Can Pets Sneeze like a Human?

It is so fascinating to observe how many things we, as humans, have in common with animals and how many habits or reflexes we share with them. For example, seahorses once a day intertwine their tails for a couple of minutes as a sign of loyalty and love, meaning they can cuddle too! But what about more prosaic similarities?

Pets’ owners well know that cats and dogs sneeze, but are there any reasons to be worried about it? When your dog is coughing or sneezing, forced exhalation occurs to remove the irritant from the respiratory tract. In both humans and dogs, it appears in the same way. Does it mean you should immediately take your dog to a veterinarian? Not always. Let’s take a closer look at the reasons why animals sneeze and when you should interact.

Why Dogs Sneeze

Dogs begin to sneeze because an irritant gets into the nasal area – an object that the body is trying to get rid of by a rapid exhalation through the nose. Sneezing is a protective, unconditional reflex that removes dust, mucus, or irritating substances from the nasal cavity.

If your dog sneezes after looking for a toy under the bed or running through the bushes chasing the cat, in this situation sneezing should be considered as a protective mechanism, and it is a normal response. Hairsprays, deodorants, air fresheners, and other household chemicals can also irritate the mucous membranes of your pet’s nasal cavity.

You may also be familiar with the “dog reverse sneezing” term, which is mostly caused by irritation or inflammation of the nasal cavities (for example, dust or pollen) and is a lot like regular sneezing, but accompanied with frequent inhalations instead of exhalation. Provoking factors of reverse sneezing include:

  • strong odors and dust, as well as cigarette smoke and fumes of household chemicals;
  • allergic substances;
  • nervous excitement;
  • eating and drinking in a rush;
  • tight collar and too short leash;
  • sudden change in temperature (for example, after walking your dog in winter).

You can recognize reverse sneezing when the dog’s head is thrown back (and not forward and down, as in usual sneezing), and the dog’s mouth is open, and as it swallows, it gasps and chokes. Usually, everything happens noisily and lasts up to 60 seconds, and when reverse sneeze passes, breathing is restored.

There are dog breeds with a predisposition to respiratory problems, including reverse sneezing. Those are animals with the brachycephalic structure of the head, such as pugs, bulldogs, Pekingese, and other breeds with a characteristic skull shape.

When to See a Vet

But sneezing can also be a consequence of infectious or cold disease, as well as a body’s malfunction. How will you know that this time sneezing is a symptom of some disease? It is easy to distinguish, as, with the disease, sneezing is more frequent and usually accompanied by nasal discharge.

Sneezing can be a symptom of the following cases:

  • allergies (other symptoms are rash, flaking, and redness of the skin, itching of the body, lacrimation, nausea, and loss of appetite);
  • viral infections, adenovirus infection, and canine distemper (dog plague);
  • severe diseases of the teeth due to bacterial infection (therefore, it is essential not to ignore the plaque, especially in dog breeds that are susceptible to teeth problems);
  • a foreign body (discharge may be unilateral), neoplasms, fungal infections in the nasal cavity;
  • nasal mites infestation.

Sometimes, helminths living in the animal’s nasopharynx can also provoke frequent sneezing (for example, Ascaris). In this situation, signs will be frequent sneezing, coughing, mucus from the sinuses, shortness of breath, heavy breathing, a slight increase in temperature, nausea, and vomiting (or the urge to vomit).

Of course, with the disease, sneezing will not be the only symptom, and you can often observe changes in the pet’s overall state: apathy, fever, refusal of food, etc. Nevertheless, sneezing can be the first signal for the pet’s owner that the dog will be sick or is already ill. So it is crucial not just to observe the development of the clinical situation but to take action – it is best to contact a veterinary clinic for examination, diagnosis, and, possibly, treatment.


We have in common with animals so much more than we could think of. Sneezing is one of those things, and you may be surprised, but even elephants and marine iguanas can sneeze! When it comes to pets, for them sneezing means the same as for humans, meaning it can be an immediate reaction (exhalation) to some irritation, as well as a symptom of a disease. Thus, it is important to observe not only your dog sneezing but also take into consideration its overall health.

Dog reverse sneezing is another thing to pay attention to, as it shows up as the reverse process – your dog starts frequently inhaling what may look like it is running out of air to breathe. There is no reason to be worried about it in most cases, but it can also be one of the symptoms of allergies or a signal of other diseases like sinonasal tumors or infection.

Before taking your dog to the veterinarian after a single sneeze, it is essential to notice some more changes in its behavior. Most frequently, pet sneezes get rid of the smallest irritating objects like dust or household chemicals’ fumes.

Emma Thompson

Hi, I'm Emma Thompson. Welcome to The Pet Town! I'm a Pet lovers like you and please feel free to get in touch with any questions. Enjoy your stay!

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