Reverse Sneezing in Dogs

Reverse Sneezing in Dogs

Reverse sneezing in dogs is also called pharyngeal gag reflex. It is a respiratory condition that often affects dogs. Most people wonder why it gets the name reverse sneezing, but it actually is because the dog gasps in for air, rather than pushing air out with a regular sneeze. Reverse sneezing, while pretty harmless by itself, can be an indicator for something a bit more serious. It is a good idea to understand the symptoms, causes and treatments of this condition so that you can recognize it and get it taken care of right away- just in case there is an underlying condition.

If you’re not familiar with reverse sneezing in dogs, this what it sounds and looks like:

Symptoms of Reverse Sneezing


There are a few common distinctive signs of a reverse sneeze. To be able to recognize this type of sneeze, you first need to understand what is happening with your dog when they do this. Here is what happens to your dog during a ‘reverse sneeze’:

  • Your dog will typically start by extending their neck and making a grunting sound. Their elbows will start to turn outwards, and their eyes may even bulge a little bit.
  • Your dog’s trachea will be much more narrow than normal, and they will find it hard to get air into their lungs through their airways. They may expand their chest, and may even gasp.
  • It may look to you like your dog is starting to hyperventilate, suffocate, or choke. You may even think that they are having a seizure. This is just what the reverse sneeze looks like.
  • The episode will end, about as quickly as it started. Your pup will seem fine afterwards, and it really doesn’t affect them long term.

The good news is that both before and after a reverse sneeze, dogs are seemingly normal. They don’t pass out or lose their consciousness, and it is typically something that doesn’t require any sort of medicine or treatment. It isn’t really harmful, unless of course it is caused by something more serious. This is why it is important to learn the causes of reverse sneezing in dogs.

What Causes Reverse Sneezing in Dogs

Typically, there are a few causes of reverse sneezing. First of all, it is typically some sort of irritant or allergen. A few of the most common triggers include:

post nasal dripmites
perfumespollen
chemicals and cleanersdust
virusesinflammation

Some of the other causes of reverse sneezing may include intolerance to physical activity, rapid drinking, leash pulling, excitement, or respiratory problems.

There are some breeds that are more prone to reverse sneezing. Dogs with short faces are much more likely to reverse sneeze. These breeds include, but are not limited to, Boston Terriers, Boxers, Bulldogs, Shih Tzus, Pugs, and Pekingese. This is something that is a part of their genetic makeup.

Is Treatment Necessary for Reverse Sneezing?

If reverse sneezing isn’t really harmful to the dog, is it necessary to treat it? This is a common question that dog owners ask their veterinarians. The answer is simple. There are several forms of treatment that will help alleviate the reverse sneezing, but it really is dependent on the cause. This is why it is so important to understand the causes before you can even begin to discuss treatments.

If allergies are the main trigger for your dog, then antihistamines may be a great treatment option. By alleviating the allergies, you will be able to knock out some, if not all of the reverse sneezing. Since this is typically one of the main causes, a lot of vets go with this method of treatment first.

Another effective treatment option is massage. Treating with massage is usually pretty simple. You just rub their throat with a gentle circular motion. This can help stop the spasms that are causing them to gasp for air.

Here are a few of the other treatment options that you may consider:

  • cover the nostrils to prompt swallowing
  • get rid of the triggers that cause the episodes
  • depress the tongue to force air through

If you use these methods to help treat the reverse sneezing episode, do it gently. You don’t want to apply too much pressure, because you could end up doing more harm than good. If you are ever questioning whether or not something seems right to you, it is always best to call your veterinarian.

If your dog continues the reverse sneezing, or it gets worse over time instead of getting better, you need to talk to your veterinarian about it. They will be able to help you with any other treatment options, and they will also be able to do a physical exam to ensure that there isn’t something of deeper concern. They will be able to check their nasal passages and airways to ensure that there isn’t something blocking it. If you are going in to see your veterinarian, you may want to try to get one of your dog’s episodes on video.

Use your Smartphone to capture it so that you can let your vet see it in action. This can sometimes give them better insight on what may be going on.

One important thing to realize is that the act of reverse sneezing in dogs, while not harmful to your dog, can actually be quite stressful on them. Think about that feeling you get when something activates your gag reflex. It can be pretty frightening. This is probably how your dog feels when this happens to him. Make sure that you do your best to keep him calm through the episode. Comforting him is probably the best thing that you can do to help him to not be scared. They will surely appreciate the fact that you are there for them, even if there isn’t much you can do to stop it.



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I've been a dog lover since the day I was born but it's the current four legged love of my life, Phoebe who inspired me to create the Munch.Zone.

We moved together from Israel to New York in 2013, love hiking together, and never pass up a trip to the dog park. Watching her over the years sparked so many questions about dog behavior and health needs, and it wasn't always easy to find answers. Thus, the Munch.Zone was born.

On any given day you'll find me watching Netflix originals, eating popcorn, and thinking about how to get into house flipping.

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