Why Does My Dog Sneeze When Lying on His Back?

Just like humans, sneezing is an involuntary action dogs experience as well. It’s a way for the body to remove foreign particles or irritants that get lodged in the nose or throat. Dogs also have a section in their brains referred to as the “sneeze center,” which regulates and controls all the muscles, nerves, and organs needed to stimulate a sneeze.

When your dog sneezes, the foreign particles he may be trying to expel could be dust, insects, vapor, chemicals, or plenty of other possible irritants. The lodged foreign elements in their noses stimulate an immune response, resulting in them sneezing. However, aside from simply doing so when there is an infection or allergy issues flaring up, dogs can be also seen sneezing when they lie on their backs.

If you’re reading this article, then you’ve likely been asking, “Why does my dog sneeze when he lies on his back?” There are two reasons why dogs sneeze when lying on their backs. The first possibility is that it could be a result of trickling fluid in the back of their nose and throat causes an unpleasant tickling sensation, and the other is that it may be due to breed specificity.

Want to know more? Relax into your sofa, and keep reading!

Dogs Sneeze When Lying on Their Backs Due to Trickly Fluid Tickling the Back of Their Noses and Throats

If you own a dog, you’re likely very aware that your dog’s nose and nasal areas are usually wet with mucus. Sometimes, you’ll even see them using their tongues to lick their noses when the area has a lot of drainage.

When a dog lies on his or her back, the angle of their head changes. Because of this, the fluid that normally leaks out of their wet noses can’t drain out the usual way. This can result in that fluid instead dripping down the throat of your dog and triggering sneezing.

The sneezing reflex is often stimulated by this type of drainage. Hence, this is a common reason why most dogs sneeze when they lie on their backs. It is simply due to fluid dripping from their nose and instead going down their throats.

Furthermore, these primarily nasal fluids, especially draining mucus, can also harbor dust and other irritants that can facilitate sneezing. When your dog frequently sneezes more than usual, even when lying on his back, you will need to be sure to visit your veterinarian to ascertain the causes and to know the best way to proceed forward with your pet’s care.

Breed Specificity is Another Reason Why Your Dog May Sneeze When Lying on His Back

Another reason why a dog sneezes when lying on his/her back could be attributed to what is referred to as breed specificity. Brachycephalic breeds of dogs are especially known to sneeze more often when they lie on their backs. Examples of such breeds include Boston Terriers, Boxers, Bulldogs, Pekingese, Pugs, Rottweilers, and Shih Tzus.

These breeds are characterized by their palates that are typically enlarged, slightly softer, and looser. The soft palate is located in the back and at the bottom of the dog’s throat. This part of their anatomy helps in moving food into the esophagus and in preventing food from entering the lungs.

When your dog lies upside down, the loose soft palate drops down due to gravity. It then partially covers up the airway, and the nerves around the airway sense something is obstructing the path of breathing. A sneeze reflex is then often stimulated to dislodge the assumed “foreign element” (in this case, simply the soft palate).

This is often a normal occurrence in brachycephalic dogs, similar to how they typically always are found snoring when sleeping due to the same issues. However, it’s mandatory to see your veterinarian whenever your dogs display any signs of breathing difficulties following exercise. Due to the fact that a soft palate can commonly interfere with breathing, in some instances, your dog may need surgery to correct this problem.

Other Reasons Why Dogs Sneeze

Why Dogs Sneeze

A dog’s sense of smell is estimated to be 10,000 to 100,000 times more sensitive than the same sense in humans. This fact easily shows us how sensitive a dog’s olfactory organs are. This is also one of the reasons why dogs are used for hunting and other similar activities.

Beyond the most likely reasons for sneezing mentioned before now, the following are some additional reasons or factors that can also stimulate sneezes in your dog.

1.   Excitement

Another cause for sneezing in dogs is when they are excited. This may not apply to all dogs, but it can often happen in breeds that tend to curl their lips when having fun or playing. Because of that change in the facial muscles, this causes a dog to wrinkle their highly sensitive nose, and this can cause a “tickle” which the body then interprets as a signal for them to sneeze.

