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Reverse Sneezing in Dogs: Signs, Causes, Solutions



Reviewed By: Dr. Joel Robertson

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Reverse sneezing in dogs is a common condition, but one that many pet owners don’t know much about.

It’s important to be aware of the signs and causes so you can take the necessary steps if it happens to your dog.

In this blog post, we’ll discuss what reverse sneezing is, the various signs and causes of this condition, and the best solutions to keep your pup comfortable.

We’ll also share some tips on how to prevent reverse sneezing in dogs.

By the end of this blog post, you’ll be educated about reverse sneezing and know what steps to take if it occurs. So let’s get started!

Key Takeaway

  • Reverse sneezing in dogs, also known as paroxysmal respiration, is a sudden, involuntary respiratory reflex where the dog rapidly inhales air, causing a distinctive snorting sound.
  • Signs of reverse sneezing in dogs include rapid and long inspirations, standing still with an extended head and neck, making a loud snorting sound, and sometimes gasping, retching or coughing.
  • Treatment for reverse sneezing in dogs often involves soothing the dog to stop the episode, but in cases where an underlying issue is causing frequent episodes, a veterinarian may recommend treatments such as antihistamines, steroids, or antibiotics.

What Is Reverse Sneezing In Dogs

Reverse Sneezing in Dogs Signs, Causes, Solutions

Reverse sneezing in dogs is a sudden, involuntary respiratory reflex where the dog rapidly inhales air, often accompanied by snorting noises and a visible extension of the neck.

This condition, also known as paroxysmal respiration, is characterized by the dog forcefully pulling air into the nose, instead of expelling it out.

It’s often accompanied by a loud snorting noise and the dog may extend its neck and raise its head.

This reflex can occur in spasm-like episodes and can be quite disconcerting to witness, causing many dog owners to mistakenly believe their pet is in respiratory distress.

However, it’s relatively common and is typically not a sign of serious health issues.

What Does Reverse Dog Sneezing Sound Like?

Reverse dog sneezing sounds like the dog is inhaling their sneezes, producing a loud snorting or grunting noise.

When a dog experiences a reverse sneeze, it can be quite startling to hear.

A reverse sneezing sound is characterized by a harsh, snorting, or grunting noise that comes from the dog rapidly sucking air through its nose.

This is in contrast to a regular sneeze where air is expelled out. It may seem like the dog has something caught in its nose or throat, but this is just part of the reflex.

Though it can sound alarming, reverse sneezing is generally not harmful to the dog.

It’s important to remember that while the sound and appearance of reverse sneezing can be distressing for the owner, it’s typically not a cause for concern unless it becomes frequent or the dog appears to be in distress.

Signs Of Reverse Sneezing In Dogs

The signs of reverse sneezing in dogs include rapid and long inspirations, standing still, extending the head and neck, a loud snorting sound, and sometimes gasping, gagging, or coughing.

Rapid and Long Inspirations

When a dog is reverse sneezing, it will make rapid and long inspirations. This means that the dog is quickly and forcefully inhaling air through its nose. This is the opposite of a normal sneeze where air is forcefully expelled out.

Standing Still and Extending Head and Neck

During a reverse sneezing episode, the dog will stand still and extend its head and neck. This position helps to open up the airway and allows the dog to pull in air more effectively. The dog might also extend its elbows out from its body.

Loud Snorting Sound

One of the most noticeable signs of reverse sneezing is the loud snorting sound that is produced. This sound is made as the dog inhales air rapidly through its nose. It’s different from the sound of a regular sneeze and can be quite alarming to hear.

Possible Gasping, Gagging, or Coughing

In some cases, reverse sneezing might also be accompanied by gasping, gagging, or coughing. These additional symptoms can occur if the dog is having difficulty getting enough air during the reverse sneezing episode.


Reverse sneezing can be triggered by various factors such as allergies to pollen and plants, irritants like cleaning products and air fresheners, objects in the throat, and upper respiratory infections. Upper respiratory infections can also cause watery eyes, regular sneezing, and a ‘honking cough’.

See also: Why Is Milk Coming Out Of Puppy’s Nose When Nursing? (Answered!)

Causes Of Reverse Sneezing In Dogs

The causes of reverse sneezing in dogs can range from allergies to irritants in the environment, objects in the throat, and inflammation or irritation of the nasal, pharyngeal, or sinus passages.


