What Pet Parents Need To Know About Reverse Sneezing In Dogs

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Before you freak out, you should know that reverse sneezing (also known as Pharyngeal Gag Reflex or Paroxysmal Respiration) is fairly common in dogs, and that breeds, especially those with a flat face (Boxers, Boston Terriers, Bulldogs, Pugs, and Shih Tzus), are more prone to the condition than others. If it happens to your dog, there’s no need to scoop him up and rush him to the vet. Let it pass – a reverse sneeze can last anywhere from a few seconds to a minute, and he’ll return to normal once it’s over.

When humans sneeze, we push air rapidly out through the nose. Not so with a dog’s reverse sneeze. Instead, the air is pulled into the nose, making a loud honking or snorting noise that can scare the bejebus out of an owner. Here are a few other telltale signs of reverse sneezing in dogs:

  • Standing still with elbows spread apart;
  • Bulging eyes;
  • Backwards head motion.

What Causes Reverse Sneezing In Dogs?

Caused by a spasm of the throat and soft palate, reverse sneezing in dogs can be set off by an irritation in the throat, pharynx, or larynx. It can be hard to pinpoint what sets off your dog’s reverse sneezing episodes, but a few of the most common causes include environmental odors (smoke, household cleaners, perfume, room sprays, dust, pollen), exercise, weather changes, tight collars and sudden movement from a leash.

What Should You Do Be Doing A Reverse Sneezing Episode?

I know that during a reverse sneeze, my dog shakes – he doesn’t like the experience at all. That’s why it’s important that I stay calm and comfort him. I know that first time it happened I was just as scared as he was. But it’s important that your dog doesn’t see you panic, as it will make him anxious. Now that I know that the reverse sneezing is not a big deal, I have discovered a few ways to help my dog get through the episode:

  • Use a calming voice: Talk to your dog in a calm, soothing voice, tell him that he’s a good dog and that everything is going to be fine.
  • Pet him: Keep constant contact, petting his back, head, ears, etc.
  • Massage his throat: Gently message his throat to stop the spasm.
  • Hold nostrils: Cover your dog’s nostrils briefly (just a second or two). Your dog will be forced to swallow, which usually helps clear the irritation and stops the sneezing.

Does This Require Follow Up Treatment?

In the majority of cases, no – it’s a normal occurrence. In fact, all dogs will experience reverse sneezing in their lives. However, if these sneezes occur frequently or go on for longer than a minute in time, or if there’s yellowish or bloody discharge coming out of the nose, it’s time to see the vet. There could be other factors at play here. Your vet will be able to tell you if there’s another issue, such as nasal mites, kennel cough, nasal cancers, polyps or tumors, collapsing trachea, or a respiratory infection, which will require medical intervention.

I’ve included a video of reverse sneezing in dogs below so you know what to expect when it happens or you can confirm that it already has happened.