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Reverse Sneezing in Dogs

Reverse Sneezing in Dogs

A dog owner might think that a dog is choking, having an asthmatic attack, having a seizure or choking.  Reverse sneezing can be very frightening event to witness for a dog owner who is unfamiliar with the condition.  Some of the medical terms for reverse sneezing include mechanosensitive aspiration reflex, inspiratory paroxysmal respiration, and pharyngeal gag reflex. 

When a dog sneezes normally, he will expel air through his nose.  A reverse sneeze is when the dog is rapidly and forcefully sucking air in through his nose.  Reverse sneezing typically last for seconds up to a few minutes.  The sound of reverse sneezing sounds like honking, hacking, and snorting.  A dog who is having a reverse sneeze will make those sounds, stretch out his neck, gasp for air, and stand with his elbow positioned outward.  The eyes typically will bulge or expand in size and the chest will expand in an attempt to pull in more air.           

Walk in Sync Harness and Leash

It is best to avoid putting stress on a dog’s neck in general; it is especially important if the dog has this condition.  Reverse sneezing is more common amongst small breeds and flat-faced (brachycephalic) breeds due to the structure of the trachea.  I recommend using a harness for all dogs.  Dogs with reverse sneezing MUST avoid constriction around the neck so a harness is a must!  I use the Walk-In-Sync harness and leash set for my dogs.  In fact, I wrote an article about it, The Best Harness Ever! so you may read about how unique is in detail.  I included it in My Favorites page.

The first thing that happens in reverse sneezing the soft tissues on the roof of the mouth is disturbed or aggravated.  The tissue is called the soft palate and is located past the hard palate.  It is the area right by the beginning of the throat.  The irritation in that area causes spasms in the muscles of the pharynx.  These spasms trigger a reverse sneezing reaction.      

Some things that might irritate the soft palate include household chemicals, dust, pollen, perfume, mites, and cigarette smoke.  Those irritants can be allergens which can result in reverse sneezing.  In the case of allergies, it is likely that removal of those allergens from the dog’s environment will greatly reduce the occurrence of reverse sneezing.  Some vets might prescribe antihistamines when allergies appear to be triggers.  Although one of my dogs did not have reverse sneezing, I had the vet conduct allergy testing.  She was allergic to several things including grass, pollen, and dust.  I used to administer shots to relieve her allergies.  By the same principle, shots might be a consideration if a dog has reverse sneezing due to allergies.  I did not like to administer antihistamines all the time.  Those medications are toxic and merely put a band aid onto the symptoms rather than treating the issue from the root of the problem. 




Reverse sneezing may be triggered by viruses, post-nasal drip, nasal inflammation, sinusitis, polyps, excessive soft palate tissue, nasal mites, dental infections, and other kinds of respiratory issues, and dental related infections.

Other possible causes include nasal vaccines and foreign objects lodged inside the nostrils.  In such cases, a vet might prescribe antibiotics to avoid infection.

Other triggers can include excitement, rapidly eating, rapidly drinking, exercise, pulling on a leash while in a collar or a collar that is too tight, sudden temperature changes.

When a spasm occurs, the trachea narrows making it difficult for a dog to inhale a normal amount of air into the lungs.  The pressure from the spasms cause the esophagus to narrow making it  difficult to breathe normally.

How can a dog owner assist a dog who is having an episode?  Rather than using his nose and its narrow nasal passages to breathe, it is best for the dog to channel his breathing through his mouth.  By briefly closing off the dog’s nostrils, air will be inhaled through the mouth.  Keeping the nostrils closed for a few seconds, the dog will swallow and the reverse sneezing will subside.  Gently massaging your dog’s throat also helps to calms the spasms. 

Reverse sneezing is not a dangerous or harmful condition.  It is simply a part of life for some dogs.  Just remain calm so that you will be able to address the situation without frightening your dog.  I suggest that you keep track of what occurs prior to the attacks.  By doing so, I have concluded that my dog experiences reverse sneezing when she is drinking too fast and when she rubs her face on my bed when she is playing. 

With either conditions, collars and leashes attached to collars should be avoided.  Go for a harness.   Tags can be attached to harnesses as easily as collars.  If you feel that you must have a collar, make sure it is light and not tight around your dog’s neck.

An issue that has very close symptoms to reverse sneezing is tracheal collapse.  One of the differences is that a dog with a collapsed trachea will likely cough and honk when his throat area is being examined by a vet.  If the reverse sneezing is happening often, it might be a wise idea to have it checked out by your vet in order to rule out tracheal collapse.

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