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Breed & Health Resources

Why is my dog or cat sneezing?


When Lily came home from the rescue shelter, she sneezed for a few days when I had her in isolation. Keeping her away from Barnes didn't work too well because when she stopped sneezing and I let her out into the house, Barnes started sneezing a bit too. After a few days, it all sorted itself out but it made me wonder if I should have been worried about it.

So, here are some of the notes we made on sneezing. Gezundheit!

Causes of Sneezing

Sneezing is a symptom and, with all symptoms, can be linked to a variety of causes. The causes can be summarized as follows:

Infectious - viral and bacterial (meaning contagious to the same species)

  • Dogs: Parainfluenza; Type-2 Adenovirus; Pasteurella; Bordetella; Streptococci; Psuedomonad bacteria
  • Cats: Rhinotracheitis Virus (Herpes 1); Calicivirus; Chlamydia Psittaci; Mycoplasma; Pasteurella; Bordetella; Streptococci

Non-Infectious (meaning something other than bacteria or a virus is causing the symptom)

  • Household products and irritants such as cigarette smoke, dusty cat litter, perfumes, household cleaners, and deodorants
  • Allergies
  • Foreign bodies such as grass, tumors, polyps (drainage occurs on one side)
  • Tooth abscess (drainage occurs on one side)
  • Breed Characteristics – flat faced breeds have compressed nasal passages which can cause inflammation: Persian; Pekingese; pugs bulldogs,


Your veterinarian will start with a physical examination that includes your pets’ history, a temperature, and an overall physical look. The history is just as important as the physical findings and should include information such as where you got your pet, whether your pet stays indoors or goes outdoor, does your pet attend daycare or public parks, and any information about your pet’s behavior. An example would be if your new puppy was adopted at a shelter. This would tell the veterinarian that there is a possibility that the sneezing could be related to an infectious cause.

The veterinarian will also look for obvious causes during the examination. He/she will sometimes look into the pets’ nose to see if there is a foreign body and will look at your pets’ teeth to see if there may be an abcess from a decaying tooth that could be causing the problem. These two causes are usually seen with drainage from one nostril.

The tests that the veterinarian may run can vary from patient to patient because of the findings, the severity and if your pet has had reoccurring symptoms.

  • your veterinarian may order a nasal culture to look for bacterial infection or may choose to perform a Rhinoscopy. This procedure uses a scope to look deep into the nasal cavity, and at this time, he/she may take a nasal biopsy to look for causes relating to tissue (inflammatory causes). As you can imagine, your pet may need to be anesthetized for this type of procedure.
  • your vet may also order blood work to make sure there is not an underlying problem that he/she hasn’t picked up.


The treatment will be based on your pets’ diagnosis but it could include medicated nose drops, antihistamines for allergies, and antibiotics. Severe conditions may require hospitalization. Your pet would receive medications and possibly receive oxygen therapy to help relieve the fluid build up in the lungs if she has pneumonia, and if your pet is dehydrated, she would receive fluid therapy.

Finally, your pet may require surgery if your veterinarian finds a foreign body that cannot be easily removed with your pet awake.

As with any of your pet’s health conditions, if you are worried about your pet, talk to your vet.

The information above was based on work done by Dr. Ron Hines at All Creatures Care and 

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