When dogs sneeze due to excitement, this is just a sign that your dog is healthy and that their body is responding well to certain cues. Therefore, there’s no cause for alarm when excitement seems to trigger sneezing in your dog.

2.   A Way of Communicating

Dogs can also communicate with one another through sneezing. This especially occurs when dogs are playing together. When dogs are having fun and interacting, they are constantly communicating through a number of sounds and body language cues.

A way to ascertain when a dog is communicating during a play is when a dog sneezes along with exhibiting various dog facial expressions, as well as other body language signals. Dogs occasionally do sneeze as a “calming signal” to other dogs, too. Dogs and even other animals have been seen using over 30 different calming signals when communicating amongst themselves.

3.   Gum and Tooth Problems

Gum and tooth problems in dogs are also factors that initiate sneezing in dogs. Dental issues such as infected gums and abscesses can cause infection in the sinus cavities, which will clearly come along with the associated symptoms of them having a runny nose and sneezing. Bad breath, yellow teeth, inflamed/bleeding gums, abnormal eating habits, abnormal growths, and other similar concerns are some of the signs you can look for to diagnose gum and tooth problems in dogs. Always be sure to consult your veterinarian when any of these issues seem to arise and your dog may be sick in some way.

4.   Nasal Mite Infection

Although thankfully not transmittable to humans, dogs can also get infected with nasal mites. These small parasites are transmittable to other animals and can cause nasal discharge, sneezing, nose bleeds, and itchiness in the facial region.

5.   Allergies

A dog can be allergic to a number of allergens like trees, mildew, weed, grass pollen, mold spores, dust mites, and more. The most commonly associated signs of allergies in any animal include sneezing and other symptoms such as itching, watery eyes, and/or chewing at the skin.

6.   Nasal Tumors

Another cause of sneezing in dogs, which may be accompanied by blood droplets at times, is nasal tumors. These tumors are masses of tissue that often affect longer-nosed dogs more than those with shorter snouts, and the tumors can be either benign or malignant.

7.   Inhaled Irritants and Infection

With dogs’ sensitive noses and their keen sense of smell, inhaling such irritants as secondhand tobacco smoke, lawn fertilizer, cleaning supplies, paint, and pesticides can easily be irritating and toxic to them. This type of exposure can lead to sneezing and even death if not managed properly.

Infection, on the other hand, can be bacterial, viral, parasitic, or even fungal. When your dog exhibits signs of any type of infection, it’s adamant that you take them to receive veterinary care as soon as possible to avoid serious side effects and potential long-term consequences.

Why Does My Dog Sneeze When He Gets His Tummy Rubbed?

A dog will often be glad to lie on his back to try and get his tummy rubbed, but sometimes he may sneeze uncontrollably in the face of his owner or another innocent person simply trying to help him out and give him some attention. This, again, is due to the sudden change in the direction of his head (turning upside down) mentioned earlier in this article.

The best way to try to control sneezing in this situation is to reposition the dog’s head to be as normal as possible instead of completely upside down. However, if this doesn’t seem to help and the sneezing seems to be a bit more serious of a concern, contacting your veterinarian or visiting the nearest veterinary clinic should be the next move you make to ensure your dog is healthy and has no other underlying issues occurring.


There are two main reasons why dogs sneeze when they lay on their back: it is either due to the dripping of mucus tickling down their throat, resulting in irritation and stimulation of the sneeze center; or it could be due to breed specificity since brachycephalic breeds of dogs are known for vigorous sneezing thanks to their elongated, soft, and loose soft palate.

See Also:
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How to Protect Your Air Mattress from Dog Damage
Why Won’t My Dog Leave My Other Dog Alone?
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stuart and his dog

Family Dog Expert Author

Hi there! I’m Stuart, a devoted dog lover and family dog expert with over a decade of experience working with our furry companions. My passion for dogs drives me to share my knowledge and expertise, helping families build strong, loving bonds with their four-legged friends. When I’m not writing for SirDoggie, you’ll find me hiking, playing with my beautiful dog, or studying music.