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What Is Reverse Sneezing in Dogs?

Dog reverse sneezing


Experiencing what many pet owners call reverse sneezing can be a bit alarming. It appears like your canine companion is choking or gagging, making some pretty distressing sounds in the process. However, most of the time, this unusual doggy occurrence isn't a cause for alarm, but you should stay vigilant.

Many things can cause reverse sneezing, most of them mild. But knowing when to pay attention will ensure you get your dog the help they need for potentially more serious issues. The first steps in helping your pup are learning how to recognize a reverse sneeze and understanding the possible causes.

Why Is My Dog Making That Weird Sneezing Sound?

When your dog starts making weird sounds in their throat, and they look like they’re gagging, you likely become worried. Understandably so. It looks and sounds alarming. You might think your dog is choking or can’t breathe. This unusual behavior is known as paroxysmal inspiratory respiration, but many people simply call it reverse sneezing.

It basically sounds like your dog starts to sneeze but ends up doing it backward like they’re inhaling the sneeze. Your pup starts making quick inhalations through their nose, leading to a bunch of snorting and other startling sounds.

Your dog can reverse sneeze for various reasons, ranging from struggling with exercise to overexcitement to allergies. Some dogs start having issues because they drink or eat too fast. Certain breeds are more prone to reverse sneezing than others, primarily brachycephalic (flat-faced) breeds, like Shih Tzu and Pugs.

Can Reverse Sneezing Hurt My Dog?

A little tickle or spasm in the back of your dog’s throat can sometimes trigger a reverse sneezing episode. Instead of rapidly blowing air out of the nose, the opposite occurs and air pulls into the nose. The windpipe can restrict, making it tricky for your dog to breathe. Some of these spells last for a few seconds, and others can continue for 30 seconds or more.

It’s undoubtedly not a pleasant situation for your dog to experience, but reverse sneezing won’t hurt your dog. If it only happens on a rare occasion, it’s probably nothing to worry about. 

However, if you notice your dog has a habit of reverse sneezing, it’s essential to take it seriously. The act itself might not harm your dog, but frequent recurrences could point to an underlying issue. It’s certainly something you should talk to your vet about.

What Causes Reverse Sneezing?

Reverse sneezing has a wide range of causes, most of which are benign. However, some can be more serious. Here are the most common causes of reverse sneezing.

  • Your dog has something in the back of their throat causing irritation. A regular cough or sneeze won’t clear it, so the reverse sneezing begins. The irritation could stem from an allergic reaction, or your dog might have simply swallowed a bug.
  • Undue pressure on your dog’s throat could also trigger a round of reverse sneezing. If your dog is more susceptible to this condition or is a smaller breed, consider using a harness on walks instead of attaching their leash to their collar. 
  • Drinking or eating too fast can lead to reverse sneezing.
  • Overexcitement or too much exercise is another potential cause of paroxysmal inspiratory respiration.
  • More serious issues, like nasal mites or Brachycephalic Syndrome (elongated soft palate), could cause your dog’s strange sneezing habits.

If your dog suddenly makes choking, coughing sounds, you might be mistaking it as a reverse sneeze. However, it could be something else that needs veterinary attention. It’s important to be aware that certain more severe conditions can cause your dog to make similar sounds that are not reverse sneezing. 

For example, kennel cough causes a deep, honking cough. If your dog hasn’t had their Bordetella vaccine, head to the vet for a visit (especially if your pup is also experiencing weight loss, a runny nose, or seems overly tired).

Other serious issues that can cause choking, gagging, and coughing are collapsing trachea, upper respiratory infections, or asthma. Therefore, if you notice your dog makes the sound often or suddenly starts repeatedly coughing for no apparent reason, it’s best to call the vet.

Laying with dog

How Can I Stop My Dog from Reverse Sneezing?

The best way to limit your dog’s reverse sneezing is to pay attention to what’s causing it in the first place. For example, if your dog reverse sneezes because of allergies, you’ll need to talk with your vet about pinpointing the source. You may need to switch dog foods or change other aspects of your pup’s routine. In some cases, you might need to give your dog medication to help control their allergic reactions.

If your dog reverse sneezes when they eat, using a slow-feed bowl like The Niner can help them slow down during meals. Placing a few ice cubes in their water dish could help if they drink too fast. 

Since overexcitement or too much exercise are other potential causes of reverse sneezing, your dog might need help pacing themselves during activity. If your dog tends to get overly excited, check out tips for calming a hyperactive dog

Understand your dog’s physical limits and let them take frequent breaks during play and exercise sessions. Avoid tugging on your pup’s leash, and use a harness for walks.

Can You Stop a Reverse Sneeze While It’s Happening?

If your pup gets a spasm in the throat, sometimes gently massaging the throat can help ease the situation. Others blow in their pup’s face to make them swallow and try to calm the spasm and stop the episode.

Finally, stay up to date on your pup’s vaccines. Vaccinations don’t stop reverse sneezing, but they do help protect against conditions that could cause similar symptoms.

Was That a Sneeze, or Is Your Dog Just Happy to See You? 

It can be confusing sometimes to figure out what your dog’s different sounds and behaviors mean. Even something as simple as a sneeze might not be a sneeze at all. Luckily, if your dog starts reverse sneezing, the odds are good you don’t have to worry. Most of the time, reverse sneezing is a simple, harmless event. 

But if you notice it happening often or it comes on suddenly and frequently occurs, talk with your vet. Your vet can help rule out any underlying problems and offer advice on how to help your dog get some relief.

For more helpful tips on caring for your furry family members, check out the rest of the Neater Pets blog. We strive to bring you important information, resources, and suggestions for keeping your faithful friends happy and healthy.


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