Reverse Sneezing in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

Table of Contents

Reverse sneezing is a common phenomenon observed in dogs, and it may have left many dog owners puzzled or concerned for the well-being of their beloved pets.

This article aims to shed light on the nature of reverse sneezing, its causes, and what actions, if any, should be taken when a dog experiences it.

Reverse sneezing, also known as inspiratory paroxysmal respiration or pharyngeal gag reflex, is a distinctive respiratory event characterized by rapid and repeated inhalations through the nose, accompanied by snorting or gagging sounds.

This can be alarming to witness, but it is essential to understand that it is generally a harmless and temporary condition, and in most cases, requires no medical intervention.

Various factors may contribute to reverse sneezing episodes in dogs, such as irritants affecting the nasal passage, allergies, or anatomical predispositions.

To better comprehend this occurrence and provide the best care for your furry companion, this article will delve further into these factors and offer guidance on identifying and managing reverse sneezing situations.

Understanding Reverse Sneezing in Dogs

Common Triggers

Reverse sneezing in dogs, also known as paroxysmal respiration or pharyngeal gag reflex, is a common and harmless respiratory event. It is characterized by rapid and repeated forceful inhalations through the nose, accompanied by snorting or gagging sounds. Common triggers for reverse sneezing include:

  • Allergens, such as pollen or dust
  • Irritants, like household chemicals or strong odors
  • Nasal mites or infections
  • Overexcitement or exercise
  • Rapid changes in temperature or humidity


When a dog experiences reverse sneezing, it may display the following symptoms:

  • Snorting or gagging noises
  • Standing still with its head extended
  • Rigid stance and extended neck
  • Rapid and forceful inhalations through the nose
  • Momentary inability to breathe

These episodes typically last only a few seconds to a minute, and the dog should return to normal breathing afterward.


Reverse sneezing occurs when the soft palate and the trachea become irritated, causing a spasm. The exact cause of this irritation can be challenging to pinpoint, as it may be due to various factors, including the common triggers listed earlier.

While reverse sneezing can affect any breed or age of the dog, it is more common in small and brachycephalic breeds, such as Pugs, Boston Terriers, or Chihuahuas.

These breeds have compressed facial structures, making them more prone to airway irritation and reverse sneezing episodes.

It is essential to understand that reverse sneezing is not harmful to your pet and does not indicate a severe health concern.

However, if the frequency or intensity of episodes increases or is accompanied by other symptoms like coughing, nasal discharge, or difficulty breathing, consult your veterinarian to rule out any underlying medical conditions.

Similar Conditions and Their Differences

Collapsing Trachea

Collapsing trachea is a condition where the trachea, which carries air to the lungs, collapses and makes breathing difficult for the dog. It differs from reverse sneezing in dogs as the primary cause is a structural issue, rather than irritation or allergens.

The treatment often involves medication to reduce inflammation and coughing in order to alleviate the symptoms.

Coughing and Choking

Coughing and choking can be caused by various factors, such as eating too quickly, irritation in the throat, or an obstruction like a foreign object.

These conditions are different from reverse sneezing in that they involve problems with the process of swallowing or expelling irritants.

Treatment varies depending on the underlying cause but may include medications, removal of the obstruction, or managing the dog’s eating habits to prevent choking incidents.

Elongated Soft Palate

The elongated soft palate is a common condition in short-nosed breeds such as bulldogs and pugs. It occurs when the soft palate is longer than normal, causing issues with breathing and making the dog more susceptible to reverse sneezing.

The treatment for this condition could require surgical intervention to shorten the palate, although some dogs can be managed with lifestyle adjustments such as avoiding excessive exercise or environmental irritants.

Upper Respiratory Tract Infection

Upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs) can also cause symptoms that resemble reverse sneezing in dogs. These infections involve inflammation of the upper airway and can be caused by viruses, bacteria, or allergens.

Unlike reverse sneezing, URTIs often require medical treatment, such as antibiotics or antiviral medications. Keeping the dog calm during episodes and providing antihistamines or anti-inflammatories can help alleviate the symptoms.

In all of these conditions, it is essential to consult a veterinarian for accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment options.

Brachycephalic Breeds and Reverse Sneezing

Brachycephalic Dogs and Their Challenges

Brachycephalic dogs, such as Bulldogs, Pugs, and Boxers, have shortened skulls and pushed-in faces. This unique skull conformation can cause various health challenges, including reverse sneezing. Reverse sneezing, or paroxysmal respiration, is a phenomenon where a dog makes a honking sound while inhaling.

Some common triggers for reverse sneezing in brachycephalic breeds include:

  • Pollen
  • Perfume
  • Foreign bodies
  • Nasal discharge

Brachycephalic dogs are more prone to reverse sneezing due to their elongated soft palates and narrow nostrils, making it difficult for them to inhale properly.

This condition may become chronic, leading to other health concerns such as heart disease if left untreated.

How to Help Them

To help brachycephalic dogs experiencing reverse sneezing episodes, there are a few steps you can take:

  1. Massaging: Gently massage the dog’s throat to help soothe the irritation and potentially stop the sneezing.
  2. Leash: When walking your dog, use a harness instead of a collar and leash to reduce pressure on the trachea.
  3. Monitor: Keep an eye on the dog’s environment for potential triggers like pollen, fragrances, and foreign objects that could be causing the issue.
  4. Veterinary Care: If the problem persists or becomes severe, consult a veterinarian for a thorough examination, blood count analysis, and to rule out foreign bodies or other health issues that may be causing the reverse sneezing.

By being attentive to their challenges, you can assist brachycephalic dogs in maintaining proper health and comfort during reverse sneezing episodes.

