A dog in mid-sneeze.

Your dog probably makes all kinds of noises that are odd, unusual, or downright rude. But when it comes to the reverse sneeze, it is truly unique. 

Many pet owners are startled when they hear this sneeze for the first time. In fact, they say that it sounds much more like a goose honk than an actual sneeze. Sometimes it sounds like your pet is actually gagging or choking, which explains why we get worried calls from pet owners who think something awful is happening.

When it comes to reverse sneezing in dogs, for the most part, it isn’t something serious. This is why your friends at Goldorado Animal Hospital are here to tell you all about it.

The Reverse Sneeze

A reverse sneeze, also referred to as gag reflex, paroxysmal respiration, or mechanosensitive aspiration reflex, is a type of mechanism to expel irritants in the nose and respiratory system. Unlike a normal sneeze, when the air is rapidly pushed out through the nasal cavity, a reverse sneeze actually brings air forcefully through the nose. In many ways, it can resemble an asthma attack or serious allergies.

The reason behind the reverse sneeze is much the same, to rid the body from something that is irritating the nasal passages. Most of the time it is pollen, grasses, dust, parasites, or a foreign body like a foxtail

During a reverse sneezing episode, your dog’s posture may stiffen as they crane their neck forward. Because of this display and the ‘honking’ sound, it can be scary for a pet owner who doesn’t know what it is. This episode usually lasts from merely a few seconds to a minute or more. Afterward, most pets just resume what they were doing before as if nothing happened.

What Causes Reverse Sneezing?

There is no one cause of reverse sneezing in dogs, although there are some pets who experience this condition more often. 

Brachycephalic breeds like pugs, boxers, bulldogs, and Pekingese, or those with “flat faces” tend to reverse sneeze more than other breeds. This is connected to the fact that they have a longer soft palate and short nasal cavity. Small dogs are susceptible, too, because of their small throats. Overexcitement is another known trigger for an episode.

Is this Condition Dangerous?

Reverse sneezing in and of itself is not serious and most pets experience them on occasion. If your dog is having more episodes or accompanying symptoms, there might be an underlying medical condition.

The following signs should signal something more serious:

  • Bloody nose
  • Foreign body in nose, such as a leaf for twig
  • Swelling of the face
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy

Follow up with your veterinarian at Goldorado Animal Hospital if your pet is experiencing any of these symptoms, or is acting unwell.

If your pet is just having a reverse sneezing episode, there are some things you can some things to help:

  • Try to get them to swallow by stroking the throat
  • Lift their head up and then down, and repeat until the sneezing subsides
  • Relax your pet by speaking softly and petting them
  • Give them some toys or a treat as a distraction

If you would like more information about reverse sneezing in dogs, or would like to schedule an appointment, do not hesitate to call us.