Why Dogs Sneeze While Playing

Like people, dogs sneeze for a variety of causes. There are several degrees of sneeze severity.


Dogs typically sneeze because they inhaled something irritating that became lodged in their nostril. Dogs sneeze after putting their snouts into the grass or digging in the dirt for this reason.

Sometimes they’ll smell something unpleasant that causes them sneeze, like perfume, cleaning supplies, or dust.


Sneezes are a means of communication for dogs with both people and other animals. Similar to how a dog communicates through body language or facial expressions, sneezes are simply one way of doing so.

In fact, a 2017 study indicated that sneezes were a form of negotiation used by wild African canines to influence group decision-making.

Sneezing is another way that dogs communicate that they need to settle down, take a break, or that they are okay with what is going on.


When playing with humans or other dogs, a lot of dogs enjoy sneezing. This “play sneezing” is common and used by dogs to express their excitement and enjoyment. Dogs will also sneeze during play to demonstrate that their actions are purely playful.

Dogs also have a tendency to pucker their lips when playing a game. Their body might sneeze as a result of the lip curl that results in a wrinkled nose. Playful sneezes typically consist of a quick snort that originates from the nose rather than the lungs.


It’s possible that your dog is pretending to sneeze when they sneeze around mealtimes or during routine walks.

Dogs who pretend sneeze frequently look at you while doing so to catch your attention. To make sure you pay attention, they might even approach you and sneeze on or next to you.

Health Problems

Since the body is doing its necessary functions, sneezing is really beneficial. It might also be a sign of a minor illness like a cold.

But occasionally, it might be a sign of more serious issues with the teeth or the nasal passages. A piece of grass or a malignant tumor could be the cause of a nasal blockage.


Due to the shape of their muzzle and throat, brachycephalic breeds have more trouble breathing. Pugs, Pekingese, Bulldogs, and Boston Terriers are among the breeds whose compressed nasal passages increase their propensity to sneeze.

Excellent Sense of Smell

Dogs are very perceptive to their surroundings. They may use their keen sense of smell to hunt for prey, locate hidden treats, and detect unfamiliar dogs entering their area.

Reverse Sneezes

Reactions to inflammation, irritants, or excitement can cause reverse sneezes, which are abrupt and repeated inhalations via the nose. Terriers and other toy breeds frequently sneeze backwards.

When they’re playing, do dogs sneeze?

In order to let other dogs know that they are having fun, dogs sneeze when playing. Dogs sneeze to show that their boisterous play, which is intermingled with growls and barks, is not violent.

Perhaps you’ve also noticed this. The more you play with your dog or the more vigorously your dog wrestles with other dogs, the more likely it is that your dog may sneeze in the middle of their GRRRRs and RUFFs. Therefore, why do dogs sneeze while playing?

Katherine Smith, a canine behaviorist and trainer, claims that a dog’s sneeze lets the other dog know that a boisterous dance or fight play session is only for fun. When your dog “is really liking what you’re doing,” it will sneeze.

Therefore, our dogs have developed a strange new method of saying, “Maybe it LOOKS like we’re fighting, but it’s all right, we’re friends!”

Your love for your dog may be motivated by a variety of factors, including their adorable looks, soft fur, and unwavering loyalty. Personally, I enjoy dogs the greatest when they are boisterous. I’ll genuinely roll about on the ground with any dog (ask my coworkers.) If there’s a nice game of tug of war to be had, I’ll grab any drooly old raggedy toy and clutch onto it for dear life. The more aggressive and boisterous the dog, the more I adore them. Why then do dogs sneeze while they play? Just having fun, that’s all!

What does a dog sneezing while being pet mean?

These are actually just amusing sneezes, and they are not a cause for alarm. You might have also noticed that when you pet your dog, they groan or make other noises. Another indication that they are having fun is this. Basically, it’s entirely natural for your dog to sneeze a few times when being pet.

Communication with Other Dogs or Humans

To converse with other canines, dogs will occasionally snort and snuffle. They employ this behavior to convey a number of meanings to other dogs, including their eagerness to play. Snorting appears to mean a variety of things to dogs, while its exact meaning is not entirely known.

Snorting is another way that some dogs communicate with their human family members. They might snort to get people’s attention, because they’re angry, because they want to play, or even because they’re hungry. This is most likely the reason if your dog’s snorting seems to be trying to communicate with you.

Sniffing and Exploring

Dogs frequently use their noses to sniff and explore their environment. One of a dog’s most vital organs is the nose, and occasionally your dog may snort to open their nasal passages and improve their ability to smell.

