Reverse Sneezing in Dogs

icon August 23, 2023

Just like humans, dogs can experience various health issues that might cause concern for their owners. One such peculiar occurrence is "reverse sneezing," a phenomenon that can be quite alarming to witness. In this article, we will delve into what reverse sneezing in dogs is, its causes, symptoms, and some remedies to help your furry friend when they experience this odd behavior.

What is Reverse Sneezing in Dogs?

Reverse sneezing, also known as pharyngeal gag reflex or mechanosensitive aspiration reflex, is a common occurrence in dogs that can often be mistaken for a respiratory problem. It is characterized by a sudden, repetitive, and loud inhaling sound that resembles a cross between a sneeze and a snort. Unlike a typical sneeze, which involves expelling air forcefully, reverse sneezing involves rapid inhalations through the nose.

What Does Reverse Dog Sneezing Sound Like?

Reverse sneezing sounds like the dog is actually inhaling their sneezes, hence the name “reverse sneezing.” It’s a loud snorting sound that can sometimes sound like a goose honking or even like the dog has something caught in its nose or throat.

The first few episodes of your dog’s reverse sneezing can be scary if you’ve never heard it before. but it's usually harmless. It's also known as pharyngeal gag reflex or inspiratory paroxysmal respiration. It's typically characterized by rapid and repeated inhalations that can sound like a series of snorting or honking noises. The sound is caused by the dog quickly pulling air in through its nose, often accompanied by the dog extending its neck and head forward.

Why Do Dogs Reverse Sneeze?

  • Irritation or Irritants:  Reverse sneezing can be triggered by various irritants such as pollen, dust, perfumes, strong odors, or even a sudden change in temperature.
  • Nasal Mites: In some cases, nasal mites (tiny parasites) can infest a dog's nasal passages, leading to irritation and reverse sneezing. 
  • Excitement or Overexcitement: Dogs that are overly excited or worked up can experience reverse sneezing. It's thought that the excitement causes a temporary constriction of the trachea or the back of the throat, leading to the characteristic snorting sound.
  • Eating and Drinking: Sometimes, dogs might reverse sneeze after eating or drinking, possibly due to irritation caused by food particles or water going down the wrong way.

Your vet will need to examine your dog to make sure the reverse sneezing isn’t related to a severe underlying condition such as collapsing trachea, nasal tumors, or other similar problems. If all of these severe conditions are ruled out, the vet may diagnose your dog with reverse sneezing of an unknown cause.

Do Dogs Reverse Sneeze When Cold?

While cold weather can cause a dog's nasal passages to constrict, which may lead to increased sniffling and sneezing, there is no direct correlation between cold weather and reverse sneezing. Reverse sneezing is usually a reaction to an irritant or something affecting your dog's nasal passages, not just a reaction to temperature.

If you are concerned that your dog is sneezing too often, for a long period of time, or with other symptoms such as difficulty breathing, coughing, runny nose, or behavioral changes, it may be a symptom of a cold and you are advised to consult your veterinarian!

If you can't tell the difference between sneezing and reverse sneezing, check out the table below to differentiate the characteristics and causes.

Sneeze vs Reverse Sneeze


Reverse Sneeze (Also called Pharyngeal Gag Reflex or Inspiratory Paroxysmal Respiration):

  • Cause: A sneeze is a reflexive response triggered by irritation or stimulation of the nasal passages. It's often a protective mechanism designed to expel foreign particles, irritants, or infectious agents from the nasal cavity.
  • Process: During a sneeze, the body takes in a deep breath, followed by a rapid expulsion of air through the mouth and nose. The forceful exhalation helps clear the irritants from the nasal passages.
  • Characteristics: Sneezing is typically accompanied by a noticeable "achoo" sound and can be triggered by various factors, such as dust, pollen, smoke, strong odors, or infections.
  • Cause: A reverse sneeze is not a true sneeze but rather a reflexive action in which a dog or, less commonly, other animals inhale rapidly and forcefully through their nose. It's often caused by irritation or inflammation of the soft palate and throat.
  • Process: During a reverse sneeze, a dog extends its neck and inhales repeatedly, creating a distinct snorting or honking sound. This action is thought to help clear the irritation from the throat or nasal passages.
  • Characteristics: Unlike a regular sneeze, a reverse sneeze doesn't involve the same explosive exhalation. Instead, the focus is on inhaling air in a rapid and pronounced manner. It can sometimes be mistaken for a choking or gagging episode, but it's usually harmless and stops on its own.

Symptoms of Reverse Sneezing

Here are the typical symptoms of reverse sneezing:

  • Rapid, Snorting Sounds
  • Inward Breathing
  • Extended Neck and Head
  • Eyes Widening
  • Brief Duration
  • No Other Signs of Distress

Is Reverse Sneezing in Dogs Dangerous?

Reverse sneezing itself is usually not dangerous, while reverse sneezing can be a bit alarming to witness, it is usually not dangerous in itself and typically resolves on its own.

Most of the time, reverse sneezing episodes are brief and resolve without any intervention. You can help your dog by remaining calm and gently massaging their throat or softly blowing into their face, which might help them swallow and alleviate the episode. 

However, if your dog's reverse sneezing episodes become frequent, prolonged, or severe, it's a good idea to consult your veterinarian.

How Much is Too Much Reverse Sneezing? When Should I Worry About Reverse Sneezing?

