Reverse Sneezing in Dogs: What is It and Should I Be Concerned?

shutterstock_70003225Many of us know that sound all too well…it sounds like a sea lion is sitting in your living room singing the song of its people…or, species, if you will. While reverse sneezing certainly sounds slightly alien, it’s most commonly a dog problem. It can be pretty startling if you’ve never seen it before, or even if you have, but is it really cause for concern?

What is Reverse Sneezing?

Reverse sneezing is the common name for pharyngeal gag reflux. It’s called reverse sneezing because of the well-known honking noise resembles exactly that – a sneeze your dog is inhaling instead of exhaling. Pharyngeal gag reflux is caused by irritation and spasms of the soft palate and throat. The causes of that irritation,  however, vary greatly and include allergies, mites, excitement, eating and drinking, leash pressure on the throat, foreign bodies in the throat, and viruses.


Should I Be Concerned?

Not necessarily. Most reverse sneezing doesn’t require any medical attention, although it can look and sound fairly alarming. The episodes usually stop by themselves, which means the spasms stop by themselves. Sometimes it’s helpful to massage the dog’s throat or cover his nostrils to try and get him swallowing. Swallowing will help eliminate any current irritants in the throat that may be causing the spasms.

If the problem is chronic and persistent, working with your veterinarian to determine what causes the irritation can be beneficial. Sometimes treatment for allergies or mites will reduce reverse sneezing episodes. Oftentimes, extensive testing, such as biopsies, is needed to try and discover the root of the problem. Unfortunately, there still might be no answer. Sometimes we will never know the cause. Even still, there is generally little cause for concern with the pesky little episodes. Just another quirk some of our dogs have!

Video Example of Dog Reverse Sneezing

 

 

About the Author

Katie is a professional dog trainer located in Southern California, with a background of experience as a veterinary assistant as well. She has trained and competed with multiple breeds in AKC Obedience and Rally, agility, herding, Schutzhund/IPO, French Ring and conformation. She has been involved in dogs since she was a child, and specializes in protection dogs, working dogs, and aggression issues. You can visit her website, Katie’s Dog Training, to find out more information about her training and accomplishments. When she’s not helping others and writing, she’s out on the field with her Belgian Malinois and Pembroke Welsh Corgi.



  • Jamie Baughman

    they keep telling the dog to keep doing when they should of been relieving it by rubbing her throat and getting her to drink water or eat something to get her to swallow….

  • Kathy Roberts

    This is terrible – OK – interesting to know what my JRT does is “normal” soft pallet problem – but to force this dog to keep doing it by using that gun-dog slip round her throat for the purposes of the video was very cruel!!

    • Gail Gagliano Seiler

      I agree 100%. That is cruel as the dog isn’t breathing properly. My boxer actually passed out from having a very bad episode of this. I cover the nose and it really helps. Ridiculous to make this dogs episode last longer than necessary.

      • Kathy Roberts

        I am so pleased you agree – good tip about covering the nose – I’ll try that when my JRT does it again. I usually massage under his chin/throat. I think this video should be taken down!

        • Gail Gagliano Seiler

          agreed!!

      • Caroline Mcclain

        Sometimes these episodes do last a few minutes. Mine will even do it when she just woke up in the mornings. Not often, and I always let her go and pet her and calm her down, She settles within 1 minute to 5 minutes. It is hurts is more than them Just stay calm and know that this is normal.

    • Gail Gagliano Seiler

      Kathy. I also hold her in a hug next to my chest while I’m holding her nose and speak softly to her. I keep saying you’re ok, Layla, It’s alright. She really gets scared when she has these episodes, cause she can’t catch her breath.

  • kim hughes

    My dog does this all the time, best way to solve it is to pinch his nostrils shut so he breathes through his mouth (this immediately stops the spasm), then rub his throat and get him to drink after (stops it reoccurring). Then he’s fine, wagging his tail all happy.

  • Guest

    Why did they make that do keep doing it?? I tell my dog that he will be ok and I rub his throat. It always happens when he eats too fast. I didn’t like the people in this video.

  • Debbie Johnston Kronenwetter

    I was soooo glad to see this because my dogs do it and didn’t know what it was..thank you for posting that..Debbie

  • Patty Fragoso

    Why did they make the dog keep doing this? my dog does this when he eats too fast. I rub his throat and tell him to relax and swallow. I didn’t like the people in this video.

    • Caroline Mcclain

      What did you expect, it is something that passes and I always let mine go do it and I hug and pet mine to calm her down. It is not good to get yourself excited as they go through this, just pet and calm and use other methods as needed. Dogs are always loved and this one was. You can’t do too much in this situation.

  • Manuel-Carolyn Padrón

    Reverse sneezing is purely involuntary, they can’t make the dog do it or stop him from doing it, so no need to get upset about the video. Can someone make you sneeze or stop you from sneezing?

  • Lisa Bruce

    My dog does this, I took her to the vet and after x-rays they said she has an enlarged heart. They prescribed a water pill to help remove fluid from around her heart and a heart pill to help her heart work better. It helped but she will still cough like this from time to time.

