Why do dogs reverse sneeze?

A brown spotted dog lifting its head up in the air like it is about to sneeze

Just when you think you’ve heard (or smelled) it all, one night, your dog does something different. They suddenly stand, head and neck stretched out in front of them. Bizarre snorting and gagging noises erupt from their nose, almost like a sneeze…but in reverse.

Reverse sneezing is a totally normal behavior in dogs, triggered by:

  • Irritation to the nose, sinuses, or the back of the throat
  • Allergies to pollen or plants
  • Foreign objects such as grass seeds or water
  • Nasal mites

Brachycephalic, or flat-faced, breeds are more prone to reverse sneezing due to their elongated soft palate and narrowed trachea. Despite the alarming sounds accompanying each episode, reverse sneezing is relatively harmless and not considered a serious issue.

What is reverse sneezing?

Paroxysmal respiration occurs when your dog undergoes rapid spasms in their nasopharynx.

If this sounds concerning, breathe–all it means is that your dog experiences sudden rapid and repeated inhalations through their nose, concluding with snorting or gagging sounds.

It’s the same as a regular sneeze, only going the opposite direction–hence the colloquial term “reverse sneeze.”

Reverse sneezing can last anywhere between a few seconds to a minute. You can expect your dog to reverse sneeze multiple times throughout their life.

Some dogs reverse sneeze when overexcited. If your dog greets you at the door and starts snorting and grunting their nose, they just need a few minutes to collect themselves and calm down.

Can reverse sneezing be treated?

Reverse sneezing resolves itself. Some dogs appreciate some gentle strokes along the neck, whether because the neck massage helps or just because it feels good.

The first time your dog reverse sneezes, a vet may recommend a check-up to rule out illnesses such as respiratory tract infections. Once your dog has a clean bill of health, they can skip the vet visit and stay home.

However, frequent bouts of reverse sneezing can indicate that your dog has something lodged in their nasal cavity, which does require veterinary assistance to remove.

Your dog may also have allergies and need antihistamines. In addition to the usual culprits of pollen and grass, dogs can be allergic to carpet cleaners, perfumes, or other artificial scents in their environment. If there is an obvious environmental trigger such as smoke, take your dog to an area with fresh air and see if the episode resolves.

What's the difference between reverse sneezing and tracheal collapse?

If your dog isn’t so much snorting or gagging as they are honking, they may have tracheal collapse.

Tracheal collapse is a common respiratory issue that occurs when the cartilage rings of the trachea collapse in on themselves. Dogs may extend their neck to try and open their trachea. The most obvious symptom of tracheal collapse is a harsh noise that can be compared to the honking of a goose.

If you’re unsure whether your dog is reverse sneezing or experiencing tracheal collapse, take them to a vet.

About the Author

A picture of Melody smiling towards the camera
Melody Lee
Contributing Writer

Melody Lee is a contributing writer for Gentle Beast, and is a CPDT-KA dog trainer. She lives in Manhattan with two feral cats, Littlepip and Alphonse, that tolerate her clicker training attempts. One day, her cats might let her adopt a dog of her own.

Learn more

Trainer-certified equipment and tools for the modern dog parent

Premium, efficacy driven equipment and interactive content guidance

Text Link
Puppy FAQ
Text Link
Puppy Essentials
Text Link
Adoption
Text Link
Recipes
Text Link
Dog Diets
Text Link
Treats
Text Link
Dog Food
Text Link
Pet Insurance
Text Link
Skin/Coat Care
Text Link
Dental Care
Text Link
Veterinary Care
Text Link
Supplements
Text Link
Walkers
Text Link
Rescues
Text Link
Boarding
Text Link
Grooming
Text Link
Dog Friendly Hotels
Text Link
Dog Friendly Camping
Text Link
Dog Friendly Beaches
Text Link
Dog Friendly Parks
Text Link
Guarding Breeds
Text Link
Drafting Breeds
Text Link
Herding Breeds
Text Link
Retrieving Breeds
Text Link
Genetic Testing
Text Link
Toy Dogs
Text Link
Hounds
Text Link
Shepherds
Text Link
Terriers
Text Link
Hunting Breeds
Text Link
Dog Care Equipment
Text Link
Treats & Pouches
Text Link
Walk Equipment
Text Link
Household
Text Link
Specialty
Text Link
Crates & Pens
Text Link
Agility Training
Text Link
Nosework
Text Link
Recall
Text Link
Impulse Control
Text Link
Basic Manners
Text Link
Bite Inhibition
Text Link
Socialization
Text Link
Reactivity
Text Link
Walk Training
Text Link
House Training
Text Link
Operant Conditioning
Text Link
Find a Trainer
Text Link
Hero Dogs
Text Link
Famous Dogs
Text Link
Ancient Dogs
Text Link
Evolution
Text Link
Triggers
Text Link
Body Language
Text Link
Dog Senses
Text Link
Dog Psychology
Text Link
Training Equipment
Text Link
Mythology
Text Link
Companion Breeds
Text Link
Competitive Training