Okay, That Was Strange! All About the Reverse Sneeze in Dogs

A brown Boxer dog closes its eyes outside.

So, you are sitting down to eat your dinner when all of a sudden your dog starts to go into this bizarre snorting fit. This out of the blue phenomenon is referred to as a reverse sneeze. It can seem like your dog is having an asthma attack or is choking, but the quaintisenstial “goose honk” noises are indicative of a reverse sneeze.

You may wonder if there is any harm in these episodes and what you can do to help curb these spells. The team at Barton Heights Veterinary Hospital is here to explain more about this scary, yet generally normal condition.

What Happens During a Reverse Sneeze

The reverse sneeze, or paroxysmal respiration, is a respiratory condition that occurs in some dogs. Brachycephalic breeds, like boxers, pugs, and bulldogs, are more likely to have this condition, as well as tiny and small breeds (because they have smaller throats). During a normal sneeze, the air is quickly expelled through the airway out the nose to rid the airway of an irritant.

During reverse sneezing, the same concept applies because it is a way to expel something from the nose. But rather than moving the air out, the sneeze pulls the air rapidly in. During an episode, your pet may crane their neck or become stiff, as well as wheeze, gasp, and make other sounds that can seem distressing.

Is It Harmful?

For most dogs, the reverse sneeze is nothing to be concerned about. The sneezing usually only occurs for less than a minute and dogs return to their activities afterward. There are no health repercussions from it and your dog will probably just shake it off like nothing happened.

There are some signs, though, that may point to an underlying health problem. If your dog has suddenly developed reverse sneezing, it’s always a good idea to have them examined by your veterinarian, just to determine the right diagnosis.

Some symptoms that can point to other conditions like asthma, heart disease, and tracheal collapse include:

  • Labored breathing
  • Ongoing, consistent cough
  • Frequent wheezing
  • Panting
  • Open-mouthed breathing
  • Lethargy
  • Lack of interest in exercise
  • Pale or blue gums

Any of these should point to a call to our office for further investigation into the cause of these concerning problems. 

Helping Your Pet Through a Reverse Sneezing Episode

Once you have a clean bill of health from your veterinarian, there are some ways you can help ease your pet through these scary scenarios. 

  • Stay calm and upbeat, easing your pet’s anxiety and stress.
  • Overexcitement can sometimes prompt reverse sneezing, so address any anxiety or fear your pet may be facing and keep them focused on enrichment toys and activities.
  • Massage your pet’s throat to get them to swallow, which helps stop the episode.
  • Gently lift their head up and then down.
  • Distract your pet with a toy, treat, or their dinner.

We know that this condition can seem out of the ordinary, but most of the time it just looks and sounds scarier than it actually is. If you have any additional questions about reverse sneezing, or to schedule an appointment, please call us.