What is Reverse Sneezing in Dogs?

3 min read
Jan 13, 2022

Have you ever heard your dog making a strange hacking or wheezing sound? At first, it may sound like he’s going to vomit, cough, or choke. Instead, he’s actually sucking air in through his nose as he emits the jarring sound.

This event is what is commonly referred to as “reverse sneezing.” Also known as paroxysmal respiration, this act can be stressful to witness but it sounds much worse than it actually is. Reverse sneezing is not life-threatening for your dog. In fact, it’s quite normal.  

In this article, we’ll go over possible causes of reverse sneezing, how to treat it, and when your pup might need medical attention.  

What Causes Reverse Sneezing? 

Reverse sneezing fits are the result of spasms in your dog’s throat. The spasms are caused when something tickles the back of your dog’s throat just above the soft palate. A reverse sneezing fit occurs as an attempt to relieve the itching or irritation. These fits don’t tend to last more than a minute. 

This type of irritation has a variety of potential causes, including: 

  • Allergies to dust, pollen, smoke, or other substances 
  • Excessive pressure on your dog’s throat (likely due to pulling on the leash) 
  • Eating too quickly 
  • Becoming over-excited 
  • Viruses 
  • Cancer 
  • Mites 

While reverse sneezing itself isn’t harmful to dogs, it’s not ideal for your pup to experience these fits. If you notice that your dog is having frequent episodes, try to take note of the circumstances surrounding the incident.  

If you can figure out what triggers your dog’s reverse sneezing it should be easy to prevent! 

Did you know that dogs can suffer from seasonal allergies? They do! If you notice that your pup seems to be reverse sneezing often in periods of high pollen, it’s likely that he’s experiencing seasonal allergies.  

Your dog may also be allergic to household cleaners and smoke whether it be from cigarettes, a fireplace, or even candles. Does your dog have episodes after you use any of these substances? 

Dogs who pull at the leash or collar are also likely to suffer from reverse sneezing episodes. If your dog is a chronic puller, consider purchasing a harness to eliminate the stress on his throat.  

It’s also worth noting that reverse sneezing is more common in small dogs and brachycephalic breeds, such as Pugs and Bulldogs. This is thought to be because they have smaller windpipes and longer soft palates. This makes their throats more sensitive and prone to irritation. 

Is there a Treatment for Reverse Sneezing in Dogs? 

In most cases, reverse sneezing doesn’t require any treatment. Usually, the episodes will be short-lived and infrequent.  

If there happens to be an environmental trigger that is causing your dog to have regular reverse sneezing fits, all you need to do is eliminate the stimulus. 

You may be able to alleviate your pup’s reverse sneezing by massaging his throat and chest at the moment the episode takes place. This is thought to help alleviate the irritation and stop the spasms. 

You can also try placing your hand over your pup’s nostrils which will force him to swallow. Swallowing will often eliminate whatever it is that is tickling your dog’s throat. Do be careful when doing this action so that you do not hurt or scare your pup. If you do not feel comfortable performing this, wait for a moment as the episode should pass quickly.  

When Should I be Concerned about Reverse Sneezing? 

If your dog’s episodes of reverse sneezing are very frequent or are coupled with additional symptoms, contact your veterinarian. The symptoms may include things like loss of appetite, discharge from the nostrils, or difficulty breathing. 

These symptoms are likely indicative of a larger health problem that requires medical attention. For instance, your pup could be suffering from something like kennel cough, a respiratory infection, or nasal mites.  

Your veterinarian will be able to work with you to determine the cause of your dog’s reverse sneezing episodes and help you prevent them. 

Again, in most cases reverse sneezing is nothing to worry about and will resolve itself on its own. As always, paying close attention to your pup’s behavior and state of wellness will help you spot any irregularities as soon as possible. This still holds true in the case of reverse sneezing.  

Consider Investing in Dog Insurance  

Looking for more ways to keep your pup happy and healthy? Consider investing in a dog insurance policy with MetLife Pet Insurance.1  Get your free quote today. 

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Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances. 

1 Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions. 

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