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  • Molly Weinfurter

Reverse Sneezing in Dogs: Causes and When to Worry

Updated: May 29

Reverse sneezing in dogs can be scary. One of my foster dogs started doing it shortly before her adoption date, so her family had to wait a little longer while I got her checked out by the vet. With foster dogs, it's essential to ensure they're healthy before they get adopted, but reverse sneezing isn't always an immediate concern in dogs.


Luckily, my foster dog was just doing it because of seasonal allergies, but it isn't always that simple. There are lots of causes for a reverse sneeze in dogs, so let’s dive into potential reasons for it and what you should do to help your dog feel more comfortable. When in doubt, it's always best to visit your vet just to be safe.


What is Reverse Sneezing in Dogs?

Reverse sneezing, also known as paroxysmal respiration, occurs when the dog rapidly pulls air into their nose instead of forcing air out like they would with a sneeze. This bizarre sound typically only lasts for up to a minute at a time, but it can be alarming when a dog parent hears it for the first time.


dog with open mouth

What Does Reverse Sneezing Sound Like?

This condition is usually compared to a snorting, wheezing, or choking sound. It sounds like the dog is trying to take a deep breath while sneezing at the same time. It doesn’t sound the same in every dog, but it’s a sound that’s hard to miss.


If you want to hear an example of what a dog's reverse sneeze might sound like, you can watch this video.


Kennel Cough vs. Reverse Sneezing

Kennel cough (also known as Bordetella) is a loud, persistent cough that sounds more like a goose honking than a reverse sneeze. Dogs with kennel cough often have runny noses, so their coughs may sound sniffly. Kennel cough typically isn’t dangerous, but it’s highly contagious and is usually much more serious than a reverse sneeze.


What Causes Reverse Sneezing in Dogs?

The cause of reverse sneezing is rarely obvious. You’ll need to pay attention to your dog’s other behaviors and lifestyle changes to determine a cause.


Nasal Irritation

The most common cause of reverse sneezing is irritated sinuses, throat, or nose. That irritation could be caused by pollen, grasses, dust, smoke, odors, or allergens. Thus, your dog may start making the unusual sound more often during certain seasons, such as spring. This is what my one foster dog experienced, so she only deals with reverse sneezing in the spring time.


Excitement

If a dog gets too worked up, they could inhale their elongated soft palate, triggering the wheezing sound. Many dogs will reverse sneeze when they’re excited to see their human after time apart or while they’re running around in the yard. They may also make a similar sound if they’re so excited that they’re pulling on their leash during walks. I have also had a few foster dogs that made these sounds whenever they'd get overly excited.


Drinking/Eating Too Fast

Dogs who drink or eat too fast may experience a gag reflex that sounds like reverse sneezing. Some dogs might even regurgitate food or water as a result. A Beagle I fostered would always do this after drinking, so I either had to not fill her bowl as full or be prepared to wipe up regurgitated water. Another way to prevent this type of reverse sneeze is to invest in slow-feeding and slow-drinking bowls.


Nose Shape

Some dog breeds are prone to reverse sneezing, such as brachycephalic breeds (dogs with short snouts) like Pugs, Bulldogs, and Shih Tzus. My rescue dog is a Shih Tzu, but luckily, she doesn't experience this.


French Bulldog puppy outside

Parasites

Nasal mites and other parasites could be inside your dog’s nose, irritating their sinuses and causing them to reverse sneeze. If you have more than one pet in your household and they’re both reverse sneezing more than usual, it’s possible that one passed nasal mites to another. Talk to your vet to find out the best way to remove these parasites.


Infections and Other Conditions

Viral, fungal, and bacterial infections could all be causes of reverse sneezing. If your dog is suddenly reverse sneezing a lot even though they’ve never done it before, it could be a cause for concern. If your dog’s reverse sneezing is paired with other unusual symptoms, it’s a good idea to visit your vet just to be safe.


When Should I Be Concerned About a Reverse Sneeze in Dogs?

Pet parents who are concerned about a reverse sneeze in dogs should visit the vet out of precaution. However, a clear sign that a reverse sneeze is a concern is if it’s paired with one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Frequent wheezing

  • Labored breathing

  • Consistent cough

  • Panting without exercising

  • Lethargy

  • Pale or blue gums

  • Reluctance to exercise


The above signs could mean that your dog’s reverse sneezing is related to a more serious concern, such as asthma, tracheal collapse, or heart disease. Visit your vet right away if you suspect one of those conditions.


How to Stop Reverse Sneezing in Dogs

If reverse sneezing is rare for your dog, you may not need a cure. However, you can gently massage your dog’s neck during a reverse sneezing episode to get them to swallow a potential irritant. Getting your dog to calm down for a few moments may also help the reverse sneezing stop.


However, if your dog is doing it often, it’s a good idea to visit the vet. Even though reverse sneezes usually aren’t a cause for concern, it’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your dog’s health. So, talk to your vet to find out potential causes, and they may prescribe medications, such as anti-inflammatory or antihistamine medications, to soothe your dog’s sinuses.


Labrador Retriever reverse sneezing

Frequently Asked Questions


Are Reverse Sneezes Dangerous for Dogs?

No, reverse sneezes usually aren’t harmful to dogs. However, if you’re noticing the behavior frequently or if it’s paired with other unusual symptoms, you should contact your vet just to be safe.


Is There a Home Remedy for Reverse Sneezing in Dogs?

To remedy reverse sneezing at home, gently massage your dog’s neck to calm them down and encourage them to swallow. Swallowing can help remove irritants from your dog’s throat. Raw honey can also help soothe a dog’s throat. However, if reverse sneezing happens regularly, you may need to get medication from the vet to help your dog.


Can Reverse Sneezing in Dogs Cause Vomiting?

Sometimes a reverse sneeze can cause vomiting or regurgitation, especially if your dog ate or drank too fast. However, if your dog vomits after reverse sneezing frequently, you should take them to a vet.


Will Reverse Sneezing in Dogs Stop on its Own?

Reverse sneezing usually stops on its own. However, if your dog is doing it multiple times per day or if you have multiple pets doing it, you should visit your vet to make sure there isn’t an underlying health concern.


How Do I Know If My Dog Has Kennel Cough?

If your dog has kennel cough, they will make a loud, dry cough sound repeatedly, which sometimes sounds like a goose honking. Some other symptoms include runny nose, sneezing, decreased appetite, and decreased energy levels.


What Causes Reverse Sneezing in Cats?

Like dogs, reverse sneezing in cats could be because of allergies, excitement, irritants, infections, or other health concerns. If you’re worried about your cat, visit the vet to get to the root of the problem.


Your Dog’s Health is a Priority

Luckily, reverse sneezing isn’t an immediate cause for concern in dogs. However, it’s always good to visit your vet when your dog displays new behaviors just to be safe, so talking to them about your pet’s reverse sneezing can help you confirm that it’s not related to an underlying health condition. It’s the best way to make sure your dog stays happy, healthy, and comfortable.


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