Understanding Reverse Sneezing in Dogs: Triggers, Differences and Health Implications

Ever heard your dog make a strange, honking sound and wondered what’s going on? You’re not alone. It’s a phenomenon known as ‘reverse sneezing’, and it’s more common than you might think. While it can be alarming to witness, it’s usually not a cause for concern.

In this article, you’ll dive into the world of reverse sneezing, exploring what it is, why it happens, and when you should worry. It’s time to demystify this peculiar canine behavior and put your mind at ease. So, let’s get started on this journey to understanding your furry friend better.

Key Takeaways

  • Reverse sneezing in dogs refers to a peculiar canine behavior marked by an abrupt backward flow of air through the nose, leading to characteristic honking noises. While it may seem alarming, it’s usually harmless and quite common, especially among small breeds like Pugs, Chihuahuas, and Yorkies.
  • The exact cause of this phenomenon can vary widely from foreign body irritants and allergens, to quick swallowing or panting activities or sudden changes in temperature. Chronic reverse sneezing might indicate underlying health concerns like nasal mites or foreign objects lodged in the nasal passage.
  • To identify reverse sneezing, observe physical signs like head stretching back, dramatic chest expansion, rigid standing, audio clues of exaggerated honking or snorting sounds, and behavioral changes such as distress or disorientation during an episode.
  • Diagnosis typically involves detailed history-taking, physical examination, and a variety of diagnostic tests like blood tests, radiographic exams, or endoscopic procedures depending on the case. Treatment varies with cause and severity, ranging from removing irritants, administering antihistamines, to surgical removal in severe cases.
  • At home, staying calm during an episode, massaging your dog’s throat, using a humidifier, removing potential allergens, and regular vet check-ups can help manage reverse sneezing and improve your pet’s quality of life.
  • Understand that reverse sneezing is different from regular sneezing, canine cough, tracheal collapse, and brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS). A vet consultation is crucial to accurately identify the cause of respiratory symptoms, differentiate between these conditions, and ensure your pet’s well-being.

Reverse sneezing in dogs is a common condition often mistaken for a choking hazard, characterized by rapid and long inhalations, and it’s thoroughly explained at American Kennel Club. Triggers can include excitement, pulling on a leash, or irritants like dust or perfumes, with a comprehensive list of causes and management strategies available at PetMD. Understanding the differences between reverse sneezing and more serious conditions such as tracheal collapse is crucial for dog owners and can be found detailed on VCA Hospitals.

Understanding Reverse Sneezing in Dogs

Reverse sneezing, a quite dramatic, yet common event, in your furry friend’s life can seem strange, even scary. However, it’s usually harmless. A deeper understanding of the process can provide reassurance and assist in distinguishing between this common episode and potential health concerns.

Remember, your dog’s nasal passages and throat are interconnected. The air usually flows smoothly from the nose to the lungs. However, during a reverse sneeze episode, air is pulled rapidly and noisily back through the nose. This abrupt reverse air flow is triggered by an irritation. It produces a characteristic “honking” sound — a disconcerting experience for unprepared pet parents.

Though any breed can experience reverse sneezing, small breeds like Pugs, Chihuahuas, and Yorkies appear more prone to it. Moreover, causes vary from foreign bodies like grass blades or strong odors, to allergens such as molds or pollens, to sudden alterations in temperature. The sneeze could be a response to throat irritations, or any activity causing quick swallowing or panting, such as eating, drinking, or excitement.

It’s crucial to remember that while reverse sneezing is mostly harmless, it doesn’t rule out underlying conditions. A chronic reverse sneezing issue might be a symptom of a respiratory condition like nasal mites or a foreign object lodged deep in the nasal passage.

So, stay observant and seek a vet’s advice if the reverse sneezing episodes prolong, grow frequent, or exhibit other concerning symptoms like nasal discharge, difficulty breathing, or loss of appetite. Wrap your arms around the subject of reverse sneezing in dogs – it helps ensure a happy, healthy life for your pet.

Identifying Reverse Sneezing in Your Dog

Attentive pet owners quickly notice any change in their dog’s behaviour. Understanding what reverse sneezing looks like becomes crucial for both you and your furry friend. Reverse sneezing episodes can start suddenly, typically lasting for a few seconds to a minute, yet they’re characterized by distinct features.

Use Audio Clues: This phenomenon often comes with distinct sounds. Your dog might make exaggerated, repeated snorts, or a “honking” noise as if gasping for air. The sound your dog produces during such an episode compares to the noise a person makes while choking.

