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What is Reverse Sneezing in Dogs?

reverse sneezing in dogs – need at least 730 words

Your dog just made a really weird snorting noise. What did you just witness? It very well could have been a reverse sneeze. Reverse sneezing in dogs is fairly common in some dog breeds. Learn what it is, why it happens, and if you should be worried about your dog if they do in fact reverse sneeze. Dr. Jess walks you through the ins and outs of the reverse sneeze in your dog.

black french bulldog sitting in car

Dog Sneezing:

Let’s take a step back for a second and talk about normal sneezing for a moment. That way, we can differentiate a normal sneeze from a reverse sneeze here in a minute.

A sneeze, is just the act of quickly and forcefully moving air out through the nose [source].

When one sneezes, the common thing to do is for one to close their eyes, take a deep breath inward, before forcibly moving a strong gust of air out through the nostrils – sometimes with a loud noise (like an “aaaa-choo!” or a cry-like squeal) and/or a facial grimace leading up to or directly afterwards.

Sometimes sneezes are productive meaning that they move more particles, debris, and mucous out of the upper respiratory tract.

People and animals sneeze for a few various reasons. For one, a tickle in your nose may elicit one to sneeze.

A buildup of debris can lead the small delicate cilia in the nose to send a message to the brain, which orders up a sneeze to rid the nasal passageway of the debris or foreign body.

Sometimes allergens may bring upon sneezes, triggering the immune system to step in to ward off the intruder (the allergen) that is inside the nostrils.

While still other times, things like light-sensitivity can trigger one to sneeze.

french bulldog blinking at camera

What is a Reverse Sneeze?

A reverse sneeze, or a paroxysmal respiration, is just that, a sneeze that goes in reverse, where air is quickly taken into the body, versus quickly being expelled out the nasal passages.

This type of “sneeze” occurs for a different reason than the normal sneeze does.

What Does a Reverse Sneeze Sound Like?

First of all, reverse sneezing sounds terrifying the first time that you hear it.

Your pup may very well sound and look like they are choking, honking like a goose, or having some kind of weird loud seizure.

A reverse sneeze can be pretty intimidating and scary the first few times you hear and see it, but it actually isn’t as serious as it looks and sounds.

What Does a Reverse Sneeze Look Like?

When your dog reverse sneezes, they will forcibly take in a large breath of air very quickly, expanded their chest as they do to fit all that extra air inside.

Most times, as they are taking this large breath in, they will direct their heads downwards, nose to the ground, almost as if they are choking.

When they are taking this bog breath in, you il likely hear the loud honking or “sneezing” sound, where this action gets its name.

bulldog running with stick in mouth

Causes of Reverse Sneezing:

There are many reasons why a dog may reverse sneeze and your dog may reverse sneeze for more than one reason.

Here are a few of the more common reasons why a dog may reverse sneeze:

  • Physical build (where a displacement of the soft palate occurs – prominent in many smoochie-faced “brachycephalic” breeds)
  • Eating food
  • drinking water
  • becoming excited
  • becoming startled
  • allergies
  • choking
  • respiratory irritant such as smoke or dust
  • upper airway inflammation from infections
  • pulling on the leash or collar (pressure on the neck)

Is Reverse Sneezing Unhealthy or Bad For Your Dog?

Reverse sneezing does not cause any medical issues for your dog.

It looks and sounds horrible, but the reverse sneezing is not causing any damage to your furry friend.

Even though reverse sneezing is not harmful to your dog, certain conditions that can closely resemble a reverse sneeze can be worrisome.

For instance, heart disease, respiratory infection and inflammation, and asthma, can all present similarly in some dogs.

In these cases, you should be on the lookout for labored breathing and coughing, decreased appetite, lethargy, or hiding, as these can be signs that something else may be going on with your pet.

If your pet suddenly develops reverse sneezing or reverse sneezes longer than a minute or two, it is best to contact your veterinarian to learn what steps to take next.

chihuahua and yorkie excited and panting in backseat of car

Dogs Prone to Reverse Sneezes:

There are some types and breeds of dogs who are more prone to the act of reverse sneezing than others.

Reverse sneezing is more common in some types of dogs, such as dogs with brachycephalic-shaped faces. Those would be those pups with smushy faces, such as Boston terriers, bull dogs, pugs, frenchies, boxers, shit-zsu’s, etc.

However, reverse sneezing can occur within any dog breed, no matter if they have that snorter snout or not.

It is more common in smaller dog breeds than in larger dog breeds. Smaller dogs have a shorter face, with a soft palate that is longer in proportion- therefore more likely to get displaced and start a reverse sneezing fit.

If your dog has reverse sneezed in the past, they are more likely to do it again in the future.

What To Do When Your Dog Reverse Sneezes:

Well, there are a couple of things that you can do when you observe your dog reverse sneezing.

First off, don’t panic because it is not an emergency.

Typically a dog will stop reverse sneezing just as soon as the soft palate goes back to it’s correct position in the back of the throat.

You can try massaging the throat to elicit your dog to swallow, changing the position of their soft palate.

You can also try and play or distract your dog, allowing the mouth and throat to relax, again, trying to change the position of that soft palate back into its normal resting position.

Reverse Sneezing Summary:

Reverse sneezing is a strange-sounding noise that dogs can make when the soft palate in the dogs airway is displaced, causing the sneezing or honking sound to occur as well as the hunkering body language and the “gasping” for breath.

Reverse sneezing is more common in some types of dogs, such as dogs with brachycephalic-shaped faces (smushy faces, such as Boston terriers, bull dogs, frenchies, boxers, shit-zsu’s, etc.).

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