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What is Reverse Sneezing in Dogs?

Was your dog gasping or honking? The likely cause is reverse sneezing. So, what is reverse sneezing in dogs?

Dog and owner cuddling outside

You're walking your dog when your pet suddenly starts making a strange gasping/wheezing sound and appears to be in distress. You're about to call your vet when a passerby reassures you that your pet is just experiencing a bout of reverse sneezing. Even though it looks bad, you're told that it's really nothing to worry about. So, what exactly is reverse sneezing?

What is reverse sneezing in dogs?

When an animal sneezes, they are forcefully expelling air through their nose and/or mouth. Reverse sneezing — also known as paroxysmal respiration — is a condition where a dog sucks in air rapidly instead of blowing it out. During the reverse sneezing episode, the dog may appear to be struggling to breathe, while making a noise that some describe as honking or snorting. The canine might also appear stiff, with its head and neck extended.

Fortunately, this condition is almost always harmless and is typically over in 30 seconds or less.

What is the cause of reverse sneezing in dogs?

During a reverse sneeze, a dog's soft palate muscle begins to spasm, which causes the trachea to narrow. At the same time, the dog will begin to suck in air forcefully through the nose.

It's not known what exactly causes reverse sneezing. However, episodes can be triggered by many of the same things that cause regular sneezing, such as allergies. The following are a few other reasons why a dog may experience a reverse sneezing episode:

  • Overexcitement

  • A foreign object in the canine's upper airway

  • Nasal mites

  • Pulling on the leash

In addition, some breeds are more prone to reverse sneezing, especially ones that have flat faces, such as Shih Tzus and Bulldogs.

What to do

The reverse sneezing will typically stop on its own, but if your dog is having an episode, you can do a few things to help it, including:

  • Stroking the dog's neck or throat

  • Lightly pinching the dog's nostrils closed or covering the nose for a few seconds

  • Blowing gently into the dog's nostrils

In most cases, medical treatment is unnecessary for reverse sneezing. However, you may want to take your dog to the veterinarian if it is experiencing frequent bouts of reverse sneezing. Your pup's episodes could be allergy-related, and if so, your veterinarian may recommend antihistamines.

It's also a good idea to have other conditions such as a tracheal collapse ruled out by your veterinarian. Being proactive with your pet's health needs and having pet insurance to cover any unexpected medical expenses are two important ways to ensure that your dog will be able to live a long, healthy, and happy life.

Lizz Caputo is a Content Strategist at Figo, animal enthusiast, and owner of a rescued senior American Bully. Her hobbies include checking out new restaurants in her area, boxing, and petting dogs of all shapes and sizes.

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