Example: Pugs are known for their loud, honking sounds during reverse sneezing episodes.

Recognize Physical Signs: These signs make reverse sneezing self-evident. Your dog’s head may stretch back, with eyes rolling upwards as they pull in air rapidly through the nose. Their chest expands dramatically, and they stand still, appearing rigid during an episode.

Example: The head tilting and chest expansion mimic the Chihuahua’s typical reverse sneezing stance.

Watch for Behavioral Changes: Behavioral changes add more context for identification. Your dog might appear distressed, anxious, or disoriented during an episode. Once the episode concludes, they typically seem normal and resumes their regular activities.

Example: Bulldogs, known for their playful behavior, may appear unusually restless during a reverse sneezing episode.

Pay extra attention if your dog’s reverse sneezing episodes become frequent or longer-lasting. Prolonged or persistent bouts could hint at more serious underlying health issues, such as nasal mites, line up a vet appointment. Always put your pet’s health first, understanding reverse sneezing helps ensure your dog continues leading a comfortable and happy life. Remember, when in doubt, consult with a professional.

Causes of Reverse Sneezing in Dogs

Identifying the causes of reverse sneezing can help in managing this peculiar reaction in your furry friends. Numerous factors influence reverse sneezing, and they often revolve around the nasal, pharyngeal, or sinus area.

  1. Irritants: Foreign bodies, dust, smoke, or strong odors can provoke a reverse sneeze reaction. Yup, even your dog’s excitement from your arrival can trigger such an episode!
  2. Allergens: Much like humans, dogs react to allergens – these can range from pollens, perfumes, cleaning products, or even certain food elements. Long exposure, just like with irritants, tends to carry on these reverse sneezings.
  3. Environmental Changes: Dramatic temperature shifts, particularly moving from a cool to warm environment, might trigger reverse sneezing.
  4. Infections or Inflammations: Infections in the sinus or respiratory tract, or inflammations of the nasal passage, could lead to episodes of reverse sneezing.
  5. Anatomy: Certain breeds, particularly those with brachycephalic skulls (for instance, Pugs and Bulldogs), are predisposed to reverse sneezing due to their unique physical structure.

This isn’t an exhaustive list as it’s also not uncommon for dogs to reverse sneeze without a discernible cause. Always remember: In case of continual or severe episodes, it’s best to consult a professional veterinary doctor. They would properly diagnose if your dog’s issue lies behind reverse sneezing or if it’s indicative of a more serious underlying condition.

Diagnosis and Treatment Options

Diagnosing reverse sneezing in dogs involves a combination of thorough history-taking and physical examination. Veterinarians typically rely on your observations of the episodes, noting frequency, duration, and associated events as crucial factors. A respiratory examination follows, searching for any abnormalities within the nose, throat, or airways.

Following the assessment, vets might suggest a variety of diagnostic tests. These might include blood tests to rule out systemic diseases or infections, radiographic exams for identifying anatomical abnormalities, or endoscopic procedures for a more intimate look at the respiratory tract.

Upon diagnosis, treatment varies depending on the severity and cause of the reverse sneezing. For instance, vets often advise removal of irritants from the dog’s environment, eliminating potential allergens that trigger episodes. Administration of certain medications such as antihistamines shouldn’t surprise you, as they effectively manage allergic reactions contributing to reverse sneezing. Yet for some dogs, simple calming techniques or distraction methods during an episode suffice.

But consider more severe cases. If an underlying issue, like a tumor or foreign body lodged in the respiratory tract, provokes the reverse sneezing, appropriate treatment becomes essential, ranging from surgical removal to radiation therapy.

Remember, no universal treatment suits every dog all the time. Discussing with your vet proves paramount to finding the optimal treatment strategy for managing your dog’s reverse sneezing episodes effectively.

The goal of such treatment doesn’t necessarily aim to eliminate reverse sneezing, but rather, manage the condition, enhance the dog’s comfort, and in more serious situations, address the root cause contributing to these episodes. Regular follow-up with your vet provides the best method of monitoring the success of any chosen treatment and making necessary adjustments to ensure your dog’s health and well-being.

Coping with Your Dog’s Reverse Sneezing

After understanding the nature of reverse sneezing and how veterinarians diagnose and treat it, you’re undoubtedly eager to take steps to help your furry friend. When dealing with reverse sneezing in your dog, there are certain approaches that ease their discomfort and reduce episodes.