Allergies, particularly to pollen and plants, are some of the most common triggers for reverse sneezing episodes in dogs.

Just like humans, dogs can have allergic reactions to different substances in their environment. These allergies can cause inflammation in the nasal passages, leading to reverse sneezing.

Environmental Irritants

Environmental irritants such as smoke, cleaning products, and air fresheners can also trigger reverse sneezing in dogs. These substances can irritate the dog’s nasal, pharyngeal, or sinus passages, causing a reverse sneezing episode.

Objects in the Throat

If a dog has an object lodged in its throat, it may experience reverse sneezing. This could be a foreign body or a mass that’s causing irritation or inflammation, leading to the reverse sneezing reflex.

Inflammation or Irritation of Nasal, Pharyngeal, or Sinus Passages

Inflammation or irritation of the nasal, pharyngeal, or sinus passages is believed to be a cause of reverse sneezing in dogs. This irritation can lead to a muscle spasm in the back of the throat, which results in the characteristic rapid inhalation of a reverse sneeze.

How Vets Diagnose Reverse Sneezing

  • Observation of Symptoms: Veterinarians will first observe the symptoms presented by the dog. This could involve watching a video of the episode if the owner has managed to capture one, or waiting for an episode to occur in the clinic.
  • Physical Examination: A thorough physical examination is conducted to check for any physical signs that might be causing the reverse sneezing such as a foreign body in the throat or nasal area.
  • Medical History: The vet may ask for the dog’s complete medical history, including any allergies or exposure to potential irritants, to get a better understanding of possible triggers.
  • Diagnostic Tests: In some cases, further diagnostic tests may be required. These can include blood tests, x-rays, or rhinoscopy (a procedure where a small camera is inserted into the nose) to check for any abnormalities in the airways.
  • Allergy Testing: If allergies are suspected, the vet may recommend allergy testing to identify specific allergens causing the reaction.
  • Trial Treatment: In some cases, vets might use a trial treatment with antihistamines or steroids to see if the reverse sneezing episodes decrease. If they do, it can confirm that allergies or inflammation are the cause.

Treatment for Reverse Dog Sneezing

The treatment for reverse sneezing in dogs primarily involves identifying and addressing the underlying cause, which can range from removing environmental irritants to treating allergies or administering medication for infections or inflammations.

Removing Environmental Irritants

If the reverse sneezing is being triggered by environmental irritants such as smoke or cleaning products, removing these from the dog’s environment can help reduce the frequency of episodes.

This could involve using natural cleaning products, avoiding smoking around the dog, or using air purifiers to improve air quality.

Treating Allergies

If allergies are suspected to be the cause of reverse sneezing, the veterinarian may recommend allergy treatments. These can include antihistamines or steroids to reduce inflammation and allergic reactions. In some cases, allergy shots or a change in diet might be recommended.

Medication for Infections or Inflammations

If an infection or inflammation is causing the reverse sneezing, the vet may prescribe medications such as antibiotics or anti-inflammatories. These can help to treat the underlying condition and thereby reduce the occurrence of reverse sneezing episodes.

Gentle Massage or Distraction

During a reverse sneezing episode, gently massaging the dog’s throat or distracting it by lightly blowing in its face can help to stop the episode. These techniques can help to interrupt the cycle of spasms that characterize reverse sneezing.


In rare cases, if a foreign body or tumor is causing the reverse sneezing, surgical intervention may be necessary. The vet will determine the best course of action based on the dog’s specific situation.

How to Stop Reverse Sneezing in Dogs

Stopping reverse sneezing in dogs often involves calming measures during the episode, such as gentle throat massages and distractions, alongside addressing any potential underlying causes.

Gentle Throat Massages

One effective method to stop a reverse sneezing episode is to gently massage the dog’s throat. This can help soothe the spasms that are causing the reverse sneezing.

Be sure to use gentle pressure and avoid causing any discomfort to your dog.


Another strategy is to distract your dog during a reverse sneezing episode. This can be done by lightly blowing in the dog’s face or holding its nostrils closed for a moment.

These actions can interrupt the cycle of spasms and help stop the reverse sneezing.

Calming Measures

It’s important to stay calm and keep your dog calm during a reverse sneezing episode. Speak to your dog in a soothing voice and pet it gently, avoiding the face or snout area.

This can help your dog relax and potentially shorten the duration of the reverse sneezing episode.

