Reverse Sneezing in Dogs: Why dogs sneeze in reverse

Sneezing and reverse sneezing in dogs are both normal, so let’s examine why dogs sneeze in reverse.

What is Sneezing in Dogs

Sneezing refers to the normal behavior of expelling air in order to remove substances through the nasal passages. On the other hand, reverse sneezing refers to the reflex of bringing air into the body to remove an irritant from the upper area located behind the nostrils. The dog may block the removal of the irritant from the throat, this is often misinterpreted as vomiting.

reverse sneezing in dogs

Sneezing in Dogs: Symptoms and Types

Sneezing is often accompanied by a sudden downward movement of the head with the mouth closed and may cause the dog’s nose to hit the ground. Reverse sneezing is often characterized by a backward head movement, closed mouth and lip sucking. Biting usually causes the dog to swallow after extending the neck and opening the mouth. Use the PetMD Symptom Checker to read more about dog sneezing events and how they can affect your dog’s health.

reverse sneezing in dogs

What causes dogs to sneeze

Any breed of dog can be affected by these medical behaviors. The most common causes in young dogs include infections, the presence of a cleft palate or bronchial infections. Another major cause is the involuntary movement of the hairy cilia that line the respiratory tract and remove foreign material from the air before it reaches the lungs. This involuntary hair movement is medically known as ciliary dyskinesia. The most common causes in older dogs include nasal tumors and dental disease. Other causes can be mucus irritation, obstruction of nasal passages, inflammation, excessive nasal secretions, pneumonia, chronic vomiting, and gastrointestinal disease. In vaccinated or unvaccinated dogs, there is a higher risk of infection, which can lead to persistent sneezing. Chronic dental disease can lead to chronic sneezing and reverse sneezing. Mites found in the nostrils can also be the cause of any of these physical reflexes.

reverse sneezing in dogs

How to treat sneezing in dogs

The first diagnostic method is to differentiate between sneezing and dog reverse sneezing. Next, if the condition is serious, more in-depth testing can be performed to see if a more serious underlying medical condition exists. In most cases, these reflexes stop if mucus or foreign objects are removed from the nasal passages. There is no specific medication that can stop these reflexes. However, if these reflexes are the result of another medical condition, that specific medical condition can be treated. In many cases, antihistamines or decongestants will be effective in reducing a dog’s involuntary reflexes.

reverse sneezing in dogs

Avoid maintaining close contact with other animals while your dog is being treated. For best results, it is important to follow the entire course of treatment as prescribed by your veterinarian. Watching your pet reverse sneeze can be a frightening experience if you don’t know what’s going on. In order to determine when reverse sneezing is normal (and more importantly, when sneezing is not normal), pet parents need to know exactly what reverse sneezes are, what causes them, and how and when they should be treated.

reverse sneezing in dogs

What is reverse sneezing in dog?

Reverse sneezing is common in dogs and less common in cats. When a pet reverses a sneeze, they usually stand, stretch their head and neck, pull their lips back, and inhale repeatedly and forcefully through their nose. A distinctive, loud “snorking” sound is heard with each inhalation. Typically, the pet will reverse sneeze several times in a row, with the entire episode ending in about 10 to 15 seconds.

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Normal causes of reverse sneezing in dog

Reverse sneezing in dog and “regular” sneezing are closely related reflexes. The purpose of both is to expel irritants from the upper respiratory tract (coughing further serves the same purpose). Irritation of the nasal passages (for example nose – full of dust) causes “regular” sneezing. Irritation of the nasopharynx (the area behind the nasal passages and above the soft palate) causes the dog to “reverse” the sneeze.

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You should not be alarmed whenever your pet sneezes. Again, occasional episodes of reverse sneezing are completely normal. It’s just the body’s way of eliminating something that irritates the nasopharynx. That said, when your pet experiences frequent episodes of reverse sneezing, it’s time to pay attention. Excessive reverse sneezing indicates that the nasopharynx is not being expelled, whether it is irritating your pet or not. If you think your pet’s reverse sneezing is unusual, make an appointment with your veterinarian.

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Health Issues Causing Reverse Sneezing in Dog

When your veterinarian evaluates your pet for reverse sneezing, he or she will have a detailed health history and perform a thorough physical exam, paying particular attention to the respiratory tract and mouth. Sometimes x-rays, rhinoscopy (using an instrument to examine the nasal passages) or other procedures are needed. Possible causes of excessive reverse sneezing include allergies, infections, masses, foreign bodies (such as grass awns) or anatomical abnormalities affecting the nasopharynx.

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Nasal mites, small parasites that can infest a dog’s nasal passages and sinuses, are another possible cause of reverse sneezing. They are transmitted from dog to dog and can be diagnosed more commonly in dogs boarding or in contact with other dogs, possibly through exposure to contaminated environments. How is reverse sneezing treated?

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A mildly uncommon reaction to repeated sneezing is usually normal and does not require any form of treatment. If you want to try to help shorten your pet’s episode, you can gently blow on his face, massage his throat, or close his nostrils for a few seconds. This may bring the round of reverse sneezing to a quicker end.

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Appropriate treatment for excessive reverse sneezing in dog depends on the underlying cause. Nasal mite dogs are usually given ivermectin, milbemycin, or sclerodine several times over a period of weeks. Sometimes veterinarians will treat dogs with these medications without a definitive diagnosis of nasal mites because the parasites are not always easy to find. Foreign bodies in the nasal cavity or nasopharynx can be removed by hand or by nososcopy. Surgery is usually required to remove the mass and correct anatomical abnormalities. Infections can be treated with appropriate antibiotics or other medications. If reverse sneezing in dog is thought to be caused by allergies, antihistamines or corticosteroids may be prescribed.

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