Does that mean anything to you? Suddenly your dog will start sniffling loudly and snorting over and over again, in quick succession. Wondering if they haven’t swallowed something they shouldn’t have swallowed? Can they breathe ?! Chances are, you will experience the infamous “reverse sneeze”. Vets often see dogs whose owners rushed them for an emergency appointment after finding them standing with their elbows wide apart, their heads back and their eyes swollen as they repeatedly sniffed or gasped. However, for most of these dogs, a visit to the vet was not necessary.
Reverse sneezes are scary the first time you meet them. However, it is a fairly common and harmless respiratory event for dogs.
Keep reading to learn how to identify reverse sneezes, what causes them, and how to distinguish between a safe reverse sneeze and something else.
What is a reverse sneeze?
A reverse sneeze is more or less what you think: a sneeze that occurs backwards! The video above is a good example of what this looks like.
During a regular sneeze, air is quickly expelled through the nose. During a reverse sneeze, air is quickly and noisily sucked in through the nose. It manifests as spasms that last from a few seconds to a minute and resemble sniffling, and even choking. See the video above for an example.
Because of the noises their dogs make when sneezing upside down, many people mistakenly think that their dog is choking. However, a reverse sneeze is almost as normal and harmless as a normal sneeze.
What Causes Reverse Sneezing?
There is no single cause for reverse sneezing. Like regular sneezing, it is often triggered by irritation or inflammation of the nose, throat, or sinuses. It usually shows up when the dog wakes up from a nap or after eating, when his breathing rate may have changed suddenly. It is also caused by irritants in the respiratory tract, whether it is dust or inhaled hairs!
In some dogs, reverse sneezes are more common in the spring when the air is full of pollen and other allergens. In contrast, reverse sneezing is more common in winter, when sudden changes in temperature between the outside and the inside cause the nasal passages to contract.
Another common cause of reverse sneezing is pressure on the throat and neck. A collar that is too tight, or straining against the leash, can irritate the throat and lead to a reverse sneeze. Here is one more reason to think about putting a harness on your dog.
Finally, some dogs can sneeze in the opposite direction after exercise or when they are overexcited. This is especially common in brachycephalic, or short-nosed breeds, such as pugs and bulldogs. When they get angry, they can inhale their elongated soft palate down their throats, which triggers a reverse sneeze.
How to End a Reverse Sneezing Attack
Reverse sneezing is very common and will not harm your dog. However, some dogs become anxious during a prolonged reverse sneezing attack which can be unpleasant to experience.
It is possible to help your dog recover from a reverse sneeze attack by remaining calm. If you become anxious, your dog’s anxiety will also increase. So stay calm and show your dog that there is nothing to panic about.
With prolonged reverse sneezing attacks, you may be able to reduce or stop:
- Gently massage your dog’s throat;
- Lightly cover their nostrils, which will cause them to swallow and may prevent them from sneezing;
- Lower their tongue with your hand to help open the airways;
- Some vets suggest gently blowing the dog’s face. In most cases, no intervention is necessary. Reverse sneezes are short lived and your dog will be perfectly fine after it is stopped.
When should you go to the vet?
As we mentioned, reverse sneezing does not often require treatment at the vet. As soon as the sneezing attack stops, the situation is resolved. However, if the frequency or duration of seizures increases, you should call the vet immediately. If your dog’s reverse sneezing is accompanied by other respiratory symptoms or if he has unusual nasal discharge, we also recommend that you get him treated. Occasionally, chronic reverse sneezing can be a symptom of more serious disorders. These include nose mites, foreign bodies in the airways, respiratory infections and tracheal collapse. If you are concerned about the intensity of your dog’s reverse sneezing, take a video to show it to the vet. They will be able to determine the potential causes. The majority of dogs experience reverse sneezing attacks at some point in their lives. For most dogs, this is a common, temporary and harmless reaction with no lasting side effects. Of course, this always sounds worrying to our human ears! Now that you know what a reverse sneeze is, you’ll be less likely to make an unnecessary trip to the vet. it always seems worrying to our human ears! Now that you know what a reverse sneeze is, you’ll be less likely to make an unnecessary trip to the vet. it always seems worrying to our human ears! Now that you know what a reverse sneeze is, you’ll be less likely to make an unnecessary trip to the vet.