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Why Is My Dog Exhaling Sharply?



Reviewed By: Dr. Joel Robertson

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 If you’ve noticed your dog exhaling sharply and you’re unsure why, it’s important to understand the likely causes, what to watch out for, and when to seek professional help.

One possible reason for this behavior is reverse sneezing, where a dog rapidly pulls air into its nose, making a snorting sound as if trying to inhale while sneezing.

This can be triggered by irritation to the nosesinuses, or back of the throat, especially in dogs with narrow nasal passages

Reverse sneezing episodes typically last for a few seconds to a minute and are generally not harmful.

Key Takeaways:

  • Exhaling sharply in dogs may be a sign of reverse sneezing, which is usually harmless.
  • Reverse sneezing can be triggered by irritation to the nosesinuses, or back of the throat.
  • Dogs with narrow nasal passages are more prone to experiencing reverse sneezing.
  • Reverse sneezing episodes typically last for a few seconds to a minute and do not require treatment in most cases.
  • If the dog shows severe breathing difficulties or other alarming symptoms, it is important to seek veterinary help to rule out other causes and ensure proper care.

Why Is My Dog Exhaling Sharply?

Why Is My Dog Exhaling Sharply

A dog exhaling sharply is a common canine occurrence called reverse sneezing, which is generally harmless and often caused by an irritant in the nose or sinuses.

Reverse sneezing is characterized by forceful, convulsive inhalations that can sound alarming to pet owners, but it’s typically not a cause for concern.

This phenomenon happens when there’s an irritant in the dog’s nose, throat, or sinuses.

Such irritants could include dust, allergens, or strong odors, and they can cause the dog to take sudden, rapid breaths through the nose, often followed by a sharp exhalation.

While reverse sneezing is usually harmless and self-limiting, it’s always a good idea to monitor your pet’s behavior and symptoms.

If the reverse sneezing becomes chronic, is accompanied by other signs of illness like lethargy or loss of appetite, or if it’s causing your dog apparent distress, it may be time to consult a veterinarian.

Causes of Reverse Sneezing in Dogs

Reverse sneezing in dogs is typically triggered by irritants such as allergens, foreign objects in the throat, or certain cleaning products, and it’s believed to be a response to inflammation or irritation in the nasal, pharyngeal, or sinus passages.


Allergies to substances like pollen and plants are common triggers for reverse sneezing episodes in dogs. These allergens can cause inflammation or irritation in the dog’s respiratory tract, leading to the characteristic rapid inhalation of air that defines reverse sneezing.

Cleaning Products and Air Fresheners

Household items such as cleaning products and air fresheners can also provoke reverse sneezing. These products may release particles or fumes that irritate the dog’s nasal or throat passages, triggering a reverse sneezing episode.

Foreign Objects

Foreign objects lodged in a dog’s throat can also cause reverse sneezing. The dog’s body reacts to the presence of the object by initiating a spasm in the back of the throat, resulting in reverse sneezing as the dog tries to clear its airway.

Inflammation or Irritation

Inflammation or irritation of the nasal, pharyngeal, or sinus passages is believed to be a common cause of reverse sneezing. This could be due to various factors including allergies, infections, or environmental irritants like smoke.

Unknown Causes

In some cases, the exact cause of reverse sneezing remains unknown. It’s thought that certain dogs may have a predisposition to reverse sneezing, although more research is needed to fully understand this phenomenon.

Recognizing reverse sneezing episodes in dogs

Recognizing Reverse Sneezing Episodes in Dogs
Typical DurationA few seconds to a minute
SoundSnorting or honking
TriggersIrritation to the nose, sinuses, or back of the throat
Common CausesAllergies, foreign objects, excitement, changes in temperature or humidity

Recognizing reverse sneezing episodes in dogs is important to understand that they typically last for a few seconds to a minute and are not harmful to the dog.

