Reverse Sneeze in Dogs

By Malcolm Weir, DVM, MSc, MPH; Krista Williams, BSc, DVM; Ernest Ward, DVM

What is reverse sneezing?

Some dogs have a condition known as paroxysmal respiration, more commonly called reverse sneezing. With this condition, the dog rapidly pulls air into the nose, whereas in a regular sneeze, the air is rapidly pushed out through the nose. The dog makes a snorting sound and seems to be trying to inhale while sneezing.

"A reverse sneezing episode can last for several seconds to a minute."

Although it can be alarming to witness a dog having a reverse sneezing episode, it is not a harmful condition, and there are no ill effects. The dog is completely normal before and after the episode. During a reverse sneeze, the dog will make rapid and long inspirations, stand still, and extend his head and neck. A loud snorting sound is produced, which may sound like the dog has something caught in his nose or throat. A reverse sneezing episode can last for several seconds to a minute.

What causes the reverse sneeze?

The exact cause of a reverse sneeze is unknown. Any irritation to the nose, sinuses, or back of the throat can trigger an episode of reverse sneezing. Irritants include nasal mites, secretions, foreign bodies such as seeds, pollens, grasses, allergies, smoke, odors, masses, or an elongated soft palate. Dogs with narrow nasal passages (long noses) seem more commonly affected.

How is a reverse sneeze diagnosed?

The diagnosis is based on medical history and clinical signs. Your veterinarian will rule out other causes of abnormal breathing and snorting, such as an upper respiratory tract infection, collapsing trachea, nasal tumors or polyps, foreign bodies in the nasal passages or mouth, and so forth. Occasionally, your veterinarian will perform blood tests, allergy tests, or radiographs (X-rays) to rule out other conditions that can cause similar symptoms.

How is reverse sneeze treated?

Most cases of reverse sneezing require no medical treatment.  If your dog experiences a reverse sneezing episode, you may gently stroke the neck or head to try to calm him. Giving the dog something to lick or drink may stimulate swallowing and help clear out a possible irritant. Once your dog exhales through the nose, the attack is usually over. It is very rare for dogs to develop any complications or suffer any risk during these attacks. Most episodes of reverse sneezing last less than a minute, although longer durations have been reported.

In certain cases, your veterinarian may prescribe anti-inflammatory, antihistamine, or decongestant medications to help your dog's condition.

Related Articles