This is why your dog might sneeze and snort simultaneously. There is typically nothing to worry about if your dog appears to be exploring the world around them and snores as they do so. They are simply acting like a dog would, and they will probably soon stop snorting once more.

But you should always be aware of the situations your dog is going into. Pay close attention to them after getting into something they shouldn’t have if you know or believe they did, and don’t be afraid to phone your veterinarian if you have any questions.

Reverse Sneezing

Reverse sneezing is an uncommon action that some dog owners who have never witnessed it before may find startling. This practice entails somewhat sneezing “in,” as opposed to sneezing outwardly. When they reverse sneeze, dogs may produce a snorting or honking noise, and the episodes can linger for many seconds.

Take your dog to the vet to be examined if they are reverse sneezing for the first time. You do not need to take your dog to the doctor every time reverse sneezing occurs, though, if you are aware of the problem. Just keep an eye on them to make sure they quickly resume normal breathing.

Irritation from Contaminants

Similar to people, dogs can experience nasal irritation from environmental pollutants or irritants. If you’ve ever sneezed after smelling smoke from a cigarette, fire, or candle, you can appreciate why this is one of the most typical reasons of snorting in dogs.

There is no cause for concern if your dog occasionally snorts in response to toxins. Remove the contamination and take your dog to the clinic if they feel distressed or have difficulties breathing.

Respiratory Infection

Snorting may be one of the indications of a viral or bacterial respiratory infection in your dog. In addition to snorting, dogs with respiratory infections may also sneeze, cough, wheeze, or have a runny nose as symptoms.

Take your dog to your normal veterinarian if you suspect a respiratory infection. Although this is not typically an emergency, your dog will need veterinary care to heal and recover correctly. Your dog will likely receive therapeutic medication from your veterinarian.

Inhaled Foreign Object

Although it is far less frequent than the other reasons for snorting on our list, inhaling a foreign object is nonetheless important to note. Dogs are susceptible to ingesting foreign substances, such as food fragments, pieces of toy pieces, or other household objects. These items have the potential to become stuck in the throat or nasal passages, partially or completely obstructing the airways.

Take your dog to the emergency vet right away if they are having trouble breathing. Your dog needs to see a veterinarian right away if you know or suspect they may have inhaled a foreign object. This issue will require surgery.

During play, may dogs get hurt?

As responsible pet owners, we want to offer our dogs the best possible lives, and play is a HUGE part of that for the majority of dogs.

The sun is shining, winter is coming to an end, and the park seems more appealing than ever. And for weeks, probably months, your dog has been longingly gazing out the window and softly pawing at the door while giving you the guilt eyes. But wait before you bolt out the door! Dog play accidents can happen at any time of the year, but the beginning of spring is particularly prone to mishaps.

Dog play injuries are more frequent than most people realize, and they can range in severity from very minor—like a little paw cut that heals in a few days—to very serious—like torn ligaments and hip injuries that may require surgery and leave a person permanently disabled. The typical expense for injuries necessitating a visit to the veterinarian will be in the several hundred dollar range. Ouch! That results in two injuries—one to the dog and one to your pocket.

Dog injuries during play are caused by a variety of circumstances. Among them are

  • Canine awareness
  • Conditioning
  • Coordination
  • health, breed, age, and predispositions of your dog
  • The climate
  • the setting where they play
  • Owner awareness and knowledge

The key is simply recognizing who is susceptible to them, what injuries can occur, and how. Injuries that occur when playing with your pup are actually fairly avoidable. As a result, you are aware of what to watch for and monitor.

Who is most prone?

We are not proposing you cover your dog under a blanket and never let him or her outside, even though all dogs are likely to suffer at least a few minor injuries while playing throughout their lifetimes. A healthy dog will recover rapidly from minor wounds, as opposed to others who may take longer and are more vulnerable to harm. Dogs who fit into these categories should receive extra care and consideration. These consist of:

  • puppies with developing bones and joints (under 12 months of age)
  • a senior dog with fragile bones and joints (usually over several years of age)
  • Canines at risk for hip dysplasia (genetic predisposition)
  • Dogs most vulnerable, but not only:
  • majority of super big breeds (Great Danes, Newfoundlands)
  • Shepherds of Germany
  • Golden and Labrador Retrievers
  • Pugs
  • (French/English) Bulldogs
  • dogs that are obese

The Play Environment: The most common cause of injury

However, the areas where dogs play are by far the most important element contributing to dog injuries. Some play mishaps can be attributed to operator error, predisposition, or just plain poor luck. Although we recognize that many people cannot avoid these areas entirely, it is best to limit your exposure to them. When you do play in these environments with your dog, pay extra close attention to him and don’t overdo it.

