Dog Reverse Sneezing: North Raleigh Vets Explain This Phenomenon

Dog reverse sneezing…it can be a scary phenomenon for new pet parents and it’s something that our North Raleigh vets get asked about regularly. So, what exactly is it and is it something to be concerned about?

Dog Reverse Sneezing: North Raleigh Vets Explain This Phenomenon

dog reverse sneezing

What Does Dog Reverse Sneezing Look Like?

When a dog is reverse sneezing, they will loudly suck in air multiple times in rapid succession. This air sucking is often accompanied by a noise that can be described as “snorting” or “grunting” or it may simply sound like loud inhale through the nose.

As a healthy adult with no respiratory problems, you can make a similar noise to “grunting” or “snorting” reverse sneezing if you take a half a second inhaled breath through your nose while making a “snorting” noise. If you do try to replicate this sound to get a better idea of what you’re listening for, don’t do it more than once or you will get lightheaded.

During one of these episodes, a dog may seem to push their head forward slightly while the muscles in the upper body (particularly the neck area) contract and their swallowing may look more apparent.  In dogs with a more pronounced or “barrel chest,” you may also see strong contractions of the muscles in the chest during the “inhale” of a reverse sneeze.

As a healthy adult, you can replicate this type of motion by taking in a deep breath through your nose while concentrating on flexing your pectoral muscles and thrusting your head forward slightly. 

A dog will reverse sneeze a few times in a row and the whole episode is over quite quickly (usually between 5 to 15 seconds).

During a reverse sneezing episode, your dog should NEVER exhibit any of the following symptoms:

  • Losing consciousness
  • Blood being expelled from the nose or mouth
  • Discharge from the nose
  • Behavioral changes
  • Collapse
  • Discoloration of the gums

If you notice these symptoms or any other symptoms that worry you, consult your veterinarian immediately.

All breeds of dog, all ages of dog, healthy dogs, and unhealthy dogs can all experience reverse sneezing.

The following video clip from NC State Veterinary School shows one example of what reverse sneezing can look like.

Reverse sneezing can also be less pronounced as in the video clip below.

What is Happening When a Dog Reverse Sneezes?

A “normal” sneeze is a bodily reflex that is used to expel irritants from the nasal tract, coughing does the same thing for the throat and airway. A reverse sneeze is a similar reflex only it happens when there is irritation to the nasopharynx – the area behind the nasal cavities above the soft palate.

What Causes Dog Reverse Sneezing?

Reverse sneezing in dogs is usually just the result of occasional irritation, for example, strong odors or pollen.

In some instances, however, reverse sneezing can be symptomatic of a health condition. Some conditions that have been linked to reverse sneezing include:

  • Allergies
  • An elongated soft palate
  • Nasal mite infestation
  • Infection
  • The presence of a foreign body
  • Other anatomical abnormalities

What Should You Do When Your Dog Reverse Sneezes?

Some pet owners find that they can help to shorten their dog’s reverse sneezing episodes by gently massaging the throat area. In most cases, though, the entire episode is usually over just as quickly as it began and they are no worse for wear.

When You Should Consult Your Veterinarian

Reverse sneezing can be scary, but in most cases, it’s absolutely nothing to worry about.

There are some instances, however, when you should contact your dog’s veterinarian, these include:

  • Any time that you are concerned about your dog’s health
  • If your dog reverse sneezes frequently
  • If your dog’s reverse sneezing is accompanied by other symptoms

Treating Reverse Sneezing in Dogs

If your dog is experiencing the occasional reverse sneezing episode, your vet may recommend no treatment at all.

If your dog is reverse sneezing as the result of something else, however, your vet will recommend a treatment that is tailored to the specific cause. For example, an allergy medication for allergy irritation, a surgical procedure for an elongated soft palate, or treatment for mites.

In Short…

Reverse sneezing in dogs is not an uncommon phenomenon and most of the time it’s simply the result of irritation to the respiratory tract. It is possible for reverse sneezing to be the result of illness, however, so it’s always important to stay on top of regular veterinary checkups and check in with your vet anytime you notice concerning symptoms or changes in your dog.

If it’s time for your dog’s wellness checkup or if you’re concerned about your dog’s reverse sneezing, we’d love to introduce you to our family here at Leesville Animal Hospital! Why not give us a call today at (919)870-7000 and arrange to pay us a visit?

Our Hours

Monday: 7:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Tuesday: 7:30 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Wednesday: 7:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Thursday: 7:30 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Friday: 7:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Saturday: 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Sunday: Boarding pick up 5 – 6 p.m.

Call Us: (919) 870-7000
Visit Us: 9309 Leesville Rd,
                 Raleigh, N.C. 27613

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