Reverse Sneezing in Dogs

I have decided to write post about Reverse Sneezing/Breathing in dogs, as both my two suffer from this and of late, it has increased a little. It shocked the living daylights out of me when BG#1 did it years ago and I was alone at home – I thought he was dying!  Now, both of mine do it and I have spoken at length to my vet who says it is a fairly common thing for dogs to have. Still – it is a frightening thing to see especially for those who experience it for the first time.

So, what is reverse sneezing/breathing? It also known as the “mechanosensitive aspiration reflex” or “pharyngeal gag reflex”.  Its fairly common dogs too.  In a regular sneeze, your dog pushes air out through the nose; but, in a reverse sneeze, air is pulled rapidly in through the nose producing a startling sound that’s similar to that of him/her struggling to breathe or having an asthma attack.

Any age, breed or sex can be affected, although it is more common in smaller breeds because they have smaller throats and windpipes.  Also pugs and bulldogs are more known than some other breeds to have episodes of reverse sneezing/breathing due to them having an elongated soft pallet.

What a Reverse Sneeze Looks Like

During a reverse sneeze, your dog will make rapid breathing noises, stand still with his elbows spread apart, extend his head, and his eyes may bulge. He will make a loud snorting sound, which might make you think he has something caught in his throat – I initially thought he had a fur ball lodged/ old sausage up there!! Many dog owners think their pet is suffocating or having an asthma attack during a reverse sneeze episode – believe you me, I ran to the vet immediately! Each reverse sneezing episode normally lasts for less than a minute up to two minutes – there was once where he did it for over 4 minutes and my dog walker thank goodness, knew what to do and gently opened his mouth and made sure he could breathe – by this point, she said his gums had turned blue. Suffice to say – I was on the phone to the vet that same afternoon.

Here are videos I found on YouTube that can help you identify what reverse sneezing/breathing is:

Dr Karen Becker on reverse sneezing here:

Causes of Reverse Sneezing

The reason for these reverse sneezing/breathing episodes are still unknown but may be related to allergies, nasal irritants such as perfume, common household cleaners, pollens, (if your dog is a bit of a sniffer there might be grass stuck up his nose!), or nasal inflammation.  A reverse sneeze may look disturbing – many people fear that their dog is not breathing during these episodes – but don’t worry, it is not a harmful condition and there are no ill effects (unless its happening all the time) in which case, consult your vet.

Reverse sneezing attacks are generally quite brief and not life threatening – these episodes usually last from 1-2 minutes at a time. I have noticed that certain events trigger my two’s reverse breathing – mainly being over-excited, so when I get home, I try not to make a fuss of them too much until they have calmed down.  Collars that are too tight might also cause them to reverse sneeze.  Suffice to say, when the better half came home from his travels on Saturday morning, both of them went into a frenzy with their reverse breathing!  Sometimes, eating or drinking too fast can cause reverse sneezing too.

In some situations when reverse sneezing is frequent, a more serious condition may be the underlying cause. In those situations, testing for nasal mites, collapsing trachea, a potential foreign body stuck in the respiratory tract, kennel cough, a respiratory infection or nasal cancer should be done – please please please see your vet in case there is an underlying problem that you can help prevent by catching it early.

How to Stop a Reverse Sneezing Episode

Reverse sneezing/breathing can be stopped if the dog’s throat is gently massaged or by briefly placing your finger over his nose – and don’t worry – you won’t kill him (I was skeptical about this too when the vet told me to do this!) you will know when to stop – when your doggy has stopped his reverse breathing! Some dogs have reverse sneezing episodes so frequently that various medications may be needed to reduce their frequency – speak to your vet about this if you are concerned your pooch is doing it far too often for your liking.

What to Watch For

If the revere sneezing occurs frequently (daily or several times a day) and is associated with other clinical signs, then further evaluation should be completed by your vet.  Watch for other abnormal signs that may suggest a more serious problem including nasal discharge, epistaxis (bloody nose), sneezing, difficulty breathing, abnormal facial deformity over the nose area, decreased appetite and/or lethargy.

So pooch pals, the best thing you can do if your pooch reverse sneezes is to REMAIN CALM as your pooch will look to you and if you are jumping around stressing, this will not help him/her. If you are worried – see your vet and discuss it with him – better safe then sorry! 🙂

Hopefully this article helps you and your pooches!

Do your pooches have this? How do you help them stop their reverse breathing?

Happy afternoon lovelies!


2 thoughts on “Reverse Sneezing in Dogs

  1. Donna Hambling

    I have had 3 cavalier king Charles spaniels., lost my eldest a week before xmas 2012 but still have the other 2 with me. I have a rescue one, Amber., who since being here last October has never had an episode
    Barney on the other hand is 6 years old and has them on a regular basis. I was always told it happened when he got over excited and it happened because he was “swallowing his tongue” ! I always manage to stop it by gently nipping the nose together and luckily it always stops. I can’t say it frightens me anymore as it would seem i am used to it.
    That’s all i have to say., just thought i would share my own experience with you

    1. Kimmy Post author

      Hi Donna,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m sorry about your loss for the elder pooch. I now do the nipping of the nose too – as I find it quicker than the massaging of the neck. It only frightens me now if they have longer episodes, like my boy has had a while back. I checked with the vet – and he didn’t seem overly worried (though this didn’t stop me from worrying!). Thanks for sharing again!



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