What to do About Reverse Dog Sneezing
Reverse dog sneezing, or backward sneezing, is also known as paroxysmal respiration. While it isn’t dangerous, it can be startling for people and dogs. When a dog reverse sneezes, they pull air into the nose, rather than pushing air out of the nose as would occur in a typical sneeze. Generally, dogs make a snorting sound, often quite loudly, often described as a honking sound, like the sound a goose might make.
Your dog may appear to be trying to inhale while they are sneezing. Dogs often stand very still and their head and necks may be extended. It may sound as though the dog has something caught in the throat. The episode may last several seconds or up to a minute.
What Causes Reverse Dog Sneezing?
Reverse sneezing occurs when a dog's soft palate is irritated. No one knows exactly what causes dogs to reverse sneeze rather than sneezing normally. Any irritants that would typically cause a normal sneeze can cause a dog to reverse sneeze. Here are a few of the irritants that may be likely to prompt a reverse sneeze:
- Nasal mites
- A runny nose
- Seeds, grass, or pollen
- Perfume or cologne
- Cleaning products
- Air fresheners
- Pulling on a collar
- Eating or drinking quickly
Which Dogs are Most Likely to be Affected by Reverse Sneezing?
Reverse sneezing seems to be more common in dogs with very long noses. It may also be more likely in dogs that have very short snouts, known as brachycephalic breeds. Reverse dog sneezing in small dogs seems to be more common as well.
Is Reverse Dog Sneezing Dangerous?
While it can be quite startling and even a bit frightening to see a dog reverse sneezing, especially if you aren't accustomed to it, there is nothing to be worried about. This condition isn't harmful to the dog and doesn't cause any short or long-term negative effects. While it may be startling to you and even to the dog at first, you both will likely soon get used to it.
How to Stop Reverse Dog Sneezing in Dogs
There is generally no medical treatment for reverse sneezing. If your dog is sneezing very frequently, treatments for allergies or a cold may be prescribed. Your veterinarian should also check to make sure there is not a mass in the nasal passage that is resulting in the reverse sneezing.
If a mass is resulting in the reverse sneezing, your veterinarian will likely recommend that it be removed, as allowing it to continue to grow could impair breathing significantly. They are likely to also recommend that the mass be biopsied so that you will know whether it is benign or cancerous.
If it's an allergy that is causing your dog’s reverse sneezing, your veterinarian may recommend that you have them tested to find out which allergy is triggering the problems and to either isolate them from it or treat them for it. Sometimes your veterinarian may prescribe a decongestant, anti-inflammatory, or antihistamine to treat the underlying allergies causing the reverse sneezing.
Antibacterials or cough suppressants may be prescribed to treat reverse coughing as a result of a cold.
If your dog seems bothered by their reverse sneezing episode, it may help for you to hold the dog's nostrils closed for an instant and lightly massage the throat. This may cause the dog to swallow, which can stop the spasming that results in the reverse sneeze. It's also a good idea to move the dog somewhere with cleaner air to eliminate the possible irritant.
If your dog seems to reverse sneeze more often when you are walking them by a neck collar, you may want to use a harness instead. Choose a harness that fits low on the chest so that it doesn't put pressure on the throat where it may trigger reverse sneezing.
If reverse sneezing often occurs after your dog has eaten or drank, you may want to slow down their eating or drinking. Feeding from a slow feeder bowl or food distributing toy can slow down eating. Sometimes using a water fountain instead of a bowl can cause your dog to drink more slowly and ingest less air while they drink.
What Might be Mistaken for Reverse Dog Sneezing?
Reverse sneezing is harmless, but some conditions that can be easy to mistake for reverse sneezing may not be harmless and may actually be quite dangerous. If you aren't sure whether your dog is reverse sneezing or suffering from something else, it is a good idea to take a video if possible to show your veterinarian. Here are some of the things that may be mistaken or reverse dog sneezing.
Dogs often cough for the same reasons that people might, because they have a cold or because they have dust or debris in their nose. However, sometimes dogs cough for more sinister reasons. Here are a few of the reasons that dogs may be coughing that you should look out for:
- Kennel cough. Kennel cough, also known as Bordetella, is a common and highly contagious disease. This is why kennels typically ask that dogs who are boarding are vaccinated against it. Kennel cough is characterized by a deep, honking cough that may easily be mistaken for reverse sneezing. As long as your dog is eating and drinking normally, they will usually recover by themselves, but some dogs need antibiotics or cough suppressants.
- Heartworms. Heartworms are a very serious infestation that can cause a significantly reduced quality of life and even death if they go untreated. They can be prevented with a monthly heartworm preventative, but without it, it is very easy for dogs to be infected with heartworms when they are bitten by mosquitoes. Heartworms cause a repetitive, deep, rhythmic cough that sounds similar to reverse sneezing.
- Heart disease. Heart disease can weaken the lungs or cause fluid in the lungs, which can cause coughing, often a very deep and honking coughing that may be mistaken for kennel cough. Medication can improve a dog's prognosis of dealing with heart disease and sometimes surgery is an option as well.
- Lung infections. Infections of the lungs can cause repetitive coughing. Dogs may sometimes get bronchitis or pneumonia. They can also aspirate debris which can cause lung infections. Sometimes lung cancer is to blame. an infection of the lungs can cause repetitive coughing and sometimes very deep coughing that sounds like backward sneezing.
A dog that is choking makes gagging and choking sounds similar to reverse sneezing. They often stretch out their neck and arch their back in a way that is fairly similar to a reverse sneeze. Dogs are typically very distressed while choking. They may paw at their mouth and drool.
They may also gag or retch. Dogs that tend to reverse sneeze may do so while they are choking, along with other symptoms.
Tracheal collapse can cause a persistent, harsh cough that sounds like a goose honking, very much like reverse sneezing. It is often triggered by pressure on the throat from a collar or immediately after drinking or eating, similar to how reverse sneezing can be triggered.
However, tracheal collapse typically causes much more regular and consistent coughing. It occurs when the rings of cartilage in the trachea flatten out, making it difficult for air to move through the lungs.
Small breed dogs like Pomeranians, Chihuahuas, and Toy Poodles are more likely to experience tracheal collapse, but it can occur in any breed. Tracheal collapse can sometimes be treated medically to make breathing easier, or it may be treated surgically. Reducing your dog's weight and never putting pressure on the throat can also reduce the symptoms of tracheal collapse.
Have Your Dog Checked Out if you are Concerned About Reverse Sneezing
Whether you feel that your dog is reverse sneezing more than they ought to be or whether you are not sure whether it is in fact reverse sneezing or something else that is causing your dog’s symptoms, it is a good idea to have your dog checked out by OKC Vet Campus. We can determine whether your dog is reverse sneezing or whether they're displaying symptoms of something else and treat them appropriately.