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Like humans, pets sneeze. Sneezing is a normal response to an inflamed nasal tract or a reaction to environmental irritants such as pollen. However, you may be wondering why exactly your pet is sneezing so much and whether or not it warrants any reasonable concern.
Is Sneezing a Bad Sign?
The good news is that most causes of sneezing are not worrisome and are usually mild reactions. If you think the frequency of sneezing in your pet is above the average amount, then it may be worth getting a professional evaluation from your local veterinarian. A vet can discuss with you the possible causes, or conduct any testing needed to determine if there are any viruses or other infections causing the excess sneezing.
The Most Common Reasons Why Your Pet Is Sneezing
The most common causes of sneezing in pets can vary depending on factors such as the age of your pet and the climate of where you live. These causes can range from spring allergies, dusty living rooms, and excitement to something more serious, like viruses, bacterial infections, or a nasal tract tumor.
Viral or Bacterial Infections
Infections of the respiratory tract can cause a pet to sneeze. These infections could be viral bugs or contagious bacterial infections. Common viral infections such as the cold and flu could be the culprit of sneezing, and like the cold or flu in humans can lead to a runny nose, watery eyes, and increased sneezing and breathing sensitivity. Some other infections that can cause sneezing are fungal infections of the respiratory tract or bacterial infections like pneumonia.
Should I Worry About an Infection?
Luckily, most upper respiratory infections are mild and will go away on their own with time. However, if after seven to fourteen days your pet's sneezing and other infection symptoms have not started to subside, antibiotics or other medications from a vet may be needed as a treatment protocol.
Sometimes, sneezing may happen as purely an emotional response in pets. If you have a dog, you may have noticed that when you grab the leash to take them on a walk or come home after being gone at work all day that they start coming up to you and sneezing out of pure excitement. Or maybe you just started a game of tug-o-war with your dog’s toy and they start sneezing with playful energy.
Should I Worry About Sneezing From Excitement?
If your animal is sneezing out of excitement or other emotional reactions, there is no cause for concern. Joyfully sneezing is normal and is one of the laughable things about having a furry friend.
Come springtime, allergies will be at an all-time high for humans and animals. Outside allergens such as pollen or mold can trigger an allergic response in the body. When we’re exposed to reactive allergens our bodies produce histamine. The histamine then causes a buildup of mucus in the nasal passages and triggers a sneezing response. This happens the same in animals as it does in humans with seasonal allergies.
Should I Worry About Your Pet’s Seasonal Allergies?
Seasonal allergies are not serious, however, they can be bothersome for our furry companions. If your pet seems to have consistent sneezing, a runny nose, and watery eyes, then you may want to ask a vet if there are any medications to help soothe their symptoms.
All of our homes tend to collect dust, especially around the floor where our pets tend to hang around. Household dust can sometimes contain microscopic dust mites, which can cause an animal’s immune system to respond with a sneeze as a way of our antibodies fighting back. Dust mites are not dangerous but as a substance, they are unusual for humans and animals to breathe in and can thus cause a reaction like a sneeze.
Should I Worry About Sneezing From Household Dust?
Sneezing due to dust exposure should not be any cause for concern, however, if you pet frequently sneezes from dust it may be worth doing some extra cleaning around the house to prevent the collection of dust mites.
Nasal Tract Tumor
Some signs of a nasal tract tumor include discharge (runny nose) or excessive sneezing. Usually, environmental pollutants can lead to the development of nasal tumors over time in animals. A pet may also be more likely to get a nasal tract tumor if they live in an urban environment that contains chemical pollutants. Over time, the inflammation of the sinuses causes sneezing.
Should I Worry About a Nasal Tract Tumor?
A nasal tumor can be serious, and sometimes fatal. If you suspect your animal may be ill and is not suffering from minor allergies or a cold, seek vet treatment and evaluation immediately.
How To Prevent Excessive Sneezing in Animals
Some causes of sneezing cannot be prevented or are out of your immediate control. However, a few things you can do to decrease the likelihood that your pet sneezes excessively such as regularly cleaning your home or pet’s living space, limiting exposure to outside allergens or city pollution, and regularly going for checkups at the vet to prevent any serious nasal or respiratory complications.
When To Seek Professional Help
If you have tried determining the cause of your pet sneezing and have come up short, a vet can help you test for any serious sneezing cases. Sneezing every now and then is normal, but if your pet sneezes continuously for weeks or months on end, treatment from a veterinary professional may be necessary. When in doubt, it's always best to ask for help.
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Dr. Bilal Qasim, DVM, established Dr. Phillips Animal Hospital in 2011 after practicing veterinary medicine for over 17 years with the help of talented and caring veterinary technicians.