Understanding Reverse Sneezing in Dogs: What Pet Owners Should Know

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Last Updated: October 26th, 2023

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What is reverse sneezing in dogs and how can you affectively manage your dog’s reverse sneezing.

Reverse sneezing in dogs


Reverse sneezing in dogs is a common yet puzzling phenomenon that often leaves pet owners worried and confused. Also known as “pharyngeal gag reflex” or “inspiratory paroxysmal respiration,” it involves a series of rapid, loud snorting noises that seem like a mix between sneezing and choking. Unlike a regular sneeze where air is expelled out, a reverse sneeze involves the dog rapidly pulling air into their nose. This article aims to demystify reverse sneezing, diving into the reasons behind its occurrence, the science entangled within this strange reflex, its potential dangers, and practical ways to manage it effectively.

What is Reverse Sneezing in Dogs?

Reverse sneezing is a respiratory event in dogs characterized by a repeated pulling of air into the nostrils, often accompanied by snorting or gagging sounds. While it may seem alarming, it’s usually a harmless occurrence. It mostly happens when the dog’s soft palate becomes irritated, causing a spasm in their throat. The phenomenon is relatively common in dogs, especially in smaller breeds and brachycephalic breeds (dogs with short noses and flat faces), like French Bulldogs and other Bulldog breeds.

Male light brown dachshund dog reverse sneezing and his owner comforting him.

Why Does Reverse Sneezing Occur?

Reverse sneezing can be triggered by several factors that irritate the dog’s throat or nasal passages. Common triggers include excitement, sudden temperature change, strong odors, dust, pollen, or even a tight collar. Additionally, allergies, respiratory infections, or nasal mites can also lead to episodes of reverse sneezing.

The Science Behind Reverse Sneezing

When a dog experiences a reverse sneeze, the soft palate and throat tissues temporarily spasm and close off. The dog then makes rapid and forceful inhalations through the nose, accompanied by distinctive snorting noises. During this time, the trachea narrows, making it challenging for air to move through, causing the dog to make a reverse sneeze gesture to remove the irritants and ease the discomfort.

Is Reverse Sneezing Dangerous?

For most dogs, reverse sneezing is not dangerous. It is usually a short episode that goes away on its own or after slight intervention, such as massaging the dog’s throat. However, if the reverse sneezing episodes are frequent and persistent, it may be indicative of underlying issues like allergies or respiratory tract infections, which may require veterinary attention.

How to Deal with Reverse Sneezing in Dogs?

In the middle of a reverse sneezing episode, stay calm and gently soothe your dog, Berkley Dog&Cat Hospital suggests. You may gently massage the dog’s throat or cover their nostrils briefly, encouraging them to swallow, which can help stop the spasm. Offering a drink of water can also be helpful. For frequent occurrences, identifying and eliminating triggers, such as strong odors or dust, can be beneficial. If the episodes persist, consulting a veterinarian to rule out any underlying health issues is advisable.

Vizsla and her owner having a bonding moment


Reverse sneezing in dogs is a common, typically harmless respiratory episode, characterized by rapid inhalations and snorting noises. It results from irritations in the dog’s nasal passages or throat, leading to spasms that cause the peculiar noise. While it usually isn’t a cause for alarm, persistent episodes should be consulted with a veterinarian to exclude potential underlying health concerns. Understanding and managing reverse sneezing with knowledge and calmness can help ensure the well-being and comfort of your furry friend.


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