Why is my Pet Sneezing?
Pets will sneeze for one of two reasons. Either the mucous membranes of the nasal cavity are inflamed, or there is some sort of foreign material present in their nasal passages. Nasal membranes become inflamed if a pet was exposed to an irritant or if the pet has contracted an upper respiratory infection.
Common Reasons Dogs and Cats Sneeze: Most of the sneezing dogs and cats that veterinarians examine have contracted upper respiratory infections. Often the only symptom of these mild infections is the sneezing. Pets commonly get exposed to these microbes at kennels, doggie parks, grooming parlors, or pet stores. These colds are most commonly caused by airborne viruses and bacteria. One specific virus of cats that is often the root cause of sneezing is the feline herpes virus, also known as feline rhinotracheitis. Other viruses such as calici virus, as well as bacteria such as chlamydia and mycoplasma are also common causes of sneezing in our feline companions. Although sneezing may be the only sign of infection, most cats have inflamed eye membranes as well, and some may even have a low grade fever. Some cats are silent carriers of these respiratory viruses and bacteria and show little symptoms, however physical or emotional stress may trigger an outbreak in a susceptible animal.
The two most "common cold" viruses of dogs are the Parainfluenza virus and the Type-2 Adenovirus. Other bacteria including Pasteurella, bordatella, and Mycoplasma may also be involved. There are also many noninfectious causes of sneezing in dogs and cats as well. Household irritants, including dustry litter, perfumes, cleaners, cigarette smoke and many others may cause sensitive pets to sneeze. Pollens and molds in the air may also cause sneezing in allergic pets. Foreign bodies including grass or seedpods may also lodge in the nasal passages and cause sneezing and discharge. With one-sided nasal discharge and sneezing in older pets, nasal polyps and/or tumors must also be considered as differentials. Finally, tooth root abcesses involving the back upper premolar teeth may cause sneezing and nasal discharge as well. Certain breeds known as bracheocephalic breeds may have compressed nasal passages or a flat face, and are more likely to sneeze due to infection or irritants.
Treatment Options for a Sneezing Dog or Cat: Many cases of mild sneezing and nasal discharge do not require aggressive treatment, and will often resolve on their own within 2 weeks. However, if a pet has symptoms of lethargy, fever or discomfort, a more serious respiratory infection may be present, and broad spectrum antibiotics may be indicated to treat or prevent secondary bacterial infections. There are no proven effective prescription antiviral oral medications for pets, and often supportive care and/or immune stimulants are indicated. If nostrils become raw or inflamed, a bland ophthalmic ointment and frequent cleaning of the nose with warm, cotton balls or gauze may be all that is needed. The amino acid L-Lysine has been often effective in cases of cats with herpes viral sneezing, and I have found the product Vetri-lysine plus soft chews helpful in many cases. Vetri DMG liquid is also an effective immune stimulant in both dogs and cats to help with both viral and bacterial infections. Placing a few drops of an ophthalmic or nasal saline rinse into the pet's nostrils a few times a day may also help. In cases of allergic sneezing, antihistamines like Chlorpheniramine or Benadryl may also help lessen severity of symptoms. In pets with severe nasal symptoms, steam vaporization, nebulization, or taking the pet into a hot shower area may help open up the nasal passages and clear nasal discharge and exudate. Foreign bodies that have lodged in the nasal passages may require manual removal at surgery or using a special small endoscope. Some polyps and/or small tumors may also be removed in this way, however nasal tumors are very aggressive and usually require chemo and/or radiation therapy to help lessen symptoms.