  • Kerry A. Barnes

    Yep- our dogs do this all the time. Our vet recommended wrapping your hand around their snout so they have to breathe out the side of their mouth. It’s sort of like having someone who is hypervenilating breathe into a paper bag. She specifically told us not to rub their throats or constrict their necks in any, though. I usually rub the spot on their foreheads between their eyes to calm them down as well.

  • anibeth1

    could you email me a copy of this article?

  • Sherri Lockwood

    Reverse Sneezing is VERY uncomfortable for a dog,yet they keeping getting the dog to do it. You can tell that it’s at a vets,don’t know what Vet their at,wish they had said,because I would never go there.

  • rowood

    When my pug gets this he comes tome because he knows I will stop it, what I do is stand behind him, bend over and hold my two hands on either side of him at the rib section.
    I apply slight pressure and speak in a calming voice and he stops right away sometimes after only the second snort.

    • Carol Madden

      I do that too with my pug!

  • John

    Thanks for the info.

  • jp grace

    hurray! i finally know what my little dog is doing! we thought she had asthma, or was coughing, or had some allergy… never knew it was this. even the vet didn’t know b/c she never did it in front of him. she never seemed upset by it when it happened and i’d just comfort her in case it did. and then she’d stop. now i have some options on how to actually help her. yay! what a find :-)

    • dog lover

      me too :) now i know

  • FAAQ2

    If you dog has a short snout and probably has an elongated palate – that can cause a reverse sneeze. Cavaliers are prone to it. the answer is laser surgery to remove the flap. Had it done on our male dog – the recovery period os shorter and the dog is less affected by this type of surgery.. But don’t let it go – it can cause severe problems with your dog. Cost is usually about $ 500..

  • Cher Young

    Thank you! Our teripoo is 13 in January, and has done this all her life for many of the reasons you mentioned, it has of course caused us much concern, normally during an episode we have cupped her little mouth, put my mouth right over hers and exhaled small puffs of air.. it has worked all these yrs. But have always worried when we weren’t home with her! When she was a puppy we did ask our vet, who suggested she had asthma, and wanted her to visit Guelph, Ont. College of Veterinarians, for further diagnosis. Relieved we didn’t agree with that advice..but spent money on x-rays.. steroids. and other tests at the vets, costly.. don’t get me wrong this pup is our child, and we take very good care of her, when necessary.

  • Mal Parker

    We’ve had 9 Boston Terriers since 1985 and they all did it. But the one we have now did it 3-4 times a day for a long time…now it seems to have calmed down a lot.

  • JJ1964

    That happened to one of our dogs last month. It sounded horrible! After a day I was so worried we called the vet. She saw him and thought it was reverse sneezing. She had us give him benedryl for a week and it went away

  • Jennifer Williams-Graham

    I don’t think it’s “very” cruel. They’re jerks, but don’t slip a disk. It’s a vet and it’s informational. My dog has a narrowing trachea and this is what he does. Unfortunately I need to see that this is what they are talking about so I can compare it. I now know what I’m working with I can work on treating it. I don’t thing drinking or eating at this point is the best idea.
    Rubbing their neck, pinching their nostrils, I like the rubbing holding the snout and rubbing between the forehead. It’s very much like hyperventilating. It would be a great time if you had your essential oils handy to grab some lavender and smoothing the spot on the forehead. To calm them.

  • Amy Plantz

    They let the dog keep sneezing… because if you read the article, its harmless. Lighten up people.

  • Judy

    when this happens to my dog, I calmly rub her nose a couple of times and it stops immediately.

  • Ann Shirley

    my dog been doing this for years, no problems

  • Ann Shirley

    when they get happy they do this

  • Cranky

    FFS Its not cruel. They have said its not dangerous. If they didnt have her do it YOU all wouldn’t know what it even is..get over it, Everything your told, Everything you use has been been tested on something or someone. That’s education. It’s progress…You might not like it, but it is necessary. Covering your eyes doesn’t mean it’s not there.

    • Caroline Mcclain

      Thank you. Education is the key for everything, even something as harmless as this so we do not become alarmed when it happens. I had always thought it was crying, mine does this when excited. So at least I know what it is and I never panic, I just talk her through it. Never pays to overpanic.

  • dee

    Why make the poor baby keep doing it? I find it to be cruel.

  • Nikki Burton

    When my dog does this, I raise her little snout in the air and it seems to help alleviate it. I think it helps open the air ways in her snout.
    You may want to try it!

  • Just_Robyn

    Scratching my dogs’ rumps works, too. And they love a good skritch.

  • gretchen

    my min pin and chaweenie do this,i just thought they were feeling panicky or summin….and too me that is the dumbest thing iv ever heard a reverse sneeze wtf…..

