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Reverse Sneezing in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

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Reverse sneezing, also known as paroxysmal respiration, is a common respiratory reflex that can occur in dogs. It is often mistaken for a more serious condition, causing concern among pet owners. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for reverse sneezing in dogs. Whether you are a new dog owner or have experienced this phenomenon before, this article will provide you with the information you need to understand and manage reverse sneezing effectively.

Reverse Sneezing in Dogs

What is Reverse Sneezing?

Reverse sneezing is a sudden and involuntary reflex in dogs that causes them to rapidly inhale air instead of blowing it out, resulting in a distinctive snorting or honking sound. It is often described as the opposite of a regular sneeze. While reverse sneezing can affect both dogs and cats, it is more commonly observed in dogs.

During a reverse sneezing episode, a dog may extend its neck, stand still, or make strange breathing sounds. This can be alarming for pet owners who are not familiar with the condition. However, it is important to note that reverse sneezing is generally harmless and does not cause any long-term health issues for dogs.

Causes of Reverse Sneezing in Dogs

The exact cause of reverse sneezing in dogs is still not fully understood. However, several factors and triggers have been identified that can contribute to the occurrence of reverse sneezing episodes. These include:

  1. Allergies: Dogs with allergies to pollen, dust, or other environmental irritants may experience reverse sneezing as a response to these allergens.
  2. Irritants in the Air: Household products such as perfumes, cleaning agents, or air fresheners can irritate a dog’s nasal passages, leading to reverse sneezing.
  3. Excitement or Overstimulation: Dogs that become overly excited or stimulated may experience reverse sneezing as a result.
  4. Foreign Objects: The presence of foreign objects in a dog’s nasal cavity or throat can cause irritation and trigger reverse sneezing episodes.
  5. Nasal Mites: Infestation of nasal mites in a dog’s nasal passages can lead to reverse sneezing.
  6. Brachycephalic Breeds: Brachycephalic dog breeds, such as Bulldogs, Pugs, and Shih Tzus, are more prone to developing elongated soft palates, which can contribute to reverse sneezing.

It is important to note that while reverse sneezing itself is not a cause for concern, it can sometimes be associated with underlying health conditions. If your dog experiences frequent or prolonged episodes of reverse sneezing, it is recommended to consult with a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and to rule out any serious underlying issues.

Recognizing Reverse Sneezing in Dogs

Reverse sneezing in dogs is characterized by unique symptoms and behaviors. Here are some common signs that indicate your dog may be experiencing a reverse sneezing episode:

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  • Snorting or Honking Sounds: Reverse sneezing produces distinctive snorting or honking sounds, which can be loud and alarming for pet owners.
  • Extended Neck: Dogs experiencing a reverse sneezing episode often extend their necks and stand still, trying to open up their airways.
  • Inhalation Difficulty: During a reverse sneezing episode, dogs may exhibit signs of inhalation difficulty, as they struggle to draw in air through their narrowed trachea.
  • Normal Behavior Before and After: Dogs typically return to their normal behavior before and after a reverse sneezing episode, displaying no signs of distress or discomfort.

If you observe these symptoms in your dog, it is important to stay calm and provide comfort to your pet during the episode. Most reverse sneezing episodes last for less than a minute and resolve on their own without any intervention. However, if the episodes become frequent, prolonged, or are accompanied by other concerning symptoms, it is advisable to seek veterinary advice.

Diagnosing Reverse Sneezing in Dogs

If your dog experiences reverse sneezing for the first time or if the episodes become more frequent, a visit to the veterinarian is recommended. While reverse sneezing itself is not a serious condition, it is crucial to rule out any underlying health issues that may be contributing to the episodes.

During your veterinary visit, the veterinarian will perform a thorough examination of your dog’s respiratory system and may conduct additional diagnostic tests if necessary. This may include:

  • Physical Examination: The veterinarian will examine your dog’s nose, throat, and mouth for any signs of irritation, foreign objects, or abnormalities.
  • Medical History: Providing your dog’s medical history, including any recent changes in environment, exposure to allergens, or previous respiratory issues, will help the veterinarian in making an accurate diagnosis.
  • Diagnostic Tests: In some cases, the veterinarian may recommend additional tests, such as blood work, X-rays, or rhinoscopy (a procedure that allows visualization of the nasal cavity), to rule out other potential causes of the reverse sneezing episodes.

By conducting a comprehensive examination and diagnostic tests, the veterinarian can determine if the reverse sneezing is a standalone issue or if it is linked to an underlying health condition. This will help guide the appropriate treatment and management plan for your dog.

Treatment and Management of Reverse Sneezing

In most cases, treatment for reverse sneezing in dogs is not necessary, as the episodes typically resolve on their own without causing any harm. However, if the episodes are frequent, prolonged, or causing distress to your dog, there are several measures that can help alleviate the symptoms and manage the condition:

  1. Gentle Petting and Comfort: During a reverse sneezing episode, gently petting your dog and providing reassurance can help them remain calm and alleviate any anxiety or discomfort.
  2. Avoid Triggers: If specific triggers, such as allergens or irritants, are identified as the cause of your dog’s reverse sneezing, it is important to minimize their exposure to these triggers.
  3. Massaging the Throat: Massaging your dog’s throat during a reverse sneezing episode can help relax the muscles and alleviate the spasm.
  4. Antihistamines or Decongestants: In some cases, if allergies or nasal congestion are identified as contributing factors to reverse sneezing, your veterinarian may prescribe antihistamines or decongestants to help manage the symptoms.
  5. Surgery: In rare cases where an elongated soft palate or other structural abnormalities are contributing to recurrent and severe reverse sneezing, surgical intervention may be recommended.

It is important to note that any medication or treatment plan should be discussed and prescribed by a veterinarian. Self-medication or using over-the-counter remedies without professional guidance can potentially harm your dog’s health.

Preventive Measures

While reverse sneezing cannot always be prevented, there are certain measures you can take to minimize the occurrence of episodes:

  1. Clean and Dust-Free Environment: Regularly clean your home and remove any potential allergens or irritants that may trigger reverse sneezing episodes.
  2. Avoid Exposure to Irritants: Keep your dog away from strong perfumes, cleaning products, or other chemicals that may irritate their nasal passages.
  3. Proper Leash Handling: When walking your dog, avoid pulling on their collar or leash, as this can cause irritation and trigger reverse sneezing.
  4. Regular Veterinary Check-ups: Routine check-ups with your veterinarian can help identify any underlying health issues and address them before they lead to recurrent reverse sneezing episodes.

When to Seek Veterinary Care

While reverse sneezing is generally harmless, there are certain situations where immediate veterinary care is necessary. Contact your veterinarian if:

  • Your dog is experiencing frequent and prolonged episodes of reverse sneezing.
  • The reverse sneezing episodes are accompanied by other concerning symptoms, such as coughing, nasal discharge, or difficulty breathing.
  • Your dog appears to be in distress, exhibiting signs of discomfort or anxiety during the episodes.

Your veterinarian will be able to assess your dog’s condition, provide appropriate treatment if necessary, and offer guidance on managing the reverse sneezing episodes.


Reverse sneezing is a common respiratory reflex in dogs that can be alarming for pet owners. While it is generally harmless and resolves on its own, understanding the causes, symptoms, and treatment options can help you manage the condition effectively. By providing comfort to your dog during an episode, identifying potential triggers, and seeking veterinary advice when necessary, you can ensure the well-being of your furry companion. Remember, each dog is unique, and if you have any concerns or questions about your dog’s reverse sneezing, it is always best to consult with a veterinarian.

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