Your dog awakens you by nudging you on the cheek and then, sneezes all over your face. It happens all the time — every morning, it seems like. It is so very adorable but so very gross at the same time. You begin to question. Is this normal? Is it healthy? Is there anything I can do to end it? Examine some answers.

Found at the back of your dog’s throat, the pharynx intersects the nasal passages from the digestive passages. When irritants enter this area, a dog’s body tries to oust them. The pharynx expels air through the nose, and even the mouth. This is known as the ever-dreaded “sneeze.”

Why does my dog sneeze in the morning?

Huge, honking sneezes, or itty-bitty, teeny sneezes, you wonder where they come from. Just like when you sneeze, you do not always know why, but there are some common possibilities. Why does your dog sneeze in the morning? It could be any of a number of reasons.

Could environmental irritants make my dog sneeze? 

Your dog could be sneezing due to exposure to environmental irritants. When dogs are exposed to certain perfumes, air fresheners, dog shampoos, chemicals, etcetera, their nasal passages can get irritated. This can cause sneezing. Do you spray air freshener or perfume in the morning?

Could my dog be sneezing from environmental allergies?

Your dog could have environmental or seasonal allergies. Dogs can have allergies, too, just like humans. Do you have environmental allergies to grass, pollen, mold, or dust mites? Maybe your dog does, too. Do you smoke? Your dog may be having an allergic reaction to your cigarette smoke. These are very common reasons why your dog may sneeze in the morning. 

Does my dog’s brachycephalic breeding have anything to do with her sneezing?

Yes, your dog’s sneezing could have something to do with her brachycephalic breeding. The brachycephalic breed has a regular-sized lower jaw and a shorter or compressed upper jaw. These dogs, including Pugs, Boxers, Shih Tzus, Pekingese, and Bulldogs, are known for their “snorty”, “snuffly” sounds, which come from deformities of the snout and throat caused by selective breeding. Most brachycephalic breeds function just fine despite their deformities, but you should recognize and respect their limitations.

Starting at the nose, the respiratory system of a brachycephalic dog features nostrils that have something like slits, which are not able to flare open and take in more air. They are known as stenotic nares. Brachycephalic dogs often breathe through their mouths, since they cannot get enough oxygen through the nose. Some brachycephalic dogs have nose surgery to open the nasal passages a bit. Because this breed has so many nasal issues, it only stands to reason that they may do a lot of sneezing.

Are reverse sneezes a bad sign for my dog?

Reverse sneezes are an odd respiratory response. It is called a “paroxysmal” respiratory response. This simply means that a reverse sneeze happens in episodes, which are like spasms. It is thought by many that the cause of reverse sneezes is irritation or inflammation in the nasal or sinus passages, or the pharyngeal passages. It could be the dog’s body trying to expel foreign particles, allergens, or irritants from its upper airways. It has also been documented, though, after the dog has been exposed to over-excitement.

Reverse sneezes happen suddenly. Air is rapidly and repeatedly inhaled through the nose. Then, the dog exhibits snorting sounds or gagging sounds. For you, it can be scary, but most of the time, it is not harmful to dogs that have no underlying illness. You will know your dog is reverse sneezing if she suddenly stands still, extends her head and neck, and starts snorting. Dogs that are well and have reverse sneezing episodes tend to have them from time to time lifelong. If you have a toy breed, read about tracheal collapse on the AKC website.

Could my dog’s sneezing mean she has physical issues?

Sometimes, physical issues can be the cause of sneezing in dogs. Dogs can get colds and viruses, just like their owners. Sinusitis or rhinitis in dogs is usually caused by a viral infection, like canine distemper, canine parainfluenza, or canine adenovirus types 1 and 2. Bacterial and fungal infections in the nose can be serious, as well. Aspergillosis is a result of a dog’s inhalation of mold spores. These spores can trigger a spell of allergic reactions or a fungal infection. 

All these issues have to do with the nose and can be the cause of your dog’s sneezing, but your dog can also be sneezing for other health reasons. Did you know that tooth problems can cause sneezing? Nasal tumors are another health issue that could be the cause. Should your dog have nasal tumors, her sneezing would increase in frequency as time goes on. Note that tumors are an indication of nasal cancer, so this is an issue that should be immediately addressed. For more on nasal tumors, go to the AKC website.

Why does my dog sneeze when she wakes up?

When she wakes up in the morning, and also when she wakes up from her afternoon nap, your dog sneezes. You think it is adorable, but you are still wondering about the “whys” of it. It is not an exact science, but some believe the following.

Is my dog communicating with me by sneezing?

Dogs communicate between themselves by sneezing, so is it so farfetched to think your dog may be trying to communicate with you. “I want attention.” “I want you to play with me.” “Hello, I am here, so it is time to wake up.” See if you can figure out what your dog might be trying to tell you. Also, a “fake sneeze” is common when a dog is playing with you or trying to get attention.

Could my dog be sneezing from excitement?

Some dogs sneeze when they get excited or right after a period of over-excitement. Is your dog just happy and excited to see you in the morning? Maybe she cannot wait to hear your voice. This is believed to be a huge contributor to sneezing fits.

What should I do about my dog sneezing in the morning?

Most sneezing is quite common and should simply be looked over. It is probably just your dog exhibiting normal dog behavior. However, sometimes it is serious. Whether serious or not, here is what you can do about your dog sneezing in the morning.

When should I take my dog to the vet?

There are times when you should take your dog’s sneezes seriously and head for the vet to get her checked out. Here would be some things to look for to let you know it is time to go to the vet.

  • Too frequent sneezing
  • Nasal discharge that is bloody, thick, or has puss in it
  • Visible pain when sneezing
  • Bleeding from the nose
  • Frequent pawing at the nose
  • Sporadic sneezes that grow more frequent
  • You think your dog’s reverse sneezing may be serious

What about a remedy for her reverse sneezing?

There is a home remedy for your dog’s reverse sneezing. Hold your dog’s nostrils closed for only a second while massaging her throat lightly. This will calm her. You may also try just blowing hard into her face, which should make her swallow a few times, halting the spasm known as the reverse sneeze. A third approach is to get her outside or into a cool area while talking to her calmly to console her. Medication is not required for most dogs, but for serious, allergy-related, or chronic reverse sneezing spasms, antihistamines are recommended.

Is there anything else I can do to help my dog’s sneezing?

While there is not much reason to worry, there are a few things you could try at home to lessen the frequency and severity of your dog’s sneezes. Here is a short list of things you can try. It is not comprehensive. Now that you know the facts, you can come up with others.

  • Try a new dog shampoo, carpet cleaner, etcetera.
  • Put her in another room before spraying perfumes or air fresheners.
  • Use a higher-quality HVAC filter that will trap more allergens.
  • Smoke outside instead of inside the house.

Think of anything that could be irritating her nasal passages, and try something new. It may be that she is simply allergic to the type of laundry detergent you use. Be a you-version of Sherlock Holmes, and figure it out. Sneezing in the morning is something most dog owners do not have to give a second thought about. It is a common thing and not serious or dangerous. Just know and watch for the signs that your dog’s sneezing may be caused by a more serious underlying issue, and take her to your vet immediately if you think she is in danger. Do not worry, as she probably just wants to hear you tell her she is a good girl.

Author

I created and currently manage Pet Dog Owner, the website you can go to when you have questions about your dog's behavior. It is my hope that you find Pet Dog Owner to be a helpful resource. It is also my hope that it will help you to improve your relationship with your dog. You can read more about me and my website here.