Click here to learn more.
Vetstreet. All rights reserved.
Vetstreet does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. See Additional Information ›
Dogs tend to be resilient creatures, but when the pups we love make odd, wheezing-like sounds while reverse sneezing, it’s hard not to worry about what's happening to them.
So we decided to get the inside scoop on the curious canine phenomenon from a pair of experts: Dr. Richard Joseph, DVM, DACVIM, medical director of New York’s Animal Specialty Center, and Dr. Mark Hiebert, medical director of the VCA TLC Animal Hospital in Los Angeles.
According to Dr. Joseph, a reverse sneeze — also called a “backward sneeze” — is characterized by the "sudden onset of a dog extending his head and neck and making rapid inspiratory movements with the mouth closed that results in noises coming from the nasal passages."
Although the alarming episodes typically last only seconds, they can feel like a lifetime to some owners — especially if they're witnessing it for the first time.
But why does it happen?
Dr. Hiebert notes that dogs either sneeze normally or reverse sneeze depending on where the irritation occurs in their noses. "A reverse sneeze, like a [regular] sneeze, is a reflex, but instead of a rapid expulsion of air through the nostrils, it is a rapid . . . inhalation," he says. "It is loud, so people often [think] that their dogs are having an asthma attack. Dogs don't have asthma attacks, so it's usually suggestive of reverse sneezing."
Just like a cough or a normal sneeze, a reverse sneeze is designed to expel whatever irritant has triggered it, Dr. Hiebert says. And like a regular sneeze, the occasional reverse sneeze is considered perfectly normal.
According to Dr. Joseph, in some cases, repetitive reverse sneezing could stem from irritation of the nasal and pharyngeal passages due to a chemical irritant or an allergic reaction. The culprit could also be a foreign material that's stuck to the back of the nasal area, known as the retropharynx, such as a blade of grass. If you suspect any of these causes, contact your veterinarian.
Some dogs start reverse sneezing at a young age and continue to do so on occasion throughout adulthood. But if the reverse sneezing starts later in life, increases in frequency and severity or is accompanied by other nasal signs, like unusual discharge, then you should consult your veterinarian.
To help shorten a reverse sneeze episode, Dr. Joseph suggests gently massaging the throat area. Dr. Hiebert adds that you can also gently blow into your pet's nose or encourage your dog to drink water. Ultimately, the reverse sneeze should subside on its own.
Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!
Thank you for subscribing to Petwire. Look for the latest newsletter each Wednesday.
An adopted Lab helped her owner when
she broke her pelvis in five places and
was lying on the ground alone.
We’d be very impressed if you already
knew all these fascinating facts about the
top 10 most popular cat breeds!
These tips and tricks will organize your
pet care routine, from mealtime to
grooming, and save you some time.
The reason for your cat or dog’s limping
may have a lot to do with his age. Here
are the most common causes.
Did you know that anemia itself is not a
disease but the sign of an underlying
problem? Dr. Ann Hohenhaus explains.
Get ready to cringe (and laugh). We
asked our readers to share their most
mortifying pet bathroom tales.
The Great Pyrenees, who was bred to protect livestock from predators such as wolves, is an excellent watchdog.
Take our breed quiz to find your next pet.
If the video doesn't start playing momentarily,
please install the latest version of Flash.
Thank you for subscribing.