Understanding Reverse Sneezing in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms, and Care

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Reverse sneezing is a peculiar behavior in dogs that can be concerning for many pet owners. However, we need to comprehend this phenomenon to ensure responsible pet care. In this article, we will delve into the world of reverse sneezing in dogs, its potential causes, and how to provide proper care.

I. What is Reverse Sneezing?

Reverse Sneezing in Dogs

Reverse sneezing, also known as inspiratory paroxysmal respiration or the pharyngeal gag reflex. It is a common occurrence in dogs. During a reverse sneezing episode, dogs rapidly draw in air through their noses, resulting in noisy and forceful inhalations.

The sound may resemble a snorting, honking, or choking noise and can be quite alarming to witness. Unlike regular sneezing, which exhales air to clear the nasal passages, reverse sneezing draws air inward to relieve irritation.

II. Recognizing Reverse Sneezing: Symptoms and Triggers

Recognizing reverse sneezing in dogs is important for pet owners to differentiate it from other respiratory issues. Understanding the symptoms and potential triggers can help you respond effectively when your dog experiences a reverse sneezing episode.

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A) Symptoms of Reverse Sneezing

  • Rapid and forceful inhalations through the nose.
  • Loud snorting, honking, or choking-like sounds.
  • Occasional gagging or retching noises.
  • Extension of the neck and head during the episode.
  • Stillness or frozen posture while inhaling rapidly.

B) Triggers of Reverse Sneezing

a) Environmental Irritants

Allergens such as pollen, dust, mold, or smoke can trigger reverse sneezing in sensitive dogs.

b) Excitement

Dogs may experience reverse sneezing when they are overly excited or worked up, especially during playtime or meeting new people or animals.

c) Pulling on the leash.

Some dogs may reverse sneeze in response to leash pulling, which can put pressure on their neck and throat.

d) Temperature changes

Sudden changes in temperature, particularly exposure to cold air or moving from indoors to outdoors, may trigger reverse sneezing.

e) Foreign objects

Inhalation of small foreign particles, such as grass seeds or other debris, can irritate the nasal passages and induce reverse sneezing.

f) Allergic Reactions

Dogs with allergies may be more prone to reverse sneezing when exposed to specific allergens in their environment.

g) Excited Eating or Drinking

Some dogs may reverse sneeze after eating or drinking rapidly, possibly due to the excitement or ingesting small amounts of food or water down the wrong way.

C) Responding to Reverse Sneezing Episodes

a) Stay Calm

Dogs can pick up on their owners’ emotions, so remaining calm and composed can help reassure your pet during a reverse sneezing episode.

b) Comfort and Reassure

Gently pet your dog or talk to them in a soothing voice to offer comfort and reassurance.

c) Massage the Throat

Lightly massaging your dog’s throat during a reverse sneezing episode can help encourage swallowing and may stop the episode sooner.

d) Cover the Nose

Placing your hand over your dog’s nose for a brief moment can sometimes prompt them to swallow, which can also help end the episode.

e) Check for Triggers

If possible, identify potential triggers that may have caused the reverse sneezing and make adjustments to avoid or minimize exposure in the future.

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III. Breeds Predisposed to Reverse Sneezing

Certain dog breeds are more prone to experiencing reverse sneezing episodes. Brachycephalic breeds, characterized by their short and flat faces, such as Bulldogs, Pugs, and Boxers, are often predisposed to this behavior due to their unique facial anatomy. Additionally, small dog breeds and toy breeds may also be more susceptible to reverse sneezing.

IV. When to Seek Veterinary Attention

Reverse Sneezing in Dogs

In the majority of cases, reverse sneezing is a harmless and self-limiting behavior that does not require immediate medical attention.

However, if reverse sneezing in dogs becomes frequent, prolonged, or has other concerning symptoms it is crucial to consult your veterinarian. Persistent or severe reverse sneezing could be a sign of an underlying health issue that needs attention.

V. Home Care and Remedies for Reverse Sneezing

During a reverse sneezing episode, it’s essential for pet owners to remain calm and reassure their dogs. Gently massaging the dog’s throat or covering its nose with your hand may help encourage them to swallow, potentially stopping the episode sooner.