Environmental Factors and Prevention

Causes of Irritation in the Environment

Reverse sneezing in dogs can be triggered by a variety of environmental irritants, which may affect their respiratory reflex, sinuses, and airways.

Common sources of irritation include household products like cleaning products and air fresheners. These chemical irritants can have an impact on a dog’s respiratory system and provoke reverse sneezing episodes in some cases.

Dogs with shorter snouts, such as Shih Tzus, may be more susceptible to reverse sneezing due to their facial structure, which makes them more prone to irritations being trapped in their nasal passages.

Foreign objects or particles, like dust or pollen, can also enter a dog’s respiratory system during eating or drinking and trigger a reverse sneezing response.

Reducing Exposure to Irritants

There are several ways to minimize your dog’s exposure to irritants in the environment to help stop reverse sneezing:

  • Ventilation: Ensure that your home is properly ventilated, allowing fresh air to circulate and remove any airborne irritants.
  • Cleanliness: Regularly clean your home, including floors, carpets, and furniture, to reduce the buildup of dust and allergens.
  • Air Purifiers: Use air purifiers to reduce allergens and irritants in your home’s air.
  • Pet-Safe Cleaning Products: Try to choose pet-safe, non-toxic cleaning products to minimize the risk of irritation to your dog’s airways and lungs.
  • Exercise Moderation: Monitor your dog during exercise and maintain a moderate intensity, as overexcitement and exercise intolerance can contribute to breathing difficulties in some dogs.

If your dog continues to experience reverse sneezing episodes despite implementing these preventative measures, it is important to seek veterinary care to identify any underlying causes or health concerns that may require treatment.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Veterinary Examination and Tests

When diagnosing reverse sneezing in dogs, the veterinarian will perform a physical examination and may recommend additional tests to rule out other conditions. Some of the tests that can be conducted include blood chemistry, urinalysis, and chest X-ray.

In some cases, a sedated oral and nasal exam may be performed to check for any abnormalities or blockages.

During the examination, your veterinarian will also look for common causes of reverse sneezings, such as allergies or nasal mites. Identifying and addressing the root cause of reverse sneezing is essential for successful treatment.


Depending on the severity and underlying cause of the reverse sneezing, your veterinarian might prescribe different medications. Some common medications include:

  • Anti-inflammatories: These drugs can help reduce inflammation in the nasal passages, making it easier for your dog to breathe.
  • Steroids: In some cases, short-term use of steroids can help control symptoms associated with allergic reactions and inflammation.
  • Decongestants: These can help reduce congestion and improve airflow, leading to a decrease in reverse sneezing episodes.
  • Guaifenesin: This medication assists in thinning and loosening mucus in the respiratory tract, which can help alleviate reverse sneezing.
  • Anti-parasitic: If nasal mites are identified as the cause, your veterinarian will prescribe an appropriate anti-parasitic medication to eliminate the infestation.

Home Remedies

In addition to prescribed medications, there are some safe and effective home remedies that can help manage to reverse sneezing in your dog:

  1. Gently massage your dog’s throat to help reduce the spasm and alleviate the sneezing episode.
  2. Briefly cover your dog’s nostrils, encouraging them to swallow. This can interrupt the reverse sneeze and help them return to normal breathing.
  3. Keep your home clean and free of allergens as much as possible, as allergies can be a significant trigger for reverse sneezing.

Shelby Loos, DVM, a veterinarian, emphasizes the importance of consulting with a veterinarian before attempting any home remedies, as they can best guide you on the appropriate course of action based on your dog’s specific condition.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the common causes of reverse sneezing in dogs?

There are several possible causes of reverse sneezing in dogs. These include:

  • Irritants, such as dust, pollen, or smoke.
  • Excitement or energetic activity.
  • Eating or drinking too quickly.
  • Changes in temperature or humidity.
  • Presence of foreign objects in the nasal passages.
  • Allergies or infections.

How can I help my dog during a reverse sneezing episode?

To help your dog during a reverse sneezing episode, try the following:

  1. Stay calm and reassure your dog with a soothing voice.
  2. Gently stroke their throat or rub their nostrils to encourage them to swallow.
  3. Slightly pinch their nostrils closed, which may help to break the sneezing cycle.

Is reverse sneezing harmful to my dog?

In most cases, reverse sneezing is harmless and not a cause for concern. However, frequent episodes may indicate an underlying issue that requires veterinary attention.

What are the signs that my dog’s reverse sneezing needs medical attention?

If your dog’s reverse sneezing is accompanied by any of the following symptoms, consult your veterinarian:

  • Persistent coughing.
  • Nasal discharge or bleeding.
  • Difficulty breathing or labored breathing.
  • Loss of appetite or lethargy.
  • Other signs of illness or distress.

How long does a typical reverse sneezing episode last?

A typical reverse sneezing episode can last anywhere from a few seconds to a minute. However, the duration may vary depending on the cause and the individual dog.

Are there any long-term solutions for dogs with frequent reverse sneezing?

To manage frequent reverse sneezing, consider the following strategies:

  • Identify and eliminate potential irritants or allergens in your dog’s environment.
  • Monitor your dog’s eating and drinking habits, and encourage slower consumption.
  • Consult your veterinarian about possible underlying causes and treatment options.
  • Keep your dog’s environment clean and well-ventilated to reduce irritants.

More Category Information

Mozzie Kellerman

Mozzie Kellerman

We all love our wrinkled bundle of joy! So I decided to share everything that I know about Shar Pei from what I've researched before we got Ronnie (our dog) and from our experience with her for the past couple of years.

About Me

We all love our wrinkled bundle of joy! So I decided to share everything that I know about Shar Pei from what I’ve researched before we got Ronnie (our dog) and from our experience with her for the past couple of years.

Recent Posts