A sneeze is pretty self-explanatory. We have all done it. Air is pushed out of our noses at force when it is agitated. This rids our noses from the irritant.
But a reverse sneeze, as much as it sounds impossible, is also pretty self-explanatory. This is when air is instead drawn into your dog’s nose rapidly, and they almost snort as they inhale while sneezing.
It can be alarming to witness this, but in most cases, there is absolutely nothing to worry about. Dogs can be diagnosed with the condition if it happens often, but there may never be an exact diagnosis as to why it happens.
What is reverse sneezing in dogs?
Officially known as paroxysmal respiration, the air is drawn in through their nostrils. It may sound at first like they have caught something in their throat, and they can often stand still and have quite rapid breathing.
During a reverse sneezing episode, your dog will rapidly pull air into its nose. It is like a snorting sound. Some may mistake it for a cough, too.
Their neck may also extend. It can last for anywhere between a few seconds and a minute.
It can be alarming to watch, but your dog is not in danger when this happens. They will suffer from no ill effects, although it can sometimes take them by surprise if it has never happened before.
Your dog will be normal before and after the episode. They may just need some reassurance if they are a bit shaken.
What causes reverse sneezing in dogs?
Irritation to the throat, soft palate or nose is often the main cause. This can be anything from allergies to items such as grass, to foreign objects like seeds or flies on a walk.
Secretions such as excess mucus can also irritate the breathing passages, and dogs with narrow nasal passages and long noses seem to be the most affected, as opposed to short-nose breeds who are often found to suffer from breathing difficulties.
However, those with long soft palates and shorter snouts (Pugs, Frenchies, Shih Tzus, Boxers) can also reverse sneeze. Small breed dogs are usually found to suffer from reverse sneezing than long breed, too.
Common causes of reverse sneezing include:
- Outdoor irritants (i.e pollen, grass seeds)
- Indoor irritants (perfume, smoke, dust)
- Food or water (eating and drinking)
- Pulling on the lead which can harm their throat
- Inflammation (such as upper airway infections)
- Excitement – some dogs will reverse sneeze when you arrive home or they know they’re going for walkies!
How can I stop my dog from reverse sneezing?
There is, unfortunately, no cure or medication, and not much you can do to intervene.
It is simply a case of calming your dog down while they are having a sneezing episode, by using a reassuring voice and stroking the back of their neck. Once they have exhaled, the episode is usually over.
Pressing on their tongue to help with breathing and clearing the throat can also help, although be careful not to be bitten. It’s unlikely your dog would be happy with this.
Dogs don’t usually suffer any long-term effects from reverse sneezing. For example, they won’t go on to develop issues with their organs or pull muscles. So, if you don’t want to do any of the above, that is fine – your dog won’t always need it.
Reverse sneezing can be diagnosed by a vet if it happens regularly. This is based on medical history, and once other breathing difficulties are ruled out (such as upper respiratory tract infection, collapsing trachea, nasal tumours or polyps).
They will also check there is not anything permanently stuck in their throat or nose, through an X-ray, and may also conduct allergy or blood tests.
In some cases, a vet may prescribe anti-inflammatory or anti-histamine medications to help with the effects and likelihood of the attacks. This will usually be if there is a clear cause, such as an allergy or a biological tendency.
If the reverse sneezing is happening really frequently, vets may want to look at their throat under general aesthetic. The soft palate can be trimmed if it is too long.
Can a cat reverse sneeze?
Reverse sneezing is not a common health issue with felines. So, if your cat is showing the behaviour patterns of reverse sneezing, such as extended back and neck or choking sounds, one explanation could be a furball.
However, if it definitely doesn’t seem like this is the case, get them checked out at the vets. Asthma could be another explanation and is more likely.