  • Extremely cold and hot surfaces include ice, snow, and heated pavement
  • Sharp edges and trash
  • Unpredictable terrain that is uneven
  • Wire fencing and tree/shrub branches are the main offenders when it comes to sharp protruding things.
  • limited visibility terrain: Heavy, dense vegetation or snow. These conceal any potential sharp edges, sudden holes, and trash.
  • Deepwater

What play injuries are most common?

Large sticks used as fetch toys are a major offender in cases of cuts and scratches to the nose, mouth, and eyes, but tree and shrub branches are by far the most frequent culprits. Dogs frequently collide with small, sharp branches when frantically chasing a ball. Even a minor scratch to the eye can be uncomfortable, and serious punctures can render a dog blind in one eye. The eyes are a particularly vulnerable body region.

  • Dogs playing in the snow always use their noses to forage, which puts them at risk for nose frostbite. Here, snow accumulates, making it challenging for them to remove extra ice buildup with their paws.

Leg, Paw, and Nail Injuries; Limbs:

  • Sprained and strained muscles
  • fractured and dislocated bones
  • Ligament injuries, especially to the crucial ligament
  • worn-out or damaged paw pads
  • fractured or split nails
  • Paw burn on a heated surface

Hip injuries are most commonly caused by excessive exercise, especially in young puppies, and acrobatic jumping.

Neck Sudden jerking/Strangulation: Many owners may use a leash or rope to restrict their dogs, even in open locations, due to their curious nature and propensity to go exploring. When planning any kind of activity, this is NEVER a good idea.

Dogs are quite adept at controlling their body temperature, but they struggle to recognize when they are dehydrated and their temperature is too high, which can lead to heat stroke. Owners are responsible for being aware of this and alert to excessive breathing during hot weather.

Solutions: Dog Safety Basics

Knowing how frequently injuries occur during play, which dogs are more affected, as well as the locations, weather, and other factors that might be harmful, will significantly reduce the number of play events. However, there are a few tips, methods, and products that can assist even more.

Warming up and cooling down: This is a habit that all dog owners should engage in. It will significantly lower the risk of muscle, joint, and bone injuries, particularly in younger and older dogs.

Overtraining; Recognizing when enough is enough: Even though exercise is essential for your dog’s health, there can be too much of a good thing, especially for young dogs. What level of activity is therefore ideal? A decent general guideline is to exercise your dog for 5 minutes each day, up to twice per day, for each month of its age.

Boots, waxes, and paw protection Booties are the best tool for preventing foot injuries, despite being difficult to put on and occasionally stay on. Particularly for extremely rough or uneven terrain, such as hiking routes, especially for extremely hot or cold surfaces. Additionally effective at assisting with and treating overused paw pads are waxes.

Appropriate toys: Only use common pet-safe toys

  • Instead of a ball, use a frisbee because it doesn’t bounce, tends to travel a shorter distance, and even if it doesn’t always fly straight (for some, like me), it tends to stay more on the path and away from danger areas. A dog-specific frisbee should be used since regular toy store frisbees, which can shatter into sharp shards, are not pet-safe.
  • Use caution when using stray sticks and garbage that is lying around.

Always wear a life jacket: Dogs lack the self-control to stop when they are too fatigued to continue swimming, even in shallow waters.

Never play vigorous games while a dog is restrained: I know we’ve said this before, but we felt it was important to reiterate because play incidents involving restrained dogs nearly always result in catastrophic injuries. If you absolutely have to bind your dog, only use a rear clip harness point, and keep the activity level as low as possible.

Although competing athletes’ dogs go through rigorous routine fitness, most dog owners are unaware of this. But by gradually introducing your dog to any sport, you are essentially conditioning your dog for the activity. As an illustration, frisbee throwing would finally begin with short throws of just a few feet and progressively advance to long launches and high-flying acrobatic catches over the course of several weeks or even months.

Final thoughts

Now that you are aware of the typical reasons for injuries, all you need to do is watch out for your dog and avoid the urge to allow him to play in places or with toys that could be harmful to his health. It is advised to have routine exams with your veterinarian, and it can be beneficial to talk to them about any regular strenuous play you engage in. If your dog ever displays any signs of injury while playing, even a slight limp or unusual behavior like excessively scratching their face, stop right away. If the problem does not go away in 10 to 15 minutes, a trip to the vet may be required.

Regarding the Author: Simon has been working with dogs and other animals for more than 15 years and is passionate about everything four-legged. He is merely one of the authors of the helpful website dogviously, which offers dog owners all types of guidance.