Your Guide to Understanding Reverse Sneezing in Dogs

reverse sneezing in dogs

If only dogs could speak and tell us when they need help. Sometimes they make noises that set off alarm bells ringing in our minds. If you’ve ever heard a dog in the throes of reverse sneezing, you might well think they’re in deep trouble.

The honking noise bears a striking similarity to the cry a dog might make if they were experiencing a collapsing trachea. Read on to find out more about this relatively minor condition that can be so scary to witness.

Consult Your Vet for Reassurance 

Many pet owners will tell you that the first time they heard a dog reverse sneezing was disturbing. Until you get used to these kinds of episodes and recognize them for what they are, it’s wise to consult your vet for a little reassurance.

Your vet will want to eliminate other potential causes of abnormal breathing and snorting. These could include nasal polyps, a tumor in the nose, an upper respiratory tract issue and foreign bodies in the mouth or nasal passages.

Sometimes your vet may want to carry out some blood tests to rule out other conditions that can cause similar symptoms.

Reverse Sneezing Explained 

If you think your dog is experiencing a reverse sneezing episode, the chances are that your dog is not dying and that there’s a simple explanation for what’s going on. The usual reason for a reverse sneezing episode is an irritation of the soft palate and throat.

This then causes a spasm during which a dog’s neck will extend. Their chest will also expand as they try harder to inhale. The difficulty they’re experiencing is a narrowing of the trachea that makes it hard to get the right quantity of air into the lungs.

This results in the production of a loud snorting noise. It might sound like a dog has something caught in their throat or nose. It’s possible for a reverse sneezing episode to last anything from several seconds to a minute or so.

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Possible Causes of a Reverse Sneezing Episode

There is a broad range of causes that can lie behind throat irritations and subsequent spasms and sneezing. They include:

  • Over-excitement
  • A problem when eating or drinking
  • Intolerance to exercise or pulling too hard on a leash
  • Mites, perfumes, pollen, grasses, smoke or a foreign body caught in the throat
  • A virus
  • A reaction to household chemicals, an allergy or a post-nasal drip

If you believe an irritant in the house is causing the sneezing, you should take your dog outside into the fresh air straight away.

Is There a Treatment for Reverse Sneezing?

Dogs like Pugs and Boxers that have flat faces can occasionally suck in their elongated palates when inhaling. This can cause a reverse sneezing episode. Smaller dogs also tend to be more prone to reverse sneezing, perhaps due to their smaller throats.

It’s rare for reverse sneezing to require any treatment. Once the sneezing stops, it means the spasm is over.

Some vets might suggest gently massaging a dog’s throat to stop the spasm. They might also recommend covering the dog’s nostrils for a few seconds. This can encourage the dog to swallow and might help to clear the irritation.

More Regular Episodes of Reverse Sneezing

If reverse sneezing becomes more than an occasional occurrence, you may need to do some detective work and find out the underlying cause. For example, if mites find their way into the laryngeal area, your vet may prescribe a course of drugs to get rid of them.

In a similar way, if allergies are setting off the sneezing episodes, your vet may recommend a prescription for antihistamines.

Should reverse sneezing become a chronic problem, your vet will want to examine your dog’s nasal passages. However, it’s possible that they may still not be able to identify the cause. 

Further Potential Treatments for Reverse Sneezing

In some instances, your vet may decide to prescribe anti-inflammatory, or decongestant medications to help with your dog’s condition.

It’s possible for some dogs to live with these reverse sneezing episodes for their entire lives. Others may develop the condition as they grow older. The spasm is typically a temporary issue for most dogs with no lasting after-effects.

Cats are less prone to reverse sneezing compared with dogs. Cat owners should always let their vet examine the pets in case they are suffering from feline asthma rather than reverse sneezing. 

Putting Your Mind at Rest

We all want what’s best for our pets so when we witness a reverse sneezing episode for the first time it can feel very distressing. The chances are that the condition is not dangerous at all and will cause no lasting problems.

Still have any concerns at all about reverse sneezing? Schedule an instant video consultation with our qualified veterinarians and get tailored advice from the comfort of your home – today. It’s likely that one of our highly qualified vets will be able to put your mind at rest. We have a section of other useful articles about conditions that may affect your pets. Read more here.

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