During a reverse sneezing episode, your dog may make a snorting or honking sound and appear to be trying to inhale while sneezing. It can be alarming to witness, but it is important to remain calm as reverse sneezing is a common and usually benign condition.

Reverse sneezing is often triggered by irritation to the nose, sinuses, or back of the throat. It can be more common in dogs with narrow nasal passages, such as brachycephalic breeds.

These episodes are characterized by a rapid intake of air through the nose, resulting in a distinctive snorting sound. While the exact cause of reverse sneezing is not always clear, common triggers include allergies, foreign objects in the nasal passages, excitement, or even changes in temperature or humidity.

If your dog is experiencing reverse sneezing episodes, it is crucial to rule out other causes of abnormal breathing.

Certain respiratory conditions, such as kennel cough or nasal mites, can cause symptoms similar to reverse sneezing.

What Are The Signs of Respiratory Distress in a Dog?

Signs of respiratory distress in a dog may include difficulty breathing, coughing, nasal discharge, fever, and a bluish discoloration of the skin indicating inadequate oxygen supply.

Difficulty Breathing

Difficulty breathing is one of the most noticeable signs of respiratory distress in dogs. This can manifest as heavy panting, wheezing, or the dog sitting upright with its head and neck extended.


Coughing, especially when accompanied by gagging, is another common sign of respiratory problems in dogs. This symptom can be distressing for the dog and may indicate irritation or blockage in the airways.

Nasal Discharge

Nasal discharge is often a sign of respiratory distress in dogs. The discharge may vary in color and consistency, depending on the underlying cause of the respiratory distress.


A dog experiencing respiratory distress may also have a fever. This is often a sign of infection or inflammation in the respiratory tract.

Bluish Discoloration of the Skin

A bluish discoloration of the skin, gums, or insides of the eyelids is a serious sign of respiratory distress in dogs. This condition, known as cyanosis, indicates that the dog is not getting enough oxygen.

Exercise Intolerance

Dogs suffering from respiratory distress may show signs of exercise intolerance. They may become easily fatigued or avoid physical activity due to difficulty breathing.

Understanding Normal Breathing Rates For Dogs

Dog SizeNormal Breaths per Minute
Small Breeds (e.g., Chihuahuas, Pomeranians)15 – 35 breaths per minute
Medium Breeds (e.g., Beagles, Bulldogs)10 – 30 breaths per minute
Large Breeds (e.g., Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds)10 – 30 breaths per minute
Giant Breeds (e.g., Great Danes, Saint Bernards)10 – 30 breaths per minute

Understanding normal breathing rates for dogs is important, and on average, a healthy dog takes between 10 to 35 breaths per minute.

Monitoring your dog’s breathing can provide valuable insights into their overall respiratory health. If you notice any significant deviations from the normal range, it may be worth seeking veterinary attention to ensure your furry friend’s well-being.

To help you better understand what constitutes normal breathing for your dog, here is a breakdown of the different breath rates:

It’s important to remember that these ranges are general guidelines, and individual dogs may have slightly higher or lower breath rates.

Factors such as age, activity level, and underlying health conditions can also influence breathing patterns. Regularly monitoring your dog’s breathing and being aware of any changes is essential for early detection of potential respiratory issues says PetMD.

Treatment Options For Reverse Sneezing in Dogs

Treatment optionsDescription
Anti-inflammatory medicationsThese medications help reduce inflammation in the nasal passages and throat, providing relief from reverse sneezing episodes.
Decongestant medicationsDecongestants can help alleviate nasal congestion and reduce the frequency and intensity of reverse sneezing episodes.

Treatment for reverse sneezing in dogs is usually not required, as the episodes are self-limiting. However, in some cases, veterinarians may prescribe anti-inflammatory or decongestant medications to alleviate symptoms and provide relief for your furry friend.

“While most dogs do not require treatment for reverse sneezing, there are instances where medication can be beneficial,” says Dr. John Peterson, a renowned veterinarian.