Addressing potential triggers is also essential to minimize reverse sneezing frequency. Using an air purifier in your home, avoiding exposure to smoke or strong odors, and keeping your dog’s living area clean and free of allergens can all be beneficial.

VI. Veterinary Diagnosis and Treatment

Reverse Sneezing in Dogs

When your dog experiences frequent or concerning reverse sneezing episodes, seeking veterinary advice is crucial to ensuring their health and well-being. A veterinarian will conduct a thorough examination and may employ various diagnostic methods to determine the underlying cause of reverse sneezing.

A) Veterinary Diagnosis

a) Physical Examination

The veterinarian will perform a comprehensive physical examination, including observing your dog’s breathing pattern, listening to their lung and heart sounds, and inspecting their nasal passages for any abnormalities or irritants.

b) Medical History

Providing your dog’s medical history, including any recent changes in their environment or exposure to potential triggers, can help the veterinarian in the diagnostic process.

c) Diagnostic Imaging

In some cases, X-rays or other imaging techniques may be used to evaluate the nasal passages, throat, and airways for any structural issues or foreign objects.

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d) Allergy Testing

If you found any allergies as a trigger for reverse sneezing, your veterinarian may recommend allergy testing to identify specific allergens.

e) Rhinoscopy

A rhinoscopy is another diagnosis procedure for more complex cases. It is a procedure, where a small, flexible tube with a camera is inserted into the nasal passages to visualize and evaluate the nasal structures more closely.

B) Treatment Methods

The treatment approach for reverse sneezing will depend on the underlying cause identified during the diagnostic process.

a) Antihistamines

If allergies are the suspected trigger, antihistamines may be prescribed to manage the allergic response and reduce episodes of reverse sneezing.

b) Corticosteroids

In cases of inflammation or respiratory irritation, corticosteroids may be prescribed to reduce swelling and provide relief.

c) Allergen Avoidance

If specific allergens are identified through allergy testing, your veterinarian will recommend strategies to minimize your dog’s exposure to these triggers.

d) Antibiotics

If an upper respiratory infection is suspected, antibiotics may be prescribed to treat the infection and alleviate symptoms.

e) Nasal Flushing

In some cases, nasal flushing may be performed to remove any foreign objects or debris from the nasal passages.

f) Surgical Intervention

In rare instances where structural abnormalities or masses are causing the reverse sneezing, surgical intervention may be necessary to address the issue.

VII. Lifestyle Changes to Reduce Reverse Sneezing

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle for your dog can significantly impact reverse sneezing episodes. Providing a balanced diet, regular exercise, and managing your dog’s weight can contribute to their overall well-being and potentially reduce reverse sneezing episodes. Limiting exposure to potential triggers, such as dust, pollen, mold, or certain household cleaners, can also be helpful.

VIII. Addressing Reverse Sneezing in Puppies and Senior Dogs

Reverse Sneezing in Dogs

Reverse sneezing can occur at any age, but it may be more common in puppies and senior dogs. Puppies are more susceptible due to their developing immune systems and exposure to new environments, while senior dogs may experience reverse sneezing as a result of age-related changes in their respiratory and immune systems. Providing extra care and monitoring during these life stages can be beneficial to ensure their comfort and well-being.


Reverse sneezing, though strange to witness, is usually harmless and manageable with proper care and attention. By understanding the causes, recognizing the triggers, and making necessary adjustments, you can provide your furry companion with the support they need. Remember, your veterinarian is always there to provide guidance and address any concerns you may have about your dog’s health and well-being.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Is reverse sneezing harmful to my dog?

A: Reverse sneezing is typically harmless and self-limiting, but if it becomes severe or frequent, consult your veterinarian.

Q: Can I prevent reverse sneezing in my dog?

A: While you can’t completely prevent reverse sneezing, managing potential triggers and maintaining your dog’s health can help reduce episodes.

Q: Should I be worried if my puppy experiences reverse sneezing?

A: Reverse sneezing is relatively common in puppies and is often not a cause for concern. However, monitor their health and consult a veterinarian if needed.

Q: Can allergies cause reverse sneezing in dogs?

A: Yes, allergies can be a potential trigger for reverse sneezing in dogs. Identifying and managing allergens can help reduce episodes.

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