Reverse Sneezing In Dogs: What Does It Mean?

Reverse Sneezing In dogs

What does it mean when your dog’s making a sucking, snorting sound … like he can’t catch his breath, or sounds like he’s choking? These are the sounds of reverse sneezing.

What Is Reverse Sneezing In Dogs?

Reverse sneezing is a gag reflex involving a spasm of the throat. When it happens, your dog sucks in air through his nose instead of blowing it out through his nostrils. For some dogs it’s very common and part of their daily life. It sounds worse and attacks last longer in some dogs than in others. Reverse sneezing is also called paroxysmal respiration.

It sounds like your dog is trying to sneeze in reverse by sucking in the sneeze. The actual cause is usually from an irritation of the dog’s upper palate (roof of his mouth). It causes a spasm in the muscles of the pharynx. This is part of the throat behind the mouth and nasal cavity, and above the oesophagus and trachea … which are the tubes going down to the stomach and the lungs.

An episode of reverse sneezing can be sudden and shocking. It’s almost like an asthma attack. It can last for a few seconds or even a minute or more … and then it’s back to normal breathing and business as usual for your dog. 

If this is the first time you’re hearing this awful sound, you may panic. But … don’t. Even if you haven’t experienced reverse sneezing in your dog, here’s what you should know, just in case it happens. 

Which Dogs Are Susceptible To Reverse Sneezing?

Reverse sneezing happens to many dogs but it’s more common in small dogs and flat-faced breeds like Pugs, Bulldogs and Boxers. It’s thought that the smaller throat and windpipe of smaller breeds might be one reason. And flat-faced breeds (known as brachycephalic) have a longer soft palate. They can suck the palate back into the throat. If you’ve heard them breathe, there’s a guttural, raspy sound they make when air passes through the palate. 

Signs Of Reverse Sneezing In Your Dog

Every dog’s reverse sneezing can sound different … but once you hear a reverse sneeze from your dog, you’ll recognize it right away. Here are ways to identify reverse sneezing in your dog.

  • Standing with stiff legs
  • Neck extended
  • Head up
  • Eyes staring ahead or bulging
  • Sounds like an asthma attack
  • Repeated choking, retching, snorting sounds

You never know when your dog might have an episode. It might happen once, or it can be ongoing.

What Causes Reverse Sneezing In Dogs?

These are some things that can cause reverse sneezing. 

  • Intense exercise 
  • Collar that’s too tight 
  • Pulling on the leash
  • Excitement or anxiety
  • Eating and swallowing fast
  • Environmental irritants like pollen, pesticides, smoke, dust
  • Household irritants like perfume, scented candles, plug-ins, cleaners, room deodorizers
  • Sudden change of temperature from hot to cold or vice versa
  • Respiratory infection

Reverse Sneezing From Rabies Vaccinosis

Reverse sneezing is also a sign of rabies vaccinosis … when an animal repeatedly exhibits signs of the actual disease for which it was vaccinated. Rabid animals may have difficulty breathing, experiencing the jerky breathing or throat spasms of reverse sneezing. A vaccinated animal will have similar indications of rabies vaccinosis: frequent or spasmodic sneezing, spasms in the jaws, choking, gagging, or coughing when swallowing liquids, reverse sneezing and laryngeal spasms.

RELATED: Learn how rabies vaccines can cause rabies-like symptoms in your dog … 

Is Reverse Sneezing In Dogs Serious?

In most cases reverse sneezing is not serious. When it happens more often and for longer durations, you might want to check with your vet to rule out a foreign body or illness that might be causing it. 

A discharge from the nose or mouth or a change in your dog’s appetite or behavior may also mean there is something else going on with your dog. And that may warrant a veterinary check.

RELATED: Find out what coughing can mean in your dog …

How To Stop Reverse Sneezing In Dogs

Reverse sneezing will usually pass quickly … after a minute or two. Above all, remain calm. Your panic can agitate your dog so that future episodes distress him. These are things you can do. 

  • Massage the throat. You might even feel the spasms.
  • Try covering his nostrils to force your dog to swallow and clear the irritation.
  • Put your fingers on his tongue and press down to have your dog open his mouth to take air through his nose.
  • Gently hold his snout and blow into his nostrils to force him to gasp and breathe.
  • Consider using a harness if a collar causes your dog to reverse sneeze.
  • Distract your dog with a favorite toy or activity.

If it happens a few times, take note of the situation … when it happens, where is your dog and what is he doing. This will help you identify his reverse sneezing triggers. Here are possible scenarios: 

  • On or after a walk
  • While eating
  • In the night
  • During a thunderstorm or other situations that cause anxiety
  • Jumping from a height
  • Coming inside from the cold or going out into the cold

Once you isolate the situation you can avoid or reduce the likelihood of these attacks. 

Don’t Give Benadryl For Reverse Sneezing

Conventional vets often view reverse sneezing as an allergic reaction. They may suggest some of the options mentioned above to stop a reverse sneezing attack. But they also will often suggest giving Benadryl.

Benadryl will usually stop a reverse sneezing attack. But it just suppresses the symptom. It doesn’t cure the underlying cause of your dog’s reverse sneezing. Benadryl is easy to overdose and can cause serious side effects in your dog. So it’s best to avoid it. 

RELATED: Read about the risks of giving Benadryl to your dog … 

11 Natural Ways To Reduce Reverse Sneezing

  1. Limit, eliminate or reduce vaccinations. Your dog can have a reaction to any one of many additives in vaccines. Rabies vaccination is especially likely to cause reverse sneezing. Give a soil-based probiotic to help detox vaccine contaminants.

  2. Avoid toxic flea and tick treatments. Use natural products or make your own

  3. Detox your dog once or twice a year.

  4. Give your dog filtered water. Use a glass bowl or one that is free of heavy metals.

  5. Use a harness rather than a collar to walk your dog, especially if he’s a puller.

  6. Clear your home of artificial scents, such as candles and air fresheners and even your own cosmetics or body products.

  7. Use environmentally friendly, non-toxic and unscented cleaning products

  8. Detox your dog’s diet. Feed a whole food, raw meat diet.

  9. Give antioxidants to minimize allergies.

  10. Minimize your dog’s stress and anxiety as much as possible. 

  11. Consult a homeopathic vet.  If your dog’s reverse sneezing was caused by rabies vaccinosis, a homeopath can help you resolve it. Find one at theavh.org

Often when toxins are removed from your dog’s environment, you can clear up a lot of mystery issues …  and reverse sneezing is one of them. And the bonus is that these are changes that benefit your dog in all aspects of his health and his life.

RELATED: Why your dog needs to detox after vaccination … 

Small changes made a step at a time can minimize reverse sneezing and create an overall healthier environment for you and your dog.

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