Reverse sneezing in dogs

Reverse sneezing can be alarming to witness, but it’s usually nothing to worry about. It can easily be mistaken for a sneeze, cough or gagging episode. 

Reverse sneezing is caused by a spasm in your dog’s throat that resolves by itself in around 30 seconds or less. If it becomes frequent or worsens, take a video and contact a vet.

shutterstock 1256623288



What is reverse sneezing in dogs?

  • Reverse sneezing is when a dog rapidly sucks air through their nose, causing loud snorting, honking, or gagging sounds.
  • It differs from a traditional sneeze, where air is forced out through the nose.
  • Reverse sneezing is an involuntary respiratory reflex caused by a spasm in the throat.
  • This spasm can be caused by irritants such as:
    • Dust
    • Pollens
    • Smoke
    • Household products (fragrances, cleaning supplies)
    • Pulling on your dog’s collar
    • Foreign objects stuck in the throat
    • Lumps in the throat
    • Overlong soft palate
    • Overexcitement
    • Food or drink
    • Mites
  • This is not painful or harmful to your dog and does not lead to significant or lasting respiratory distress.
  • Typically lasts about 30 seconds.



What are the signs of reverse sneezing?

You might notice:

  • Rapid and powerful inhalations that cause snorting, honking, and gagging sounds
  • With neck stretched out

These episodes should be differentiated from more serious coughs or choking.

If the symptoms are persistent or worsening, contact your vet. It’s important to rule out other conditions such as respiratory infection, collapsing trachea, nasal tumours or polyps, and foreign bodies.



Are some dogs more at risk of reverse sneezing than others?

Reverse sneezing is commonly seen in brachycephalic (flat-faced) breeds, such as Pugs, Bulldogs, and Shih Tzus mainly due to their long soft palates.

It is also seen in smaller dogs, such as Chihuahuas and Terriers.



How is reverse sneezing diagnosed in dogs?

No tests are typically needed to confirm this diagnosis.

It’s very unlikely that your dog will reverse sneeze in a consult, so try to video record an episode before your vet appointment.

Reverse sneezing is diagnosed by:

  • Talking through your dog’s recent events.
  • When possible, watching a video of a past episode.

To rule out other conditions, your vet may need to do:


Vet treatment

How do vets treat reverse sneezing in dogs?

Most cases of reverse sneezing require no medical treatment.

If an underlying condition is identified, treatment may include:

  • Antiparasitic medications (for mites)
  • Antihistamines and/or steroids (for allergies)
  • Surgery (to remove foreign object or mass)


Home treatment

What can you do at home to help your dog with reverse sneezing?

  • Stay calm. It usually only lasts 30 seconds.
  • Keep your dog calm by speaking to them.
  • Gently massage their throat.
  • Sometimes covering one or both nostrils forces them to swallow and gets rid of the irritation.
  • To decrease potential triggers, avoid certain fragrances, cleaning agents and smoking at home.



How can you prevent reverse sneezing in dogs?

It’s very difficult to prevent reverse sneezing from happening.

Remove any environmental triggers if possible, such as dusting more frequently and keeping your dog away from smoky environments.

Treating any underlying problems can also prevent the recurrence of reverse sneezing.


When to worry

When you should worry about your dog reverse sneezing

Contact your local vet practice if your dog shows any of the following signs:

  • Reverse sneezing episodes becoming more frequent
  • Collapse
  • Being very tired
  • Gums or tongue become blue or grey
  • Struggling to breathe even after the episode
  • Nasal discharge
  • Bloody discharge
  • Not eating or drinking

Joii can help:

  • Differentiating reverse sneezing from coughing, sneezing or gagging
  • If reverse sneezing occasionally
Consult a vet - £28

Consult your vet online. Anyday, anytime.

Consult a Joii vet online for £28. Or free if you’re insured with one of our partners.

Developed by vets 🩺

QR code to app

How to get an

Join a practice

*It's free*

Download the app to register and become a member of Joii vets. In only a few taps you will have access to digital vet care 24/7 as well as a vet practice

Download the app

We’re writing as quick as we can

This article is currently being written by one of our expert vets. Check back soon.