It is important to remember that these medications should only be given under the guidance and supervision of a veterinarian. Your vet will determine the appropriate dosage and duration of treatment based on your dog’s individual needs and health condition.

While medication can provide temporary relief, it is also essential to address any underlying factors that may contribute to reverse sneezing.

Keeping your dog in a clean environment and avoiding exposure to respiratory irritants can help minimize episodes.

Additionally, observing your dog for any signs of respiratory distress and seeking veterinary help if symptoms worsen or persist is crucial to ensuring your dog’s overall respiratory health.

When To Seek Veterinary Help For Reverse Sneezing in Dogs

While reverse sneezing in dogs is generally harmless, it is important to seek veterinary help if your dog exhibits severe breathing difficulties, changes in gum color, or other alarming symptoms.

Reverse sneezing episodes, although brief, can sometimes be indicative of underlying respiratory issues that require further investigation and treatment.

It is normal for dogs to have occasional reverse sneezing episodes, especially if they have narrow nasal passages or are exposed to irritants that trigger the reflex.

However, if your dog’s episodes become more frequent, and prolonged, or are accompanied by other concerning symptoms, it is recommended to consult a veterinarian.

Some signs that may indicate the need for veterinary attention include:

  • Difficulty breathing or struggling to catch their breath
  • Changes in gum color, such as pale or bluish gums
  • Wheezing or coughing
  • Excessive nasal discharge
  • Lethargy or weakness

A veterinary professional will be able to perform a thorough examination, evaluate your dog’s overall health, and determine if any further diagnostic tests or treatments are necessary.

They may also be able to provide guidance on managing or reducing the frequency of reverse sneezing episodes if needed.

Other Possible Causes of Abnormal Breathing in Dogs

Possible CauseDescription
AllergiesDogs can develop allergies to various substances, such as pollen, dust mites, or certain foods. Allergic reactions can cause respiratory distress and manifest as breathing difficulties.
PneumoniaBacterial or viral infections in the lungs can lead to pneumonia, which can cause coughing, rapid breathing, and difficulty breathing. Pneumonia may occur as a secondary condition or as a result of aspiration.
Heart diseaseCardiac conditions, such as congestive heart failure, can impair the heart’s ability to pump blood effectively. This can lead to fluid accumulation in the lungs, causing coughing, heavy breathing, and other respiratory symptoms.
Tracheal collapseTracheal collapse is common in small-breed dogs and occurs when the trachea becomes weak and collapses under the pressure of breathing. Symptoms include honking coughs, wheezing, and difficulty breathing.
ObstructionAn obstruction in the airway, such as a foreign object or tumor, can cause breathing difficulties. Dogs may show signs of struggling to breathe, including gasping, wheezing, or choking.

While reverse sneezing is a common cause of sharp exhales in dogs, it is important to be aware of other potential causes of abnormal breathing, such as coughing, heavy breathing, and trouble breathing.

These symptoms may indicate underlying respiratory issues that require prompt attention from a veterinarian.

If your dog is experiencing abnormal breathing, it is crucial to consult with a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis.

They will be able to determine the underlying cause and recommend appropriate treatment. Remember, early intervention is key to ensuring your dog’s respiratory health and overall well-being.

Importance of Ruling Out Other Respiratory Issues

When your dog exhales sharply, it is crucial to consult with a veterinarian to rule out other respiratory issues and determine the underlying cause.

While reverse sneezing is a common and generally harmless condition, it’s important to ensure that there are no other more serious underlying problems affecting your dog’s breathing.

“Respiratory issues can range from simple allergies or irritations to more severe conditions that require immediate attention,” says Dr. Sarah Johnson, a renowned veterinarian.

“In some cases, abnormal breathing can be a sign of a respiratory infection, tracheal collapse, or even heart disease. Therefore, it is essential to have a professional examine your dog and conduct the necessary diagnostic tests to rule out any potential health concerns.”

