Have you ever witnessed your pooch standing still with his neck/head extended forward as he makes alarming snorting or gagging noises? Read on to find out all about reverse sneezing. We're talking signs, possible triggers, and treatment.

Reverse Sneezing In Dogs: What Pup Parents Should Know


It happened again the other night…

One of my dogs suddenly froze in the living room with her elbows spread apart and neck/head extended forward. As her body remained still, she began to let out loud snorting noises. While the moment seemed like a lifetime, the episode lasted around 30 seconds.

Just 5 seconds in, my very calm mother began to yell, “DO SOMETHING! SHE’S CHOKING!”

Wrong.

While that was my reaction the first time my toy Poodle, Gigi, made those scary noises, I knew this was another episode of reverse sneezing.

Have you ever caught your dog reverse sneezing? While reverse sneezing is pretty common in all dogs, small and brachycephalic breeds (i.e. breeds like Pugs, Bulldogs, and Shih Tzus) are more prone to the condition.

What Is Reverse Sneezing

A reverse sneeze is pretty much exactly what it sounds like — it’s the opposite of a sneeze. So, just think about it. In a regular sneeze, air is pushed out through the nose. On the flipside, in a reverse sneeze, air is suddenly, quickly, and forcefully pulled in through the nose. It causes a very loud snorting or gagging sound. It’s one that could fool a pet parent into thinking their pup is choking or having an asthma attack.

Just like in the scenario above, dogs tend to stand very still when they experience a reverse sneeze episode. You will often find their legs in a wide stance with the elbows tilted away from the body, neck and head extended forward, abdominal contractions, and their eyes may bulge.

According to veterinarians, episodes of reverse sneezing typically last a few seconds. But they can last a minute or two. As soon as an episode is over, dogs typically go back to their normal breathing patterns.

Triggers

Just like how a regular sneeze is triggered by some sort of irritant, so is a reverse sneeze. Common triggers include:

  • Environmental allergens
  • A sudden change in temperature
  • Perfume
  • Cleaning products
  • Room sprays
  • Excitement
  • Eating or drinking too quickly
  • Exercise intolerance
  • A collar that’s too tight

Certain infections, a respiratory infection, or a chronic post nasal drip can also contribute to reverse sneezing.

Treatment: Is Reverse Sneezing Cause For Concern? 

Just like sneezing is a part of your pup’s life, likely reverse sneezing is too. For infrequent and mild bouts of reverse sneezing, treatment usually isn’t necessary. To help ease your pup’s episode, experts recommend the following:

  • Stay calm
  • Gently massaging your dog’s throat can help stop the spasm
  • Briefly covering your pooch’s nostrils will cause him to swallow, which will help to clean any irritation
  • Softly blow in your dog’s face

One of the best things you can do?

Simply observe your pooch and identify his individual trigger. For example, I know that my one dogs reverse sneezes when she gets overly excited and eats treats too quickly. So I break her treats into tiny pieces and only give her a small bite at a time.

If reverse sneezing episodes become more frequent, last longer, and appear more severe …

then it’s time to schedule a vet visit to get your dog’s throat and nasal passages checked. If the episodes are caused by allergies, your vet may recommend antihistamines. 

If possible, show your vet a recording of your pup’s reverse sneezing episode to help rule out more serious issues such as a collapsing trachea, kennel cough, respiratory infection, nasal mites, cancers, polyps, or tumors.