Addressing Underlying Causes

While the above methods can help stop an ongoing reverse sneezing episode, it’s also crucial to address any potential underlying causes.

This could include removing environmental irritants, treating allergies, or seeking medical treatment for infections or inflammations. By addressing these underlying issues, you can help reduce the frequency of reverse sneezing episodes.

How Long Do Episodes of Reverse Sneezing Last?

Episodes of reverse sneezing in dogs typically last from a few seconds to a minute.

Reverse sneezing is a common phenomenon in dogs where they make rapid and repeated inhalations through their nose, producing a characteristic snorting sound.

The duration of these episodes can vary significantly from dog to dog and episode to episode.

However, most commonly, an individual episode of reverse sneezing will last anywhere from a few seconds to a minute. It’s not uncommon for several episodes to occur in quick succession, which might give the impression of a longer duration.

While reverse sneezing can be startling to witness, it’s usually harmless and ends naturally without the need for any intervention.

However, if your dog experiences prolonged episodes of reverse sneezing or appears distressed, it’s always a good idea to seek advice from a veterinarian.

How Much Is Too Much Reverse Sneezing?

Too much reverse sneezing is when it becomes frequent and chronic, disrupting your dog’s normal behavior or causing distress.

While occasional reverse sneezing is generally not a cause for concern, if your dog starts to experience these episodes frequently or if they become chronic, it could indicate an underlying health issue.

It’s important to observe the duration and frequency of the reverse sneezing. If the episodes are prolonged, occur several times per day, or are accompanied by other symptoms such as loss of appetite, nasal discharge, or difficulty breathing, it’s time to consult with a veterinarian.


Q: How can I identify a reverse sneezing episode in my dog?

A: During a reverse sneezing episode, your dog may make loud snorting or snorting sounds, similar to a honking noise. It may extend its head and neck forward with an open mouth while inhaling rapidly and forcefully.

Q: Should I be concerned if my dog reverse sneezes?

A: In most cases, reverse sneezing in dogs is harmless and resolves on its own. However, if the episodes of reverse sneezing become frequent or prolonged, it is advisable to consult a veterinarian to rule out any underlying respiratory issues or conditions.

Q: What should I do if my dog has a reverse sneezing episode?

A: During a reverse sneezing episode, it is best to stay calm and not panic. Gentle massage of the dog’s throat or briefly covering its nostrils can help stop the spasm. If the episodes persist or worsen, it is recommended to seek veterinary advice.

Q: Can reverse sneezing be prevented in dogs?

A: While it may not always be possible to prevent reverse sneezing in dogs, you can minimize the occurrence by avoiding known irritants, keeping your dog’s environment clean, and maintaining good respiratory health through regular veterinary check-ups and appropriate vaccinations.

Q: Is reverse sneezing common in certain breeds?

A: Reverse sneezing is more commonly observed in brachycephalic breeds, such as Bulldogs, Pugs, and Shih Tzus. Their unique facial structure and narrowed respiratory passages make them more prone to respiratory issues, including reverse sneezing.

Q: When should I take my dog to the veterinarian for reverse sneezing?

A: It is advisable to consult a veterinarian if your dog experiences frequent or prolonged episodes of reverse sneezing, exhibits additional symptoms like difficulty breathing, coughing, or nasal discharge, or if you suspect an underlying cause for the reverse sneezing.

Q: Can allergies cause reverse sneezing in dogs?

A: Yes, allergies can be a potential trigger for reverse sneezing in dogs. Allergens like pollen, dust mites, or certain irritants can lead to irritation and inflammation in the dog’s nasal passages, resulting in a reverse sneezing episode.

Q: How can a veterinarian help with reverse sneezing in dogs?

A: A veterinarian may diagnose and determine the underlying cause of reverse sneezing in dogs. Depending on the case, they may prescribe antihistamines or anti-inflammatory medications to alleviate symptoms and reduce the frequency of reverse sneezing episodes.

Conclusion and final thoughts

Overall, reverse sneezing in dogs is an uncomfortable condition characterized by several signs.

It can be caused by excitement or irritation of the throat due to allergies or foreign objects.

While it is not a serious medical condition and typically resolves on its own, there are some steps that pet owners can take to provide relief for their dog, including calming the dog, providing humidified air, and removing any irritants or allergens that may be triggering the sneezing.

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

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