Search Menu

Reverse sneezing is a condition that affects all types of dogs, but more commonly smaller dogs such as miniatures, terriers, and brachycephalic breeds. It’s 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 rare for cats. One suspected cause is 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. Reverse sneezing in dogs can occur 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 isn’t known to be harmful to dogs without any underlying conditions (such as heart disease). Most dogs are completely normal before and after a reverse sneezing episode. In dogs that exhibit reverse sneezing, it’s not uncommon for them to have repeat episodes of reverse sneezing throughout their lives.

Welsh Terrier head portrait outdoors.
©buglibu -

What Happens When a Dog Reverse Sneezes?

During a reverse sneeze, a dog will suddenly stand still. Then, they’ll extend their 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?

One common remedy is to hold the dog’s nostrils closed for a second, then lightly massage its throat. Lightly blowing in their 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. It can also help to get the dog in a cool area or outside with fresh air. Trying to verbally calm the dog can also be useful.

Most dogs don’t 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 or carpet cleaners, for example, are often cited in these dogs’ histories.

This article is intended solely as general guidance, and does not constitute health or other professional advice. Individual situations and applicable laws vary by jurisdiction, and you are encouraged to obtain appropriate advice from qualified professionals in the applicable jurisdictions. We make no representations or warranties concerning any course of action taken by any person following or otherwise using the information offered or provided in this article, including any such information associated with and provided in connection with third-party products, and we will not be liable for any direct, indirect, consequential, special, exemplary or other damages that may result, including but not limited to economic loss, injury, illness or death.

Related article: Dog Drooling: When It’s Cause for Concern
Get Your Free AKC eBook

Emergency First Aid for Dogs

Even the most responsible pet owner can't always protect their pet from a sudden accident or illness. Getting your pet immediate medical attention can be the difference between life and death. Download this e-book to learn more about what to do in an emergency situation.
*Turn off pop-up blocker to download
*Turn off pop-up blocker to download