Everyone sneezes. And since dogs are walking noses, it makes sense that they might sneeze more than humans. But whereas we tend to sneeze only when necessary, dogs often sneeze in all kinds of unlikely situations.
Maybe you notice your dogs sneezing during play or in the middle of greeting their favorite person. These behaviors may make you take notice, but don’t worry, it’s perfectly normal. You’re most likely seeing your dogs sneezing because they’re excited!
But why do dogs sneeze when excited?
So, Why Do Dogs Sneeze When Excited?
There are various theories about why dogs sneeze when excited, but one of the most prevalent theories is that sneezing dissipates tension.
This kind of excited sneeze is most common when dogs are wrestling. That makes sense because, to the untrained eye, a bit of canine rough-housing can look disturbing. The dogs pull each other by the legs, gnaw each other’s throats, and tussle with one another.
Far from being aggressive, these are all signs of a well-socialized dog. However, these shows of affection can get too much at times, even for the dogs involved. So, much as people have safe words, dogs developed a signal to indicate something is ‘just for fun.’
That signal is the sneeze. A dog that sneezes when excited by play will let its companion know that their tussle is a game.
The sneeze breaks the escalating tension and calms both dogs.
Keep in mind that since no one can sneeze on command, a dog that sneezes when excited isn’t genuinely sneezing. Instead, what your dog does is similar to a child that apes a sneeze for attention. But genuine or not, it’s effective at calming down an excited dog.
Not everyone agrees that sneezing is dog self-soothing behavior when playing. Another theory about why dogs sneeze when excited is that the manner in which dogs play causes the sneeze.
This theory also has merit. When dogs play, they often put themselves in situations that cause them to scrunch their noses. It’s the perfect condition for unwittingly stimulating a sneeze.
Likewise, wrestling dogs often end up on their backs, putting them in a position where anything could get up their nose. This scenario is doubly true if the dogs are playing outside. By rolling around, feet in the air, its inevitable your dog get something up their nose, and possibilities include:
- Blades of grass
- Dust mites
Other Reasons Dogs Sneeze
Although dogs sneeze when excited, that’s not the only time they sneeze. Sometimes sneezes are symptomatic of more than overexcitement.
If a dog that sneezes when excited starts sneezing more frequently, it might be a sign of nasal mites. Other symptoms include:
- Reverse sneezing
- Scratching face
- Nasal bleeding
- Head shaking
- Change in breathing
It’s easy to forget how closely connected a dog’s teeth, nose and ears are. And while sometimes dogs sneeze when excited, sometimes more persistent sneezing points to teeth infections, especially in the teeth nearest the nose.
Another reason dogs sneeze is that they develop allergies. These can be environmental, chemicals or dust, or food. If your dog develops a food allergy, then in addition to sneezing, you will also notice:
- Red, irritated skin
- Itchy ears
- Loss of appetite
Another reason dogs sneeze is that they want to get your attention. Similar to a dogs’ sneeze when they’re excited, this isn’t an actual sneeze. Instead, it’s a reminder that you owe them a meal or that you are late for a walk.
Brachycephalic Dog Breeds
Finally, brachycephalic dog breeds are more likely to sneeze than other dogs, whether excited or not. These include breeds, like:
These dogs are more prone to sneezing when excited or otherwise because the flat nature of their faces compresses the nasal passages and makes breathing more difficult.
Other Signs of Playful Dog Interaction
In addition to sneezing when excited, dogs have several other ways of communicating while playing.
Dogs often initiate games with each other by bowing. This behavior is distinctive, and you’ll notice that the dog that started the game appears to be stretching. Their head and forepaws touch the floor while their rump and tail remain aloft.
Another sign dogs want to play with each other is that they expose their belly. It’s not uncommon for dogs who take this approach to wave their feet in the air and even growl low in the throat.
The growling is unmistakably playful, and a well-socialized dog will respond with a pounce. Dogs that initiate play this way show great trust because they show that they trust their playmate not to harm any of their organs.
Just as dogs will sneeze when they are excited, yawning is another way of calming down during canine play. It tells you and other dogs that they are safe to say hello to. It’s also a way of reassuring both dogs that everyone is friendly.
When to See a Vet about Your Dogs’ Sneezing
So that’s why dogs sneeze when they’re excited, as well as other playful but unlikely dog signals.
It’s worth noting that dogs who sneeze when excited do so irregularly. So, if you notice your dog sneezing more than usual, it may be time to call the vet.
Sneezing in and of itself isn’t a cause for concern, but recurrent sneezing could point to various underlying conditions ranging from bacterial infection and allergies to more serious conditions, like tumors.
One way to tell if your dog is sneezing because they’re excited or if the sneeze is genuine is to look for signs of nasal discharge. If you can’t find any, chances are your dog is communicating with you or a fellow dog.
There are many reasons dogs sneeze. Additionally, several competing theories tackle the question, why do dogs sneeze when excited?
These range from communication and attention-seeking behavior to a playful way of calming down. Whatever the cause, sneezing when excited is a unique part of the dog language. But it’s also an occasional occurrence. So, watch for signs of recurrent sneezing, and if they don’t clear up, don’t be afraid to contact a vet.