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Reverse Sneeze in Dogs - What It Is & When to be Concerned

If your dog suddenly stops, extends their neck, and lets out a strange snorting sound - there's a good chance that you have just witnessed a reverse sneeze. It can be alarming to witness a reverse sneeze but it's fairly common in small dogs. Our Cordova vets explain.

What is a reverse sneeze in dogs?

Paroxysmal respiration, or reverse sneezing as it is more commonly called, is a condition that causes the dog to rapidly pull air in through the nose producing a loud snorting sound. In fact, it sounds a bit like your dog is trying to take a deep breath in while sneezing at the same time.

When a dog reverse sneezes they typically raise their head, extend their neck, and begin making a loud snorting noise. Most reverse sneezing episodes last for less than a minute but can be frightening for pet parents, and alarming for the pet.

Why does reverse sneeze happen?

Reverse sneezing is believed to be caused by inflammation or irritation of the nasal, pharyngeal, or sinus passages, and could be the dog's attempt at removing the irritant causing the issue. Some irritants believed to trigger the reverse sneezing reflex in dogs include dust, nasal mites, seeds, grass, pollen and smoke or conditions such as masses or an elongated soft palate.

In some cases, dogs may also begin to reverse sneeze when over-excited.

Should I be concerned if my dog experiences an episode of reverse sneezing?

For most dogs, the reverse sneeze is nothing to be overly concerned about. The sneezing usually only occurs for less than a minute and dogs return to their activities afterward. There are no health repercussions from it and your dog will probably just shake it off like nothing happened.

There are some signs, though, that may point to an underlying health problem. If your dog has suddenly developed reverse sneezing, it’s always a good idea to have them examined by your veterinarian, just to determine the right diagnosis.

Some symptoms that can point to other conditions like asthma, heart disease, and tracheal collapse include:

  • Labored breathing
  • Ongoing, consistent cough
  • Frequent wheezing
  • Panting without exercise
  • Open-mouthed breathing
  • Lethargy
  • Lack of interest in exercise
  • Pale or blue gums

All of the above symptoms deserve further investigation, if your dog is displaying one or more of these symptoms contact your vet right away to book an examination for your dog.

How can I help my dog if they are reverse sneezing?

Once your dog has been examined and given a clean bill of health from your vet, there are a few things you can do to help ease your pet through these scary episodes. 

  • Stay calm and upbeat, to help your dog’s anxiety and stress.
  • Address any anxiety or fear your pet may be facing and keep them focused on enrichment toys and activities as a way to avoid anxiety or overexcitement.
  • Massage your pet’s throat to get them to swallow. This can sometimes help to stop the episode.
  • Gently lift their head up and then down.
  • Distract your pet with a toy, treat, or dinner.

This condition can seem out of the ordinary, but for most otherwise healthy dogs it looks and sounds much scarier than it actually is. 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If you are concerned about your dog's health contact Germantown Parkway Animal Hospital.  Our experienced vets can diagnose your pet's health issue and provide effective treatment options.

Small dogs, like this tiny terrier, are most likely to experience episodes of reverse sneeze.

Looking for a vet in Cordova and Greater Memphis area?

We're always accepting new patients, so contact our veterinary hospital today to book your pet's first appointment.

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