Small yellow dog staring lovingly at the camera.

A reverse sneeze is something that occurs in certain dogs and can be quite alarming to a pet parent! The episode of a reverse sneeze sounds like a goose honking, wheezing, and snorting. It can come out of the blue, seemingly when your pet isn’t exerting themself. 

This phenomenon is something we get a lot of questions about here at Leon Valley Veterinary Hospital. The good news is that, in most cases, the reverse sneeze isn’t something to worry about.

Let’s take a closer look at this respiratory episode. 

The Basics of the Reverse Sneeze

Sneezing is the body’s way of expelling irritants out of the airway. This can include an allergen, foreign body, scents, cigarette smoke, and other environmental irritants. This act of sneezing forces the irritant out through the nose rapidly. The reverse sneeze is also a mechanism to remove an irritant, but in this case, the air is pulled suddenly into the nasal cavity. 

The reverse sneeze is also referred to as paroxysmal respiration. Most of these occurrences aren’t harmful and can last only a few seconds. During the episode, your pet may crane their neck out and open the mouth. It can seem scary, as  if your pet isn’t getting enough air. Once the episode passes, your pet will often shake it off and go back to their normal activity without any problems. 

When to Be Concerned

Sometimes, though, the reverse sneeze is an indicator of an underlying health condition. If you notice the sneezing is occurring more frequently or in lengthier durations, it is something to be followed up on through a physical examination. 

Certain medical conditions can prompt reverse sneezing or respiratory distress, such as:

  1. Severe allergies or asthma– Asthma develops from serious allergies,  when the immune system is overstimulated, causing coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing.
  2. Tracheal collapse – This serious condition occurs when the trachea or windpipe begins to collapse. This happens to certain breeds, or as a result of trauma, obesity, and other conditions.
  3. Respiratory infection – There are a few flus, including kennel cough, that mimic the reverse sneeze honking sound. Along with coughing and sneezing, your pet will often have nasal and eye discharge, fever, and lethargy.
  4. Heart disease – Heart murmurs and other types of heart condition will develop into symptoms like coughing and wheezing.
  5. Brachycephalic condition – Breeds with flat faces and long palates, like Pugs, Chihuahuas, Boxers, Bulldogs, etc., generally have problems getting enough air into the airway

If your pet is experiencing sudden respiratory issues or is having repeat reverse sneezing episodes, please contact us. Through a physical examination and diagnostic testing, we can get to the bottom of what is causing reverse sneezing in your sweet pet.