Dog Shaking His Body

Dog Sneezing a Lot and Shaking His Head: Cause for Concern


No matter if your dog mate is a pup or an adult, a cute sneeze is undoubtedly an adorable thing to watch as a pet owner. After a good bath, we also know that our dogs shake their heads to remove any water trapped in the ear canal. Although these are regular behaviors we see, a dog sneezing a lot and shaking his head excessively could be something to worry about.

So it is clear that if a dog suddenly sneezes without interuption, you know this is a condition that can become serious and may require medical advice. For that, it is important to understand what the common causes of these behavioral changes are.

Dog Sneezing a Lot Due to Nasal Mites

Nasal mites are parasitic insects that usually host in the nasal passage and paranasal sinuses of dogs. They are about 1 millimeter in size and therefore can be seen from the naked eye. Nasal mites are scientifically known as Pneumonyssoides caninum or Pneumonyssus caninum.

Dog Shaking His Head - Advice & Solutions

This parasitic infection is reported in dogs from all parts of the world, including America, South Africa, Australia, France, Iran, Denmark, Sweden, and Japan. There is no evidence that this parasitic infection is zoonotic so that you won’t get a nasal mite from your dog.

How Can Your Dog Get Nasal Mites?

They transmit from one dog to another either directly, which is also known as nose-to-nose transmission through sniffing each other’s snouts, or indirectly. Nasal mites are highly contagious amongst dogs. Your pet may be a victim of this parasitic infection regardless of his breed or age.

However, some studies have been done on this disease, and the results show that dogs older than 3 years are more susceptible to catch it compared to younger ones and the large breed dogs are more prone to get them than small breeds.

Other Clinical Signs

The common signs of nasal mites other than a dog sneezing a lot and shaking his head are nasal bleeding, ithing nose, excessive itchiness in the facial area, nasal discharges and abnormal sounds during inspiration due to labored breathing. The sound indicates that the airway is obstructed.

Suppose you notice a combination of the above signs. In that case, prompt veterinary care will lower the risk of further damages and provide your dog a quick relief from pain since, as you can imagine, this can become a painful and irritating condition.

How To Diagnose?

Quick and proper diagnosis is always helpful to initiate an effective treatment process as soon as possible. If your veterinarian suspects nasal mites considering the clinical signs, a radiographic image or a CT scan will be recommended.

dog is shaking his body vigorously

These images provide a good picture of the nasal passage and the paranasal sinuses, where nasal mites usually live. Imaging is a primary diagnostic technique for parasites, but there are other more accurate diagnostic techniques as well. They are nasal flushing, nasopharyngoscopy, rhinoscopy, and nasal cell biopsy.

Nasal flushing and rhinoscopy are the most effective diagnostic techniques for this specific parasitic infection. But, these techniques are best applied following imaging since, unlike imaging, these don’t track primary infection as effectively.

Rhinoscopy provides a good view of the caudal nasal passage up to the nasopharynx and, most importantly, a view of the nasal choanae. To perform nasal flushing, your doggy should be under general anesthesia. A tube is either entered through nostrils to flush saline in order to collect it near the oropharynx or through the oral cavity to perform retrograde flush towards the nasal cavity.

The fluid is then collected and observed by an illuminated magnifying lens to see if mites are present. Secondary to the primary parasitic infection, a bacterial or fungal infection can also be observed.

Sadly none of the above diagnostic techniques can be used to conclude whether it’s a primary or secondary infection. There is a separate set of tests to run in order to identify whether there is a secondary bacterial or fungal infection present.

Dog Sneezing a Lot - What to Do


What Are The Treatments Available?

Unfortunately, there is no globally recognized treatment method identified yet for P.caninum. However, reportedly 85% of the cases treated with a set of antiparasitic medications have been a success in treating nasal mites.

These drugs are ivermectin (200-400mcg/kg, SC or PO) and milbemycin oxime (1mg/kg, three times at 10 days intervals) along with a topical application known as selamectin. Even with this treatment, sometimes the disease will not be fully cured, meaning there could still be behavioral changes due to irritation and pain episodes.

You have to take your pet back to the veterinarian if the treatment cannot completely eliminate the disease. In this case, the veterinarian may suspect your dog is suffering from a different disease of his upper airways, such as Brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS) or rhinitis.

Inhaling of Barbed Grass Seeds

Foxtails are the barbed heads of seeds of a type of grass mainly grown in dry grasslands. These may accidentally enter our dog’s snouts while he is sniffing around. The dogs with long ears like basset hounds or beagles, the short ones like pugs or corgis, and those with a long fur coat like golden retrievers and cocker spaniels are more likely to get foxtails in their body. These may embed into their fur coat, toes, skin, ears, eyes, or nose.

How Can I Know if My Pet Has Inhaled a Foxtail?

If he gets one into his nose, he will start sneezing continuously, which will develop into a very vigorous sneezing shock. He will also try to use his paws to scratch his snout. If these behaviors seem to persist following a walk to a grassland, contact your vet and let him know what is going on.

The foxtails might also get into the eyes and ears. The ones trapped in the ears are even more dangerous, because they may damage the eardrum. Here the dog will show signs of discomfort and will shake his head vigorously, thinking this will help remove what is trapped in his ears.

Other signs are red eyes and inflammation of the skin.

Dog Sneezes Suddenly - Tips & Advice

What Is The Danger of This?

  • The barbed heads come in with sniffing, may move inwardly, and cause lung damage.
  • They can cause damage to the nasal passage and cause inflammation and infections.
  • The foxtails may obstruct the airway and cause breathing difficulties.
  • They may move to paranasal sinuses as well and cause sinusitis.
  • The ones that enter through the skin may cause spinal cord injury or damage to internal organs.
  • The ones entering the ear canal may pierce the eardrum and cause severe pain, lack of balance when walking, and impaired hearing. Foxtails may damage the interior of the ear canal and cause infection. The infection can give rise to various other conditions. Also, you can imagine how painful it can be to have an ear or nasal infection and be unable to ask somebody to look into it.

dog is sneezing

Reaction to Barb Grass seeds: How is it Treated?

The veterinarian will put your pet under general anesthesia and remove the trapped foxtails from the nasal passage and ear canal using tweezers. Prompt medical care is crucial since if something like piercing of the eardrum happens, there is no way to repair that.

If the foxtail barbs have caused injury or if there is already an infection, your pet will be prescribed antibiotics based to the severity of the infection.

Dog Sneezing a Lot: Prevention Measures

Try not to take him on walks in overgrown grassy areas. Instead, consider hikes or well-maintained grasslands. Search for foxtails or any other barbed seed trapped in his fur, especially around his nose or ears, and remove them right after returning home from a walk.

A dog sneezing a lot and shaking his head or if he suddenly sneezes and can’t stop are behavioral changes (symptoms) that deserve your attention and may prompt immediate medical attention.