A dog in mid-sneeze.

If you have never heard a reverse sneeze, you might be alarmingly triggered by its signature sounds. Generally speaking, a dog that suddenly begins to honk, wheeze, and snort might require emergency veterinary help. However, a reverse sneeze isn’t usually a cause for concern. Sure, it’s weird and uncharacteristic for many animals, but this mechanism is employed for specific reasons. What’s more, if you know what it is, you can help your dog regulate their breathing and interrupt this strange breathing.

Be Prepared

Owners of flat-faced dogs know all too well the confusing and frightening sounds of a reverse sneeze. The signature appearance and odd sounds can definitely startle one unfamiliar with the phenomenon, which is why it’s a good idea to understand what a reverse sneeze is and how to resolve an episode.

Getting a Handle

A reverse sneeze, or paroxysmal respiration, is exactly what the name suggests. Irritants in the nasal passages are to blame for the rapid inhalations through the nose. Accompanied by an extended neck and rigid posture, a reverse sneeze can last for a full minute before subsiding.

What Qualifies as Irritating?

Various allergens, such as mold, pollen, smoke, dust, and others, are responsible for triggering a reverse sneeze. Other objects inside the nose and nasal passages can also cause a dog to try to get them out. Masses, tumors, and nasal mites can also lead to a reverse sneeze, but a more innocent canine cold or seasonal allergies may also be to blame.

How to Help

Upon hearing the first few honks, wheezes and snorts, try to gently rub the neck in a downward fashion. You can also offer a drink of fresh water to interrupt the cycle. Reverse sneezes usually resolve themselves, but they can be incredibly jarring to watch and to hear. 

If your pet begins to reverse sneeze more often or with increased severity, it’s a good idea to have them examined. Left alone, some respiratory illnesses or certain irritants (like tumors or growths) can make breathing harder. Furthermore, some respiratory illnesses can be contagious to other household pets or other animals in public.

Jump to Conclusions

When symptoms linger, it is imperative for your veterinarian to rule out the following:

  • Upper respiratory infection
  • Heart disease
  • Collapsed trachea
  • Asthma
  • Brachycephalic syndrome

While jumping to frightening conclusions is no one’s idea of fun, a reverse sneeze can make dog owners react. If intervening doesn’t seem to help, and your dog’s condition worsens, let us know. Our staff at Clairmont Animal Hospital is always happy to help.