Reverse sneezing in dogs is a backward sneeze in which the dog forcefully inhales air through the nose.

When a dog reverse sneezes, it makes a loud honking sound that is frightening for pet owners. Despite being startling to hear, reverse sneezing in a dog is usually benign.

In this article, Ivana Crnec, DVM, answers popular questions like “What is reverse sneezing in dogs,” “Why do dogs reverse sneeze,” and “How to stop reverse sneezing in dogs.”

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  1. What is Reverse Sneezing in Dogs
  2. What Does Reverse Sneezing Sound Like
  3. Why Do Dogs Reverse Sneeze
  4. How to Stop Reverse Sneezing in Dogs
  5. FAQs
  6. Conclusion

What is Reverse Sneezing in Dogs

Reverse sneezing in dogs is a reflex caused by irritation to the soft palate or back of the throat. Studies show that reverse sneezing occurs in more than half of the canine population (52.9%).

Reverse sneezing develops when the muscle between the dog’s mouth and throat spasms, temporarily narrowing the tracheal opening. The narrowing makes it difficult for the dog to take a breath.

In that case, the air dog bypasses the narrowing by rapidly inhaling through the nose. Reverse sneezing appears in episodes which usually last less than a minute.

Pet owners who ask, “What is reverse sneezing in dogs?” should understand that it is a reflex, just like the regular sneeze. The only difference is that it occurs in a backward direction.

What Does Reverse Sneezing Sound Like

Reverse sneezing in dogs sounds like snorting backward and has a honking note. The typical dog reverse sneeze sound is described as an “inhaled sneeze” or a “huffing cough.”

The dog’s body position during episodes helps differentiate reverse sneezing from other similar issues. Usually, dogs stand very still with extended front legs and necks while their chests and abdomens move in and out quickly.

Use the Petcube Pet Camera to film your dog while reverse sneezing if unsure what it is doing. The vet will quickly understand the situation based on the video.

Why Do Dogs Reverse Sneeze

Dogs reverse sneeze due to various irritants, including allergens, secretions, masses, odors, and mites. Research suggests that reverse sneezing is more common in small and toy breeds but has no sex, age, or neuter status predilection. Here are the most common answers to the question, “What causes reverse sneezing in dogs.”

Fast Eating or Drinking

Dogs eating or drinking too fast are prone to reverse sneezing. When being voracious during mealtime, dogs inhale excess air carrying irritating particles, hence increasing the risk of reverse sneezing.

Strong Feelings

Reverse sneezing occurs in dogs during highly emotional states, like excitement or stress. Once again, the underlying reason might be excess air swallowing.

Environmental Allergens

Environmental allergens, like pollens (from trees, grasses, and flowers) and dust, trigger reverse sneezing in many cases. The same allergens are responsible for allergies in sensitive dogs.

Airborne Irritants

The most frequently encountered airborne irritants for dogs are cigarette smoke, perfumes, scented candles, and saturated household cleaning chemicals. These irritants often cause dogs to reverse sneeze.

Nasal Mites

Reverse sneezing, coupled with nose bleeds, is a telltale sign of nasal mites. The most common nasal mite is Pneumonyssoides caninum, which lives in the nasal and paranasal sinuses.

Heavy Leash Pulling

Muscle spasms and soft palate irritation can occur in dogs pulling the leash heavily. Lack of leash training is the usual reason dogs pull excessively. Ensure the dog is wearing a GPS tracker in case it breaks the leash and escapes.

Brachycephalic Syndrome

Brachycephalic dog breeds have elongated soft palates that are easily irritated and result in reverse sneezing episodes. Examples of flat-faced dogs include Pugs, Boxers, and Bulldogs.

Foreign Objects, Fistulas, and Tumors

Dog reverse sneezing is sometimes caused by foreign objects (mostly grass awns and foxtails) and tumors in the throat or nasal passages. Veterinary research has found that nasopharyngeal and oropharyngeal fistulas cause reverse sneezing in dogs, too.

How to Stop Reverse Sneezing in Dogs

To stop reverse sneezing in dogs, gently cover the nostrils to make the dog swallow and remove the irritant. Giving the dog something to drink also helps wash away irritants.

You can control a sudden onset of reverse sneezing in dogs by massaging the dog’s throat to relax the muscles and soothe irritation.

Other simple tips for stopping dog reverse sneeze episodes include blowing at the dog’s face and pressing down the dog’s tongue.

Dogs that reverse sneeze due to underlying medical conditions require treating the problem to stop the reflex in the long term.

Invest in the Petcube Emergency Fund, and do not worry about “how to treat reverse sneezing in dogs.” The Petcube plan offers up to $3,000 for emergency vet bills and includes unlimited 24/7 access to online vets.


When should I worry about my dog reverse sneezing?

You should worry about your dog reverse sneezing if it happens very often, lasts for a long time, or is accompanied by other concerning symptoms. Fainting and having trouble recovering after reverse sneezing episodes is also worrisome.

Why is my dog reverse sneezing at night?

Your dog is reverse sneezing at night because the phenomenon is more frequent at this time. Reverse sneezing in dogs is likely to occur following long naps because while sleeping, dogs inhale potentially irritating air particles.

Why is my dog reverse sneezing after eating?

Your dog is reverse sneezing after eating if it is a voracious eater that gulps down food. Fast eating, the same as fast drinking, triggers reverse sneezing in dogs.

Why is my dog reverse sneezing and vomiting white foam?

Reverse sneezing in dogs is a reflex occurring when the back of the throat is irritated. Severe throat irritation, in some cases, can also result in vomiting or regurgitating white foam.

What do dog nasal congestion and reverse sneezing mean?

Owners often complain, “My dog sounds congested and is reverse sneezing at the same time.” The scenario is very frequent because congestion and reverse sneezing in dogs have similar triggers.

What can be mistaken for reverse sneezing in dogs?

Coughing, choking, and respiratory distress are the top three issues reverse sneezing in dogs is mistaken for by pet owners. However, unlike coughing, choking, and respiratory distress, a dog reverse sneezing is usually harmless.


Reverse sneezing in dogs, also known as paroxysmal respiration or pharyngeal gag reflex, is rapid air forcing through the dog’s nose, resulting in a loud, snorting sound.

Reverse sneezing occurs when the soft palate is irritated by allergens, nasal mites, secretions, smoke, odors, etc. Because brachycephalic dogs have a longer soft palate, reverse sneezing is widespread among flat-faced breeds.

A dog reverse sneezing is usually harmless; however, vet attention is warranted if the episodes are long, frequent, or have consequences.

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