Dog Owner’s Nightmare, or Harmless Condition? A Closer Look at the Reverse Sneeze

A close-up of a small dog sneezing

Confusing. Frightening. Shocking. Terrible. These are just a few words to describe the sounds of a reverse sneeze. In fact, the sounds of this symptom can be so terrifying that after hearing it the first time, some dog owners seek emergency medical care (often in the middle of the night).

While it can be directly related to something that requires treatment, the reverse sneeze condition is often spontaneous with an unknown cause.

It’s Idiopathic

The reverse sneeze condition, also called “inspiratory paroxysmal respiration”, is common in dogs (particularly brachycephalic breeds), less so in cats. If the owner is unfamiliar with the condition, it can sound like the animal is struggling to breathe. 

What Are They Doing?!

During a reverse sneeze, a pet will repeatedly breathe in through their nose with uncharacteristic force, taking quick, short inhalations. You might observe your pet standing with their neck stretched out and lips pulled back. They may or may not make a loud snorting sound. 

One episode may last 10-15 seconds. However perilous the sounds are, a reverse sneeze is typically related to nasal irritation, allergies, or overexcitement. Even more bewildering, it can happen seemingly out of the blue.

Brace Yourself

Sneezing and reverse sneezing are intended to rid the body of irritants. Whether it’s dirt, dust, or pollen that animals try to expel, the reflexes are closely linked. A reverse sneeze may be caused by irritation to the nasopharynx (that tricky spot behind the nasal cavities, but above the soft palate). 

Dogs can behave normally and appear completely unchanged after a reverse sneeze. But it is unlikely that they won’t have repeated symptoms later on. While there is no cure for reverse sneeze, if it happens continually, it’s time to address the symptoms. 

When a Reverse Sneeze Means More

We take an animal’s medical history into consideration when evaluating symptoms of a reverse sneeze condition. A thorough physical exam may lead to digital x-rays, rhinoscopy and other diagnostics to ascertain allergic reactions, infections, foreign bodies, masses, or anatomical abnormalities.

Small mites can also be a cause for reverse sneezing. Transmitted between dogs and even through contaminated environments, nasal mite infestations must be taken care of with appropriate parasite medications. 

Surgical procedures, antibiotics, and allergy medications can alleviate problems associated with the reverse sneeze. 


It may be possible to reduce the severity or frequency of reverse sneezing through:

  • Gentle massage of the throat
  • Softly blowing on your pet’s face
  • Holding the nostrils closed for a few seconds
  • Leaving it alone (symptoms will eventually subside)

Taking a video of the reverse sneeze can help us treat your pet if their condition worsens or becomes more common throughout the day.

If you have additional questions about your pet’s health and happiness, our veterinary staff is always here for you at Godspeed Animal Care

Scratch and Sneeze: Understanding Pet Allergies

Godspeed_iStock_000009666900_MediumDid you know that pets can suffer from allergies, just like us? Pet allergies are more common than previously thought – in fact, about 10% of all canines struggle with some type of allergy. When your pet suffers from allergies, his or her immune systems will respond by going into overdrive. This hyper-reaction can cause sneezing, but is more often expressed through dermatological distress, such as red, itchy skin, hair loss, and ear infections.

Determining the source of pet allergies can be difficult. Common allergens can include grass, fleas, pollen, dust, mites, and even food. So, what are the types of pet allergies and what can be done to help a sneezing dog or a wheezing cat? Continue…