A sneeze here and there is a normal event in a dog's life. You and I probably feel like it's a good thing to sneeze once in a while. Repeated sneezing, however, is not normal and may indicate a serious problem. If it goes on for too long, it may even lead to bleeding, and the sneezing will then turn into a bloody spray. If your dog is sneezing more than you think is normal, there are a few things you can do in order to get a better idea how serious it is.
What to Look For
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. Try blocking first one nostril, then the other, to determine whether there is any form of partial or complete obstruction in either of the nasal passages. Use your flashlight and try to get a look into each of your dog's nasal openings.
What to Do
Ask yourself a few questions to figure out what to do next:
- Does your dog suffer from allergies? Respiratory allergies are often the cause for seasonal bouts of episodic sneezing.
If your dog has allergies to various seasonal plants or pollens, this may explain the sneezing and your dog may respond well to an antihistamine such as Tavist, Claritin, or even Benadryl. In general, check with your vet for dosage and to confirm that your dog has no specific additional health risks that would prevent you from using them safely.
- Has your dog been outside and/or unsupervised for any period of time recently? Inquisitive dogs are prone to sniffing new and interesting plants, objects, and substances, some of them dangerous. Any of these things can be inhaled, resulting in partial or complete obstruction of a nasal passage, pain, inflammation, and the resultant sneezing. Sometimes, even after one of these is evacuated, the irritation it has caused will promote continued sneezing episodes. A bee sting is a perfect example and one that can continue to get worse with time if left untreated. If at any time during your evaluation of your dog's sneezing, the symptoms worsen, get him to your vet immediately.
- Did you see any swelling or asymmetry to your dog's face? Blunt trauma and insect bites or stings are common causes of facial swelling associated with sneezing. If blunt trauma is suspected, get him to your vet. If an insect bite or sting is your suspicion, as long as his breathing is not labored or wheezy, a dose of Benadryl may reduce the swelling and could even solve the problem.
- Does there appear to be any sign of infection? Any yellow to green discharge from the nostrils, eyes, or mouth could explain the sneezing and point you toward your veterinarian for medical treatment.
- Did you see any bleeding from your dog's nostrils? Though it is possible that repeated sneezing will traumatize your dog's nasal passages enough to cause bleeding, any blood from his nostrils is enough to merit a visit with his veterinarian.
- Does the airflow through your dog's nostrils seem difficult or uneven? Nasal inflammation or obstruction will result in difficulty passing air through those openings. If this is the case, and the use of over- the-counter antihistamines like Benadryl, Tavist, or Claritin results in no improvement, seek your veterinarian's help.