A dog reverse sneezing.

We often get calls about dogs and their odd sounds or behaviors, but when it comes to the reverse sneeze, this is one of the most common. Dog owners will tell us that they were eating or relaxing when all of a sudden their dog went into strange nasal fits. This sound is akin to a sneeze or cough, but not quite. In fact, most pet owners say it sounds like a goose honk! 

Reverse sneezing in dogs is a frequent diagnosis here at New Haven Pet Hospital. Let’s explore the mystery of the honking dog.

What Causes a Reverse Sneeze?

Paroxysmal respiration, or reverse sneezing, is a type of sneeze that works in reverse, as the name implies. It occurs when there is an environmental trigger or irritant in the nasal cavity. Sneezing is the body’s way of getting an irritating substance out of the nasal passages. During normal sneezing, the airway rids itself of irritants by rapidly pushing the air out through the nose and mouth. During a reverse sneeze, however, the air is brought into the nasal passages.

But what causes this phenomenon? 

The reverse sneeze is mostly seen in brachycephalic breeds, such as pugs, bulldogs, boxers, and other flat-faced pooches. The structure of the throat, nasal cavity, and soft palate contribute to many respiratory issues. Small and toy breeds are at greater risk, also, because they have smaller throats.

Any dog can have the occasional reverse sneezing fit though, especially when they are over-excited.

Is It Harmful?

During a reverse sneeze, your dog will often crane their neck forward and up. The body may become stiff, too. Reverse sneezing sounds like wheezing, honking, gagging, or a mix between coughing and sneezing. This episode generally lasts a few seconds to a few minutes. Afterward, your dog will probably resume their normal activity without any issues or symptoms.

That’s the good news. Most of the time, paroxysmal respiration is mild and happens only every once in a while.

When the Honking Is Harmful

There are times when your pet has some form of respiratory distress or a condition that is more serious than a typical reverse sneeze. It’s important that you have your veterinarian rule out any medical conditions that may be the cause of this problem. Key signs that the reverse sneeze indicates a more serious concern are:

  • Suddenly sneezing, coughing, or reverse sneezing (or in excess)
  • Frequent wheezing or gasping for air
  • Chronic cough
  • Lethargy
  • Open-mouthed breathing
  • Panting
  • Inability to exercise
  • Blue or pale gums

Severe allergies, asthma, heart disease, and tracheal collapse all contribute to respiratory distress and reverse sneezing. Call us right away if your pet is struggling to catch their breath or breathe normally, or when there are any other serious or sudden symptoms.

We hope this overview of the reverse sneeze in dogs gave you insight into your pet’s odd honking outbursts. If you have any concerns about your pet’s health or would like to schedule an appointment, visit us online or call us at (260) 493-3739.