Once other respiratory issues have been successfully ruled out, your veterinarian can focus on managing your dog’s reverse sneezing episodes if necessary. They may recommend simple at-home strategies to alleviate triggers and reduce the frequency of episodes.

However, if the reverse sneezing becomes severe or frequent, your veterinarian may prescribe anti-inflammatory or decongestant medications to provide relief.

Signs to watch out for:Indications of severe respiratory issues:
Changes in breathing pattern
Increased respiratory effort
Unusual coughing
Heavy or labored breathing
Bluish or pale gums
Collapsing episodes

Tips To Support Your Dog’s Respiratory Health

Keep your dog in a well-ventilated environmentEnsures a constant supply of fresh air and removes potential irritants
Avoid exposure to respiratory irritantsMinimizes the risk of respiratory problems triggered by irritants such as smoke, dust, and pollution
Be vigilant about clinical signs of respiratory distressPromptly identifies potential respiratory issues and allows for timely veterinary intervention

Supporting your dog’s respiratory health is essential and can be achieved by keeping them in a well-ventilated environment, avoiding exposure to respiratory irritants, and being vigilant about any clinical signs of respiratory distress.

By following these tips, you can help your dog breathe easier and maintain overall respiratory well-being.

1. Keep your dog in a well-ventilated environment: Make sure your dog’s living space is properly ventilated to ensure a constant supply of fresh air. Proper airflow can help remove any potential irritants and promote better respiratory health.

2. Avoid exposure to respiratory irritants: Dogs, like humans, can be sensitive to certain environmental irritants that can trigger respiratory problems. These irritants may include cigarette smoke, strong chemical odors, dust, pollen, and air pollution. Minimize your dog’s exposure to these irritants as much as possible to reduce the risk of respiratory issues.

3. Be vigilant about clinical signs of respiratory distress: It’s important to closely monitor your dog for any signs of respiratory distress. These signs may include difficulty breathing, wheezing, coughing, excessive panting, or rapid shallow breathing. If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s crucial to seek veterinary help immediately to ensure prompt diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Remember, while these tips can help support your dog’s respiratory health, it’s important to consult a veterinarian for a comprehensive assessment and guidance tailored to your dog’s specific needs. They can provide further recommendations and treatments, such as oxygen therapy, if necessary.

What Can Be Done For a Dog in Respiratory Distress?

For a dog in respiratory distress, immediate veterinary care is crucial, and the treatment will depend on the underlying cause; it may include oxygen therapy, medication, or in severe cases, surgery.

Veterinary Evaluation

The first step in helping a dog in respiratory distress is to get an immediate veterinary evaluation. The vet will perform a physical examination and possibly additional diagnostic tests like blood work, x-rays, or ultrasound to determine the root cause of the distress.

Oxygen Therapy

Oxygen therapy is often administered to dogs in respiratory distress. This involves supplying the dog with extra oxygen, usually through a mask or nasal cannula, to help alleviate difficulty breathing and ensure adequate oxygen supply to the body.


Depending on the cause of the respiratory distress, medication may be prescribed. This could include antibiotics for infections, steroids for inflammation, or bronchodilators to open the airways.


In some cases, surgery may be necessary to treat the cause of respiratory distress. This could be the case if there’s a foreign object lodged in the airway, or if the dog has a condition such as a collapsed trachea that requires surgical intervention.

Home Care

After treatment, home care may be required to manage the dog’s condition. This could involve administering medication, providing a quiet and stress-free environment, or monitoring the dog’s breathing and overall health.

Conclusion and final thoughts

In conclusion, understanding why your dog is exhaling sharply can often be attributed to reverse sneezing, but it is vital to prioritize your dog’s respiratory health and seek veterinary help if needed.

Reverse sneezing, characterized by your dog rapidly pulling air into its nose and making a snorting sound as if trying to inhale while sneezing, is a common cause of sharp exhales in dogs.

Please take the time and leave a comment below if this article helped you, or you have any additional questions.

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