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You are here: myPetSmart.com > Pet Care Library > Articles > Reverse Sneezing In Dogs

Reverse Sneezing in Dogs

PetSmart Megan Dinchak

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Reverse sneezing (aka pharyngeal gag reflex) is a common phenomenon in dogs, especially toy breeds. It is called a reverse sneeze because air is rapidly pulled into the nose; whereas in a regular sneeze, air is pushed out through the nose. It looks and sounds like the dog is actually inhaling sneezes.

“During an episode of reverse sneezing, the pharynx goes into spasms which make it difficult for a dog to draw in air”, PetSmart veterinarian Dr. Robyn Jaynes D.V.M explains. It is a harmless phenomenon which does not require a vet consultation or medical treatment in most cases.

What it looks like
An episode of reverse sneezing can be alarming the first time you witness it. In fact, it has sent many distraught Pet Parents to the emergency clinic in a panic. However, it appears a lot worse than it actually is. During reverse sneezing, a dog will stand still with his eyes wide open, stretch out his neck and thrust his elbows out as he makes a distinctive, forceful snorting sound. Each episode generally lasts for one to two minutes. The dog acts and breathes normally before and after an episode, with no after effects.

According to Dr. Jaynes, reverse sneezing is caused by irritation to the throat, pharynx or laryngeal area. “This can be from excitement, eating or drinking, exercise, pulling on a leash, pollen, or irritating chemicals such as perfumes or household cleaners,” she explains.

Some dogs will have occasional episodes, perhaps a few times a week or a few times a month. Others may have only a few isolated bouts of reverse sneezing during their entire life.

What to do
Although a reverse sneezing episode will end on its own, you can help shorten its duration by inducing your dog’s swallowing reflex. This can be done by:

· Gently massaging your dog's throat
· Placing your finger over your dog's nostrils
· Giving them something to eat or drink
· Opening their mouth and depressing their tongue

For some dogs, taking them outside for some fresh air also helps stop the spasm.

What to watch for
If your dog experiences this behavior fairly frequently and the episodes are severe, consult with your veterinarian to rule out other possible causes.

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