Reverse Sneezing in Dogs

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Reverse sneezing, also known as Pharyngeal Gag Reflex or Paroxysmal Respiration, is a relatively widespread respiratory condition in dogs that is normally triggered off by a spasm in the pooch’s soft palate as well as laryngeal area. It is often referred to as “reverse sneeze” because during the event, the dog is gasping air heavily inward, instead of simply expelling it, like in a typical sneeze. Although harmless in and of itself, reverse sneezing can be rather alarming for dog owners to see and can be indicative of a more serious problem.

What Happens During a Reverse Sneeze?

· Usually, dogs extend their neck as they gasp with loud and strong grunting sound. They are likely to turn their elbows out and their eyes may even stick out during the occurrence.
· Since the trachea becomes narrow, it’s even harder for dogs to get a sufficient amount of air into their lungs. As a result, their chest might expand as they try to inhale.
· During the episode, most owners would think their pooch is suffocating, choking, or even suffering from a seizure.
· Each occurrence of reverse sneezing only lasts for just a couple of minutes or less. The episode normally ends on its own without posing any threat to your dog’s health.

Fortunately, dogs appear normal both before and right after the event, without after effects. Dogs don’t lose their consciousness, and this phenomenon is often harmless, and rarely requires medical treatment.

Common Causes

Reverse sneezing can be set off by a wide variety of irritants and some forms of dog allergies. Pollen, dust, mites, viruses, post-nasal drip, nasal inflammation, perfumes, and household cleaners or chemicals are some of the known triggering factors. Other causes include exercise intolerance, rapid drinking or eating, pulling on leashes, and even excitement. It’s also very likely that sinusitis and other kinds of respiratory problems can lead to episodes of reverse sneezing.

Although any dog breed can experience this fairly common respiratory condition, it is more widespread in smaller pooches. Short-faced dogs like Boxers, Boston Terriers, Bulldogs, Pugs, and Shih Tzus are found to be more at risk of reverse sneezing. It has been suspected that a genetic factor is involved with such kind of breeds.


Possible Treatments

· Antihistamines. If allergies have been discovered to be the main cause of the problem, antihistamine medications can be administered. Your vet may prescribe drugs if mites are found in the dog’s laryngeal area.

· Massage. Another way to treat reverse sneezing is through massage. To help stop the spams, just rub Fido’s throat gently.

· Others. You can also try to cover your pooch’s nostrils to help him swallow; clearing out whatever trigger is setting off the episode. In addition, if the occurrence doesn’t windup quickly, try depressing Fido’s tongue to open his mouth and help air to move through his nasal passages.

If episodes of reverse sneezing become more frequent or severe, or are accompanied by other symptoms, it’s important to have your vet examine your dog’s throat and nasal passages. Whenever possible, try to record a video of your dog during a reverse sneezing episode to show to your veterinarian. This will help him/her determine if the event is truly a “reverse sneeze” or if it is something that needs attention.

The video below shows what a dog’s reverse sneezing episode looks like and how to quickly stop it by covering your dog’s nostrils.

While reverse sneezing is harmless in and of itself, it will probably be scary for your dog. Comfort and soothe him during the event and remain calm, knowing that it will soon be over.



  1. thank you for this info. will try this on our shih tzu. her reverse sneezing episodes really scare me :( thought she choked on something.

  2. I have two female German Shepherds. One dog reverse sneezes if she eats too quickly. When this happens the other (the dominant one) barks and attempts to bite the “sneezer”. I don’t understand this. What is happening here? Thanks in advance for your thoughts!

  3. If this is not a critical issue… I have now lost 3 pups to this. 2 just before 5 years of age and just Friday my little guy 11 months. If you say this is not to worried about and just do basic rubs and care, if like to say that your wrong.

    • are you sure it was reverse sneezing? could it have been collapse trachea? Or maybe it is not harmful to older dogs who develope it with age? but i am so sorry for your lost. 3 of my dogs have had reverse is scary

  4. thank you for this helpful info. I was getting very worried about my little boy. I will try these techniques. thanks again