Frequency: If your dog is experiencing reverse sneezing episodes very frequently (9-10 times a day), it could be a sign of an underlying issue that needs attention.

Duration: If the reverse sneezing episodes last for an extended period or are not resolving on their own, it might indicate the need for veterinary evaluation. (If it lasts longer than a minute.)

Other Symptoms: If your dog exhibits other symptoms alongside reverse sneezing, such as difficulty breathing, coughing, nasal discharge, lethargy, or changes in appetite, it's advisable to consult a veterinarian.

How to Stop Reverse Sneezing in Dogs?

Here's how veterinarians might approach the treatment and management of reverse sneezing in dogs:

While reverse sneezing itself is usually harmless, it can sometimes be triggered by underlying factors such as allergies, irritants, infections, or structural issues in the nasal passages or throat. If the veterinarian suspects an underlying cause, they may recommend further tests like blood work, X-rays, or even endoscopy to examine the airways more closely.

If allergies or irritants are suspected triggers, the veterinarian might recommend environmental changes such as using air purifiers, keeping windows closed during high pollen seasons, or changing your dog's diet to address any potential food allergies.

Here are some antihistamines that are commonly used for dog allergies:

  • Diphenhydramine (Benadryl): This is one of the most commonly used antihistamines for dogs. It can help relieve itching and other allergy symptoms. The appropriate dosage should be determined by your veterinarian.
  • Cetirizine (Zyrtec): Cetirizine is another antihistamine that can be used for dogs. It is generally well-tolerated and can help alleviate itching and allergic reactions.
  • Loratadine (Claritin): Loratadine is used less frequently in dogs, but it can also be effective in managing allergy symptoms. Dosage should be discussed with a veterinarian.
  • Fexofenadine (Allegra): Like loratadine, fexofenadine is less commonly used in dogs, but it can be considered under veterinary guidance.
  • Hydroxyzine: This antihistamine can be used for various allergic reactions in dogs, including itching and anxiety. It's important to follow your vet's recommendations for dosage.
  • Chlorpheniramine: Chlorpheniramine is an older antihistamine that can help manage itching and other allergy symptoms.

In cases where reverse sneezing is frequent, prolonged, or caused by allergies or irritants, the veterinarian might prescribe antihistamines or other medications to help manage the symptoms. However, this would depend on the underlying cause.

If there are structural issues causing the reverse sneezing, such as elongated soft palates or other abnormalities in the airways, surgical correction might be considered. 

Home Remedy for Reverse Sneezing in Dogs

Here are some steps you can take to help stop or alleviate reverse sneezing episodes in dogs:

Gently Massage the Throat: Gently rub your dog's throat in a downward motion to help soothe the reflex. This can sometimes help interrupt the reverse sneezing episode.

Stop Reverse Sneezing in Dogs

pictures from wikihow

Cover Their Nostrils: Gently cover your dog's nostrils with your fingers for a few seconds. This can help encourage them to swallow, which might alleviate the reverse sneezing.

Stop Reverse Sneezing in Dogs Step

pictures from wikiHow

Offer Water: Sometimes offering your dog a small amount of water to drink can help calm their throat and potentially stop the episode.

Change Their Focus: Sometimes, a change in your dog's focus can help distract them from reverse sneezing. Try calling their name, offering a treat, or engaging them in a simple command or trick.

Use Humidifiers: Dry air can irritate a dog's throat and nasal passages, potentially triggering reverse sneezing. Using a humidifier in your home can help keep the air moist and reduce the frequency of episodes.

Avoid Irritants: If you notice that certain environmental factors trigger your dog's reverse sneezing, try to minimize their exposure to those irritants. These might include strong odors, dust, pollen, or smoke.

Consider Collar and Leash Pressure: In some cases, applying gentle pressure to your dog's collar or leash might help interrupt a reverse sneezing episode.


Are There Any Breeds of Dog Prone to Reverse Sneezing?

Yes, certain dog breeds are more prone to reverse sneezing than others. 
Breeds that have a brachycephalic (short-nosed) facial structure tend to be more susceptible to reverse sneezing due to their anatomy. Some of these breeds include:

  • Brussels Griffon
  • Pug
  • Bulldog (English and French)
  • Shih Tzu
  • Boxer
  • Boston Terrier
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  • Pekingese
  • Bull Terrier
  • Lhasa Apso
  • Chihuahua

Reverse Sneezing in Dogs

Is Reverse Sneezing Bad for Dogs?

Reverse sneezing is generally not harmful in itself and is usually not a cause for significant concern. 

While the episodes can be alarming to dog owners, they typically last for a short duration (usually under a minute) and resolve on their own.

Is Dog Reverse Sneezing When Excited?

Yes, reverse sneezing can sometimes occur in dogs when they are excited or overstimulated.

Reverse sneezing is usually harmless and is thought to be caused by irritation or inflammation of the soft palate or throat. In many cases, reverse sneezing stops on its own and doesn't require intervention.


Reverse sneezing might be a peculiar and somewhat unsettling behavior in dogs, but it's generally harmless and manageable. By understanding the causes, recognizing the symptoms, and knowing how to assist your furry companion during an episode, you can ensure their comfort and well-being. As always, if you have concerns about your dog's health, don't hesitate to seek professional veterinary advice.



Leave A Comment
All comments are moderated before being published.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Join The Puainta

Become one of pet parents and get professional tips, immediate product info, updated promotions and discounts, and more surprises from us!