Posted by Pet Honesty on

Why do dogs reverse sneeze?

Table of Contents

Why do dogs reverse sneeze?

Is he choking? Coughing? Having trouble breathing? The sudden and unexpected sound of a dog reverse sneezing is more than enough to send a pet owner to the emergency vet in a panic. While the exact cause is unknown, the canine reverse sneeze is a common respiratory event in dogs that happens as a combination of genetic, environmental, and emotional factors. Reverse sneezing in dogs is not harmful, and there are methods to identify and address the root of your puppy’s inbound sneeze attacks as well as soothe your pet until the episode passes.

What causes reverse sneezing?

Any type of irritation or disturbance to the throat, sinus cavities, or pharynx can be the catalyst for an episode of backwards sneezing in dogs. Any dog may surprise you with a reverse sneeze, but there are several factors that can contribute to this possibility. Small breed and brachycephalic (flat-nosed) breed dogs can experience this more frequently because of their elongated soft palate and shorter nose and face bones. 

Sometimes it may seem that a reverse sneezing episode is completely random and happens out of the blue, but a few elements related to sneezing reverse in dogs include:

  • Excitement
  • While waking or during sleep
  • Leash pulling and/or collar on too tight
  • Rapid change in temperature
  • Following a meal
  • Irritation to nose and throat from allergies
  • Intolerance to household chemicals
  • Exercise intolerance

Generally, dogs that sneeze inward will continue the pattern intermittently throughout their life, and pet parents will get used to what it entails. The first time hearing this loud snorting sound may be startling, but reverse sneezing is no reason to lose your cool. Many owners even find themselves amused by the occasional reverse sneezing episode.

What is reverse sneezing in dogs?

Even though it may sound like the newest AKC agility trick, reverse sneezes aren't that different from regular sneezing in terms of it’s mechanics and objective. With a regular sneeze, air is rapidly pushed out through the nasal cavity, usually to expel an irritant. During reverse sneezes, air is pulled rapidly (and often NOISILY) in through the nose in a similar mechanism. In dogs, this action will happen multiple times in a quick succession. This phenomena is mainly limited to our canine pals, but has also been occasionally observed in cats as well.

Reverse sneezing can sound like wheezing, snorting, or even “honking” depending on the dog. The medical name for these common pet episodes is inspiratory paroxysmal respiration (IPR). Incidents typically pass within a few seconds up to a minute or so. After the sneezing stops, your dog should breathe normally and return to regular behavior. If the behavior has been correctly identified as reverse sneezing, vet treatment is usually unnecessary.

How do you stop reverse sneezing?

If your dog is having episodes of IPS, the most helpful thing that you can do is to stay calm. While possibly uncomfortable, your dog is not in any danger. By demonstrating calm behavior, you can prevent the transfer of your anxiety onto your pup, which would only agitate them further.

Three tips for helping your dog stay calm during an episode of backward sneezing are:

  1. Hold your dog gently, helping them stand still, while massaging their neck and throat. This can help to dislodge the potential irritant as well as soothe them until the sneezing passes. Think of it as the human love version of warm tea with honey!
  2. Softly cover your dog’s nostrils for just a second. This will make them to swallow which can also stop the spasm and soothe the soft palate.
  3. BE there and don’t DO anything. Simply being calm, present, and avoiding any sudden movements. Reassure your pet with calming sounds. Our dogs look to us for emotional cues, and you can help your dog feel normal again.

When to worry about reverse sneezing?

Most of the time a reverse sneeze is harmless and will have no lingering after-effects, but there are a few scenarios where you should discuss your dog’s behavior with a veterinarian. There are backward sneeze video clips on YouTube of a ton of different breeds of dogs that may provide examples of this condition in dogs. If you are not sure whether or not your pup is backward sneezing, you can also take a video of them on your cell phone and send it to your vet or one of the 24/7 online vet options for review.

If your dog has an increase in the frequency in episodes of reverse sneezing, you will want to rule out the rarer and potentially serious underlying causes of IPR requiring veterinary care such as a respiratory infection, foreign body in the trachea, or nasal mites. Nasal mites are often the culprit when it seems as though reverse sneezing seems to pass from one dog to another in a multi-dog household. Seasonal allergies and the resulting post-nasal drip can also cause recurrent and chronic backward sneezing in your dog. We recommend treating your dog with a natural and holistic supplement to provide allergy relief as supplement their immune system and gut functions.