Firstly, stay calm when your dog experiences an episode. Keeping a calm demeanor assists in soothing your pet, reducing their anxiety. Interestingly, stress can trigger reverse sneezing episodes, thus maintaining a relaxed atmosphere aids in prevention.

Secondly, gently massage your dog’s throat. This act often helps to stop the reverse sneezing episode by stimulating the throat muscles. Concurrently, you may try lightly blowing on your dog’s face, inducing swallowing that may halt the reverse sneeze.

Thirdly, usage of a humidifier in your home assists in keeping your dog’s nasal passages moist, providing relief particularly during dry seasons. Especially remember this strategy during cold weather when heaters often dry the air inside homes.

Fourthly, identifying and removing potential allergens from your pet’s environment goes a long way in reducing reverse sneezing episodes. This action entails limiting your dog’s exposure to dust, pollen, smoke, perfumes, cleaning products, or other potential allergens.

Finally, regular veterinarian visits are paramount. By maintaining a schedule of check-ups, your vet can detect any changes in your dog’s condition early, modifying treatments if needed.

Despite being generally harmless, reverse sneezing may indicate serious underlying health issues. Constant vigilance helps in identifying complications and ensuring effective treatment. With these tactics at your disposal, you’re better equipped to manage your dog’s reverse sneezing effectively, improving their quality of life.

Reverse Sneezing VS Other Similar Conditions

While effective strategies exist for managing reverse sneezing episodes in dogs, understanding how this condition differs from similar ones proves crucial in detecting potential health problems.

First, contrast it with regular sneezing. Dogs sneeze for similar reasons as humans: irritation in the nose or throat, usually due to allergies or foreign substances. A unique aspect of reverse sneezing, however, lies in its distinctive sound, often described as a rapid, forced inhaling sound, while regular sneezes typically manifest as explosive exhales.

Second, separate it from a canine cough – a sign of various conditions including kennel cough, heart disease, or respiratory infections. Unlike these, reverse sneezing doesn’t usually produce any discharge, although incessant coughing coupled with nasal or eye discharge necessitates a vet’s attention.

Third, don’t confuse it with tracheal collapse, a common condition in small dog breeds characterized by a harsh, honking cough and difficulty breathing. A definitive diagnosis for this condition requires specific investigations like radiographs or fluoroscopy, not typically needed in cases of reverse sneezing.

Lastly, distinguish it from brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS), predominantly in short-snouted breeds like Bulldogs. BOAS’s symptoms include noisy breathing, reluctance to exercise, and even fainting – clearly, a more severe condition than reverse sneezing.

To accurately identify the cause of your dog’s respiratory symptoms and differentiate between reverse sneezing and other similar conditions, consult with a veterinarian. By comprehending these discrepancies, not only can you respond appropriately during an episode, but you also heighten your awareness of potential underlying health issues. Remember, vigilance plays a vital role in ensuring your pet’s well-being.


You’ve now got a clear understanding of what reverse sneezing in dogs is all about. It’s not usually a cause for alarm, but it’s still crucial to keep an eye on any chronic symptoms that could indicate underlying issues. Remember, it’s about knowing the difference between this and other similar conditions. Your ability to distinguish reverse sneezing from regular sneezing, canine cough, tracheal collapse, and BOAS is key. With this knowledge, you’re better equipped to ensure your dog’s health and well-being. So, keep your vigilance high and your management strategies effective. Your furry friend is counting on you!

What is ‘reverse sneezing’ in dogs?

Reverse sneezing in dogs is a relatively common respiratory event, typically harmless, often caused by an irritant or sudden change in temperature. However, chronic symptoms may suggest underlying respiratory issues.

What might trigger a reverse sneeze in my dog?

Triggers might include foreign objects, allergens, strong odors, or sudden temperature changes. It’s crucial to monitor for chronic symptoms or episodes to ensure the health of your pet.

How is reverse sneezing different from regular sneezing in dogs?

Reverse sneezing is characterized by rapid, forced inhalation via the nose, often with the neck extended and elbows spread apart. In contrast, regular sneezing involves a forceful expulsion of air through the nose and mouth.

What other conditions may resemble reverse sneezing?

Conditions like canine cough, tracheal collapse, and brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS) may resemble reverse sneezing. However, they have unique characteristics that help distinguish them from reverse sneezing.

Why is it important to distinguish reverse sneezing from other conditions?

Recognizing the difference is vital to detect potential health problems and seek appropriate veterinary care. Misdiagnosis may lead to unnecessary treatments or missed treatment for serious underlying conditions.