  • Martha Widra

    Our beagle does it a lot, and he has allergy problems too. I suspect that it’s drainage from his nose irritating his throat/airways. He has enough nasal secretions that when he puts his nose down to smell the ground, it drips on bad days. Giving him Benadryl every day helps a little, but on bad allergy days he sounds like Felix Unger. Since my son and I also suffer from allergies, and we all seem to get worse and better together, it becomes a “pack” thing. :)

  • CANDACE LUFFMAN

    MY POMERANIAN who passed away this summer, had that same problem and the vets couldn’t do a thing for her. well that just made me mad. because I think they could have done something for her. she was a very Loving and sweet DOG. and I will always miss her.

  • Peter Jones

    my young collie has this condition,i dose’nt last long and covering his nostrils helps to get him breathing properly again quickly,it usually happens when he is excited or first thing in the morning,he now has a harness,to help putting less pressure on his throught

  • Sam2001

    My understanding is that the entire episode was filmed as a teaching/training aid for people that do not know what it is. The dog(s) were not harmed. The first time I saw this video was at the Emergency Vet’s office, I rushed our pup in thinking she was having a seizure. Of course by the time we get there she is fine! The vet tech had me watch this, and asked if this was what happened.

    Like learning the symptoms of “bloat,” or how to do canine CPR, this is a video dog owners need to watch.

  • Michelle DeGray

    Since my pug wil not drink water when this is happening I give her juice or milk in a bowl and she drinks that. Always stops right away..

  • Diane Wenrich

    Is this breed specific? I don’t recall my dogs doing this.

  • FAAQ2

    It occurs a lot in short snouted dogs – it happened to our Cavalier King Charles Spaniel – and he had laser surgery that cured the problem. Laser surgery is better as the recovery period is much quicker.

  • Frances

    I always wonder if I should be worried about when my jrt/beagle gets these attacks. When he gets the attacks he usually walks outside and he is over it in a minute or 2 after he steps out there. He had an attack at the vers once and one vet said it was nerves, the other just stood there and watched didn’t do anything.

  • Jackke Friend

    most often, it’s startling but harmless – recently, my little baby had nasal mites not so harmless – they’r resolved, now

  • Shayla Renee

    My chihuahua does this constantly. I never worried about it because I noticed immediately that he only does it when he’s either super excited or pulling on his leash. Plus it’s something small dogs are known for. Even if you did see it, what about it is scary? It sounds like nothing more than a cough and the dog isn’t hacking up a lung. Stop worrying so damn much, not everything needs to be rushed to the vet. Ain’t nobody got money like that.

  • Mary Boone

    my chihuahuas do this a lot. it is really kinda scary. but like most of you here the video kinda pissed me off. they shouldnt have made the dog keep doing this. i usually just rub the throat and calm them, cause they are usually excited when they do this. but it is only my chi’s not any of my other dogs.. the info was useful but the vidoe needs to be taken off or redone by somebody that isnt making the dog do this on purpose…

  • Courtney

    I have two pugs who do this now and again, I have a fenced in back yard, on an nice summer day I let the lay outside while I did some house work, I went out to find my one pug laying on his side on our patio having a lot of trouble breathing from this backward sneeze, Sometimes what I have to do is try and open there mouth and pull there tongs out that helps also this is scary when it happens, I would never encourage a dog to “keep going” How scary it must be to not be able to breath the rite way!!!!!!

  • Marcy Morris

    Fine……it is helpful to actually see what a backward sneeze looks like, BUT this video was very disturbing to me. It was like the owner/vet was actually trying to prolong the episode for the purpose of the video. Shame on you!!!

  • Darlene Haverstock

    my daughters dog is always doing that her vet suggested an over the counter allergie pill and it seems to be working

  • Tracey F.

    IMPORTANT! My mini dachshund was doing this on and off for quite a while; turned out she had a tooth that had decayed through the roots up into the nasal cavity. Removal of the tooth left a fistula (opening) from mouth to nasal cavity…we are still trying to deal with it. Yes, we brushed, but she is one of “those” dogs that built up plaque faster than I could keep up with it. (Also, she is 12 years old.) We tried all kinds of easier solutions (treatment for infections, mites) until we finally had the dental….and she no longer reverse sneezes.

  • Furmom

    My two pit bulls do this (in the summer) from allergies! Especially after rolling around in the grass. Fresh water usually helps for them.

  • Tiffany Davis

    I took my doxie to the vet because she does that all the time.The vet gave her allergy meds and she hasn’t done it since.

  • Dianne

    one of my westie’s does this, had it checked by a Vet when he was a puppy, didn’t tell me what it was though, so I’m glad at least it’s now got a name.It’s awful to watch and not be able to help so gently stroking his throat,will try holding his nose see if that helps. I never ever use a lead and collar as I find this can bring on an episode, always using a harness

  • ecellis

    The best way to stop it is to get the dog to lick. I trained my chihuahua to give “kisses” to my nose .After a few kisses, its done. If i rub the throat or try to block his nose, he might stop but it will come back as soon as i set him down. Plus blocking his nose stresses him out. I would punch someone that tried to block my nose if i was having a similar problem.