Reverse Sneezing in Dogs - What is it and is it normal?

Reverse sneezing in dogs can be appear to be concerning if you have never experienced it before, but fortunately, it’s not quite as worrying as it sounds. Whilst it can affect our feline friends too, it predominantly effects dogs.

What is it?

dog stretching in the snow

Reverse sneezing usually occurs if a dog’s soft palate becomes irritated. This is the muscular area of the back of the roof of the mouth that assists with vocalising, swallowing, and breathing.

The irritation can often cause that muscle to spasm, narrowing the trachea. Your pooch may extend their neck in an attempt to expand their chest to breath but the narrowed trachea won’t allow them to get a full breath of air, leading to the dog forcefully attempting to inhale through their nose, causing them to “reverse sneeze”.

What does it sound like?

goose honking at other goose

Reverse sneezing sounds like the dog is actually inhaling their sneeze! It’s a loud snorting sound that could perhaps best be described as the sound of a goose honking.

If you have not heard it before, it can be scary and as always, if you are worried or have concerns, check in with your vet to err on the side of caution.

What causes reverse sneezing?

excited dog playing in grass

Reverse sneezing can often be a dog’s method of expelling some form of irritant from their body.

As with their human counterparts, a sneeze helps to expel an irritant in the nasal cavity, coughing will aid in removing irritants located further down in the trachea and a reverse sneeze is the body’s way of expelling an irritant that’s slightly further down, at the nasopharynx (the area by the soft palate).

There are many possible instances which could be the cause of the irritation:

  • Allergies
  • Overpowering smells, e.g. perfumes, household cleaners or air fresheners
  • Pulling on the lead whilst attached to the collar
  • Overexcitement 
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Elongated soft palate (common in breeds with shorter snouts)
  • Eating or drinking (check out household items/foods that could be potentially toxic to your pet)

Is treatment necessary for reverse sneezing?

dog at vets

As long as it is infrequent, reverse sneezing does not require treatment. If, however, it does come out of the blue, it is best to check in with your vet just to make sure that it is indeed that ailment.

How to stop reverse sneezing?

dog nose and nostrils

Ultimately, it depends on the cause of the irritation in determining how to stop it. If it is a one off or infrequent, briefly covering your dogs’ nostrils will cause them to swallow and subsequently help get rid of the irritant that is causing the sneezing. Massaging their through could also dislodge or soothe any irritation in that region.

If the sneezing is ongoing and persistent, your vet would need to discover the underlying cause before understanding how to stop it, e.g. an antihistamine for allergies.

For the most part, reverse sneezing is not something to be concerned about, however, as always, please be sure to consult your vet if you are concerned.

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