Shiba Inu Sneezing Fits: What Causes Them And How To Help


A few short months of getting a Shiba Inu I noticed she sneezed far more frequently than I remembered other family pets. Worried my puppy was sick I started doing some research and realized sneezing is a common and normal thing for dogs to do, let me explain.

If your Shiba Inu is sneezing but healthy, there is nothing to worry about. It is common and natural for a dog to sneeze when they are playing, excited, seeking attention, or clearing their nose after investigating something. However, frequent sneezing from a sick dog warrants a visit to the vet.

I was shocked to learn I had nothing to worry about, but then I started having other questions. Why does my dog sometimes honk when she sneezes? If it’s normal and natural, how do I know when she is sick? How can I tell she is having an allergic reaction if sneezing isn’t a warning?

So I went out and learned what I could about deciphering sneezing so I could understand which ones I should and should not worry about. Here is what I learned.

How to tell what is causing your dog to sneeze and why

Dogs have a language of their own and at times will rely heavily on sneezing to relay a message. It could be as simple as clearing out their nose, to being excited while playing, to sneezing to get your attention, and much more.

As long as your Shiba Inu is eating normally, has loads of energy, and isn’t dripping snot everywhere you don’t have anything to worry about. 

That being said it can be confusing or even alarming at times when your pet starts sneezing out of nowhere, then is seemingly fine or is acting like you own them something.

Everything I was able to piece together and understand I wrote out below to share with my fellow confused pet owners, please continue reading if you’d like.

If your dog has a nose bleed please skip to the very bottom of this page.

Excited and playful dogs will sneeze to show they are happy

If you have ever noticed your Shiba sneezing randomly while playing with their toys or other pets it’s to show they aren’t taking things seriously and are having a lot of fun.

These are typically called “play sneezes”.

Dogs show they are agitated, stressed, or concerned with barking, growling, and showing teeth. These show your pet is tense and not interested or happy with the situation they are in. All of these are signs your dog wants whatever is going on to stop or leave.

They also have cues to show they are enjoying something, a big one being short quick sneezes. These show they aren’t stressed, are relaxed, aren’t too serious, and are happy with what they are doing.

Sometimes they sneeze at the floor, and other times they’ll get your face. Thankfully there is no ill will here, but it can be a bit annoying.

The morning sneeze routine

Frequent or even consistent sneezing every morning is usually caused by one of two things, excitement or allergies.

Your Shiba could be excited about being able to spend time with you, eat breakfast, go for a walk, or possibly want to play.

Consistent morning sneezing could also be caused by dust, loose hair or fur, pollen, or a number of other things. Allergies in dogs have many signs and symptoms, check our allergy section towards the bottom of the post for more details.

Your shiba inu may be huffing or sneezing to get your attention

As crazy as it sounds there are times your dog will sneeze to actually get your attention.

These ones are usually short, will only be done a few times, and are typically followed up by your dog staring directly at you.

Using a sharp and quick noise to get your dog’s attention, like clapping or snapping, works wonders at breaking your dog’s train of thought and getting them to focus their attention on you. The same can be done in reverse to us, and your dog isn’t afraid to do so.

What a reverse sneeze is and why you shouldn’t worry

If you have ever heard your Shiba Inu making odd honking sounds or have a short wheezing fit, you just heard your pet reverse sneeze. Reverse sneezing sounds like a scary respiratory issue but is actually a harmless and surprisingly common occurrence in dogs. 

Reverse sneezes are also called Paroxysmal Respiration or a Pharyngeal Gag Reflex.

Just like the name implies, reverse sneezing is the polar opposite of a regular sneeze. Your dog inhales air sharply out of either excitement or to try and remove a possible irritant, such as dust, to clear out their throat or nose.

While reverse sneezing your Shiba will commonly extend their head and neck while standing and start sharply breathing in, making those weird honking noises. You may also notice your dog also making snorting or gagging noises, this is also normal and natural. Generally these last anywhere from a few seconds to just under a minute.

If your Shiba is still reverse sneezing after around a minute and you would like to help them, try the following:

  • Gently start massaging their throat   –   Gently massaging your dog’s throat will help them calm down and may bring their reverse sneezing under control.
  • Cover their nostrils   –   Cover their nose for a second or two, this will cause them to swallow a few times which interrupts the spasms causing them to reverse sneeze.
  • Offer them water   –   Drinking water will cause your dog to swallow, bring the spasms under control and will help them stop sneezing.

If you can take note of the cause of the sudden sneezing episode, such as your pet sniffing a full dustpan, cleaning product, or perfume. 

Do what you can to keep those items away from your pet in the future. Although rare, your Shiba may be having an allergic reaction to that specific product or irritant, check with your vet to get their opinion.

Sneezing, even frequently, by itself does not mean your dog is sick

Common colds and viral infections in dogs are displayed in a variety of ways, but sneezing is not a sign your Shiba is sick.

If your pet is having a hard time breathing or is constantly coughing and wheezing you may notice they sneeze more frequently, but that’s due to a runny nose and abnormal nasal discharge.

The things to look out for if you believe your Shiba Inu is sick are the following:

  • Lack of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Issues going to the bathroom
  • Coughing, wheezing, or nasal discharge
  • Mood swings or a personality shift

If you notice your pet displaying any, or several, of these symptoms it is best you schedule an appointment with your vet and get them checked.

A mild cold usually resolves on its own with a little time, but if it turns out to be something more serious you will be given a step-by-step treatment plan by your veterinarian.

