Reverse sneezing is a condition that affects all types of dogs, but more commonly smaller dogs such as miniatures, Terriers, and brachycephalic breeds. It is a "paroxysmal" respiratory response, meaning that it comes in spasm-like episodes.
What Is Reverse Sneezing in Dogs?
Reverse sneezing is a fairly common respiratory event in dogs, but is rarely seen in cats. It is suspected to be caused by irritation or inflammation of the nasal, pharyngeal, or sinus passages. It may be a way for the dog to attempt to remove foreign particles such as dust, powder or other irritants or allergens from its upper airways. It is also seen after periods of over-excitement.
Reverse sneezing is characterized by sudden, rapid and repeated inhalations through the nose, followed by snorting or gagging sounds. It can be alarming to an owner, but is not known to be harmful to dogs without any underlying conditions (such as heart disease), and most dogs are completely normal before and after a reverse sneezing episode. In dogs that exhibit reverse sneezing, it is not uncommon for them to have repeat episodes of reverse sneezing throughout their lives.
What Happens When A Dog Reverse Sneezes?
During a reverse sneeze, the dog will suddenly stand still, extend its head and neck, and produce a loud snorting sound.
This condition should be differentiated from a tracheal collapse (often seen in toy breeds), which is characterized by a loud "honking" sound.
A tracheal collapse is of a more serious nature than a reverse sneeze.
What Should I Do If My Dog Reverse Sneezes?
A common remedy is to hold the dog's nostrils closed for a second and lightly massage its throat to calm him. Lightly blowing in his face may also help. This should cause the dog to swallow a couple of times, which will usually stop the spasm of the reverse sneeze. Getting the dog in a cool area or outside with fresh air while trying to verbally calm him can also be useful.
Most dogs do not require medication, however, some veterinarians recommend antihistamines if the problem is serious, chronic, and allergy-related. An evaluation of the environment would also be helpful in determining possible causes of these events. Perfumes, carpet cleaners, etc. are often cited in these dogs' histories.
For more on keeping your dog healthy, be sure to check out the video below!
Dr. Jerry Klein is the Chief Veterinary Officer for the AKC and is an emergency and critical care veterinarian who has been a valued member of the Chicago veterinary community for more than 35 years. In addition to his work as a vet, Dr. Klein is a licensed judge for the AKC and has judged shows both nationally and internationally.