Why Does My Dog Sneeze While Playing?

It’s actually really sweet 🤧

why do dogs sneeze when playing

You’re playing with your dog, and he’s doing that tell-tale play bow. (You know, the one where he leans down and sticks his butt in the air?)

But right before he’s about to playfully jump towards you, he lets out a giant sneeze.

It seems odd, and you notice he does this almost every time you play with him. So you can’t help but wonder: What’s that about?

The Dodo spoke with Dr. Stefanie Schwartz, a veterinary behaviorist at Pet Behavior Medicine in California, to find out why sneezing seems to be a part of your pup’s playtime routine.

Why do dogs sneeze?

According to Dr. Schwartz, dogs can start sneezing for a bunch of reasons, like:

  • Inner nose irritation (like breathing in dust or getting something stuck up there)
  • Allergies
  • Post-nasal drip

All those things make sense because people sneeze for the same reasons.

But your dog might also sneeze while he’s caught up playing with you — or another dog — and that probably feels like a bit of a head-scratcher.

After all, people don’t do that. So, what’s the deal?

Why do dogs sneeze when they’re playing?

It turns out that if your dog’s sneezing while he’s playing, he’s just trying to let you know that he’s not actually trying to hurt you.

“It may be ... a display to show that they’re playing,” Dr. Schwartz told The Dodo.

Basically, your dog will sneeze when he’s playing to let you — or whomever he’s playing with — know that it’s not a real fight, just a play fight.

So if your pup starts sneezing when playtime amps up, he’s just trying to tell you that if he accidentally bites a little harder than he should, he doesn’t mean to because he just wants to play.

And on the flip side, a sneeze will let his playmate know that he doesn’t want to be on the receiving end of anything too rough, either.

That being said, when your dog is playing, sneezing could be related to external factors, too.

“It can be that they’ve got a post-nasal drip when they’re more active,” Dr. Schwartz explained. “It can be that they have something stuck in their nose. It could be that they inhaled something that irritates the nasal passage.”

But for the most part, sneezing during playtime is just a way for your dog to let his playmate know that what he’s doing is only supposed to be fun and that he’s having a good time.

“Usually it’s just part of being excited,” Dr. Schwartz said.

When to worry about dog sneezing

If your dog’s sneezing starts to become excessive, that’s when you should be concerned.

There’s a chance frequent sneezing means your pup has allergies, and you’re definitely going to want your vet’s help for that.

“If you’ve ever had a dog who’s been allergic to something, they can be very uncomfortable and should be seen [by a vet] as soon as possible,” Dr. Schwartz said.

Frequent sneezing could also be a sign of things like:

  • Foreign body stuck in his nose
  • Infection
  • Inflammation
  • Parasites
  • Nosebleeds
  • Tumors

So if you’ve noticed your dog sneezes a ton, or his nose is bleeding, you should hit up your vet ASAP to figure out what’s going on.

But if your pup is only sneezing occasionally when he’s playing, you can rest easy knowing he’s just trying to keep playtime safe for everyone.

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