequency of these episodes. The chances that sneezing, as an isolated occurrence, is indicative of a threatening ailment are slim. Don’t worry. Now that you’re armed with this knowledge, you know what to look for in the future, further ensuring a healthy life for the lovely little companion of yours!

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