How to tell if your dog is sneezing due to allergies

Sneezing by itself is not a sign of an allergic reaction.

But sneezing in combination with some of the following warning signs below may be a sign of an allergic reaction.

Allergies in dogs have multiple signs that when present warrant a visit to the vet. Here is a list of common signs of doggy allergies and their usually causes:

  • Sneezing with a runny nose   –   Can a sign of seasonal allergies, if you notice them while your pet has a fever you should seek vet treatment
  • Runny eyes   –   Can be as simple as a minor irritant in your pup’s eye or an allergy, but can also be as serious as an upper respiratory infection or even eye damage. Check with your vet to rule out the worst ang make sure your shiba is healthy.
  • Swelling around the face or throat   –   Caused by an acute allergic reaction, usually from a bug bite or sting. A swollen face or snout is extremely serious and means your pet may go into anaphylactic shock. Drop everything and make an emergency vet visit on the spot.
  • Itchy ears   –   An itchy ear or ears does not require emergency medical attention with an impromptu vet visit, but should be brought up during a routine check-up. However, if you notice your shiba is constantly tilting their head to one side or having trouble walking you should seek medical attention.
  • Itching & hives   –   This is the most common sign of an allergic reaction in dogs. If this is the only sign you see you can take a day or so to schedule a vet appointment, but if you notice other symptoms along with this one, you should make a trip to your veterinarian.
  • Constant skin chewing or licking   –   Constant licking and chewing, especially around feet, are a sign your dog is having an allergic reaction. This could be from a food allergy or possible exposure to an irritant while on a walk. This does not require immediate medical attention but an appointment should be set at your earliest convenience.
  • Vomiting, diarrhea, or an upset stomach   –   If you notice your dog has diarrhea or is vomiting quite often you should visit your vet as soon as possible. This could be a sign of an allergic reaction or as serious as an early sign of an anaphylactic reaction.

Knowing the warning signs of an allergic reaction is helpful but they alone do not tell you what your pet is going through. Getting to know the four main types of allergies dogs typically have will help you understand the type of problem your pet is having.

Those main types of allergies are: acute allergies, food allergies, seasonal allergies, and skin allergies. Each one is different and usually has their own specific warnings, but some are shared among them.

Acute allergies   –   Usually caused by bug bites or stings and comes with the following warning signs: facial swelling, vomiting, or even trouble breathing and an anaphylaxis reaction in serious cases. An immediate vet visit and medical attention is 

Food allergies   –   Common warning signs are an upset stomach, diarrhea, and vomiting but can also show themselves as skin conditions such as dry and itchy skin or even fur loss. 

Seasonal allergies   –   Believe it or not, dogs and other pets can have seasonal allergies just like people do. Generally shows itself as constant sneezing, licking, skin chewing, and sometimes an ear infection like clockwork around the same time every year.

Skin allergies   –   Dry skin, constant itching, skin redness, or hives (small red bumps over the skin) are skin allergies signs usually caused by exposure to fleas, ticks, yard chemicals, harsh cleaning chemicals, or even a sign of a food allergy. Tends to resolve itself and heal quickly when you remove the irritant from your dog’s affected areas.

We also have another post going into common Shiba Inu health problems and allergiesOpens in a new tab. in more detail.

If you notice excessive nasal discharge or bleeding, Immediately contact your vet

Excessive snot dripping from your pet’s nose is a possible warning sign of a possible allergy, cold, or medical issue. You should contact your vet to get their opinion and possibly book an appointment if they recommend it.

If you ever notice your Shiba Inu’s nose is dripping blood, along with snot, drop everything and take them to your vet immediately. Nasal blood is an indicator of a much more serious medical issue and emergency.

Nose bleeds in dogs are usually caused by either trauma or an upper respiratory infection.

What to do if you notice your dog’s nose bleeding:

  1. Stay calm   –   Any potential panic could excite your pet and cause them to panic themselves or for their blood pressure to spike, causing them to possibly bleed more.
  1. Clean and wrap their snout  –   If your dog allows it, do what you can to clean the outside of their nose and wrap it in ice and paper towels. This will help numb any pain they are in, reduce swelling, and help keep them from leaving a trail of blood everywhere.
  1. Contact your vet   –   Once you have things under control call your vet to explain the situation and book an appointment. If you think they got into any kind of medicine or cleaning product, take them to the vet immediately.
  1. Meeting the vet   –   Your vet will want a run down of what happened and a list of any possible medication or cleaning products your pet got into, if they did. After that they will go through a physical exam and run blood work to see if anything is in your dog’s system. They may also swab your dog’s nose to check for any possible bacteria or fungi.
  1. Treatment and recovery   –   This step depends heavily on what your vet finds to be the underlying cause of your shiba’s nose bleed. Here are a list of common causes and their solutions:
    • Bacterial/fungal infections – You’ll be given medicine and a schedule to follow.
    • Dental infection – A dental procedure will need to be done, followed by a medication schedule and checkup.
    • Mites – A cleaning treatment will be done and you will have to follow a regular routine with either topical ointments or oral medications.
    • Trauma – Generally the swelling will reduce over time, keep an eye on your pet and follow any medication or cleaning routines you are recommended for your specific situation.
    • Tumors or growths – Will require more extensive ongoing treatment and varies case by case. Follow what your veterinarian recommends.

Colby Adkins

I am a proud Shiba Inu owner who is just looking to share any tips, tricks, or advice I have to help others.

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