Cats and dogs sneeze all the time, just like we do. A bit of dust, grass or tiny piece of dirt can get up their nose as they rummage and sniff out an interesting smell in some tall grass or in a corner of the living room. Most of the time, sneezing is nothing to worry about. However, if your pet’s sneezing seems to be chronic, this could be a signal that something is wrong.
Cats and dogs are notorious for sticking their nose next to the ground in a clump of grass to follow a scent they picked up. My dogs are always sticking their nose in the grass around the fence of their pen as they follow the trail of a mouse or other small rodent that passed through it. Their only reward, besides a few minutes of excitement, is a series of sneezes to get rid of the loose dirt, snow or grass they inhaled up their nose.
Because cats and dogs use their nose to investigate their world, dust, pollen, dirt and small objects can easily be inhaled into the nasal cavity. Sneezing is a normal reaction to get rid of the irritation. Pets can also have allergic reactions to household cleaners, smoke, dust, perfumes, disinfected sprays, deodorants or dust from the cat litter. Scents and chemicals that bother us can also bother our pets. The best way to tell if a sneeze is caused by something irritating their nose is to pay attention to what you have on or how they react when you clean house or spray products in your home. A process of elimination can help you determine what the culprit is.
A cat that sneezes a lot may indicate they are dealing with an upper respiratory infection. The only way to be sure is by taking their temperature rectally. For both cats and dogs, their normal body temperature is 100.5 to 102.5. Touching their nose to decide if they are running a temperature does no good and will not tell you if they have a fever or not. Besides running a fever, a cat with an upper respiratory infection may have swollen eyes and glands, a running nose, coughing and sneezing. This is a highly contagious infection that can quickly be passed from cat to cat. It’s usually treated with antibiotics.
Cats and dogs can both be infected by a virus or bacteria that cause upper respiratory infections. Some cats who appear to be perfectly healthy can carry a virus, Herpes-1, their entire life and this virus is the cause for their sneezing. It’s like people who get cold sores all the time. Too much stress can activate the virus in their system. So a cat that carries Herpes-1 needs to be kept as quiet and stress free as possible.
Tumors in the nasal cavity or an abscessed tooth can cause sneezing. Anytime you see blood coming from your pet’s nose or mixed in with a nasal discharge, this can indicate a possible tumor or a bad tooth. Either case will require a vet’s attention. Most people don’t associate a bad tooth with sneezing. Good dental hygiene can help prevent a case of the sneezes with daily attention to their teeth. Cats and dogs have an upper tooth called the third upper tooth that has roots close to the nasal passages. This tooth and the ones next to it can cause your pet’s sneezing and nasal discharge if one of them is bad. So a check in their mouth can rule out a tooth problem if a nasal discharge accompanies a sneeze. A vet will need to run tests if a tumor is suspected to be the problem.
Certain breeds of dogs and cats have more problems with sneezing. Flat nosed dogs like Bulldogs or Pugs, and cats like Persians have a nasal passage that is more compressed than in other breeds.
Even though most sneezing is nothing to be concerned with, it’s always wise to pay attention to frequent sneezing to make sure it’s not something serious. If in doubt, a checkup with your vet can help ease your mind.
Read more articles by Linda Cole
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