Dogs are amazing animals whose quirky habits never cease to fascinate their owners.
However, some dogs may display odd behaviors that their owners may worry about.
One such behavior is when their dogs sneeze upside down when lying on thier backs.
Why Do Dogs Sneeze When On Their Back Upside Down?
Dogs sneeze upside when lying on their back down for several reasons, including photic sneeze reflex (PSR), forcing out the irritants that go down their nasal cavity, or relieving themselves of the excess mucus sliding down the back of their nasal passage.
Sometimes, it can also just be a playful expression.
While it may seem alarming, it should not be a cause for concern. In this article, I will discuss why dogs sneeze upside down and if there is anything you can or should do about it.
Four Possible Reasons Why Dogs Sneeze Upside Down On Their Back
Sneezing is a natural human or dog protective response to environmental factors that can irritate the mucus membranes inside our nasal cavity.
This reflex aims to eliminate possible threats, such as viruses or allergens before they can enter the body.
While this scientific explanation is something most people are aware of, there aren’t many scientific studies to explain why dogs tend to sneeze when they lie upside down on their backs.
There are, however, some theories that have scientific backing to explain this event.
Let’s look into some of the most common ones.
1. Canine Photic Sneeze Reflex (PSR)
Have you noticed the urge to sneeze when you step out of your house in the morning and look up at the bright morning sun?
That urge and the subsequent sneezing fit result from the so-called photic sneeze reflex.
While it calls for more research, some existing studies have observed that the photic sneeze reflex is a genetic condition children can inherit from their parents.
However, not all people have the condition, as only up to a third of the world’s human population has it.
Animals like cats and dogs are also likely to have the condition due to their strong dependence on their sense of smell for survival.
However, like humans, not all dogs may possess such a reflex.
Although the actual mechanism of the reflex needs further studies, it is widely believed that sudden exposure to bright light triggers the sneezing reflex.
NOTE – You might like to read this post if you want to learn about why dogs hyperventilate.
2. Irritants Have Entered Your Dog’s Nose
Dogs have extremely sensitive noses, which can be up to 100,000 times more sensitive than humans’ noses.
As a result, they can recognize irritants more quickly than we can, potentially resulting in a lot of sneezing.
You may notice your dog sneezing more when it is lying upside down.
One possible reason is that there are many irritants present on the floor.
These irritants include the following:
- Dust on the floor or rug may get into your dog’s nose more easily.
- Shed fur from rubbing your dog’s belly.
- Random particles or allergens are present in the air.
Although your dog will most likely inhale them even without lying down, being upside down makes it easier for these irritants to go down your dog’s nasal cavity.
Once inside, they can irritate the mucus membranes and trigger a sneezing fit.
3. Mucus Is Sliding Down the Dog’s Nasal Cavity
Mucus serves as one of the body’s first lines of defense against infection.
Dogs generally have so much moisture in their noses, especially when excited.
So suddenly, lying upside-down on their backs may cause this moisture to trickle down into the back of your dog’s nasal cavity.
As a result, the receptors inside the dog’s nose will recognize it as a threat and try to expel it. If this were indeed the reason, your dog might sneeze several times until the nose is clear of mucus.
NOTE – You might also enjoy reading this post about why dogs huff and puff.
4. Your Dog Is Being Playful
Centuries of companionship with humans have helped dogs become more expressive of their emotions, and they have developed ways to communicate their feelings to their humans.
Some dogs release a sneeze-like or snort-like sound when they want to get their human’s attention.
When your dogs lie on their back with their paws up and sneeze while looking at you, chances are they want you to play with them or give them a belly rub.
They will most likely make the same sound when they feel excited, even when they are up on all fours, which is a telltale sign that it is not a physiologic sneeze.
If you’ve raised a few dogs, you may have noticed similar behavior from them, as it is common among most dog breeds.
This video shows a great example of a playful sneeze from Katie, the gorgeous Great Dane:
NOTE – You might also like to read this post asking: do dogs like eye contact with humans?
What To Do When Your Dog Sneezes Upside Down On Their Back
Although a sneeze is generally a sign of irritation and serves as a physiological response against infection, you should not panic the instant your dog sneezes.
As discussed, your dog may be just being playful.
What you can do is observe your dog and perhaps ask these questions:
- Does your dog keep on sneezing even when standing on all fours?
- Does your dog have excessive watery discharge from the eyes and nose?
If your answer to both questions is no, there’s no need to worry.
However, if your dogs continue to sneeze even after taking care of these issues, and there’s watery discharge from their noses and eyes, you may want to contact your vet for help.
Your dog may be suffering from medical issues, such as an allergic reaction to something in the environment.
As eager as dogs are to express their feelings to their humans, every dog owner’s responsibility is to pay attention to their dog’s physical health.
You should also recognize if there is any potential danger in your dog’s sneezing fit and address it accordingly.
If you are in financial difficulty and are worried about vet bills, this website has some useful resources for charities that can help you pay your bills.
Why Do Dogs Sneeze On Their Back – Some Final Notes
Dogs sneeze when upside on their back for several different reasons. While most are physiologic or medical, some are behavioral.
Observe your dog’s behavior to determine if they want to play or if there is an underlying medical issue.
A few sneezes from your dog while lying upside down do not necessarily indicate something serious.
However, repeated sneezing fits, even when your dog is not upside down, could be a sign of something more serious and may require a visit to the vet.
Tim is a proud, vetted, and experienced dog foster carer for a charity helping dog owners escape domestic abuse.
He has years of experience training and caring for dogs, both his own and other people’s.
He is an expert in canine behavior and is highly skilled in dealing with all dogs but specializes in the difficult ones that other people may struggle with.
When he isn’t fostering dogs, he is making friends with other people’s pups!