What is a Reverse Sneeze, and Can it Hurt My Pet?

What is a Reverse Sneeze, and Can it Hurt My Pet?

What is a Reverse Sneeze, and Can it Hurt My Pet?

If you’ve been a dog owner for some time, particularly if you’ve had dogs with short snouts, such as Pugs or Boxers, chances are you’ve witnessed a reverse sneeze—a phenomenon fairly common in dogs but rarely seen in cats. These sudden, spasm-like outbursts consist of rapid inhalations through the nose followed by forceful honking sounds. It can be quite unsettling the first time a pet does this, but most of the time, it’s nothing to be concerned about. 

At The Pets Place Animal Hospital, we’re here to help you understand why your pet might experience reverse sneezes and how to know when to call your veterinarian.

Understanding Reverse Sneezes

Reverse sneezes are also known as paroxysmal respiration—the air is being pulled into the nose, instead of being pushed out of the nose like a regular sneeze. Most pets will stiffen their posture and extend their necks when one is occurring. You might notice your pet’s eyes bulging a tad or his chest expanding. During a reverse sneeze, a pet’s trachea narrows, and it may sound as if your pet is having an asthma attack or choking on something. 

Common Causes of Reverse Sneezes

An irritant in your pet’s throat or soft palate can trigger a reverse sneeze. Common irritants and other causes include:

  • Over excitement 

  • Eating or drinking too fast

  • Pollen or other allergens

  • Perfumes and air fresheners

  • Household cleaners and carpet deodorizers

  • Environmental toxins

  • Bacteria, viruses, or mites

  • A foreign body in the throat

  • Pulling on his leash

Can a Reverse Sneeze Hurt Your Pet?

As long as your pet’s episodes of reverse sneezing remain infrequent, they are most likely not a cause for concern. Most of these episodes last about 30 seconds or less, and your pet will most likely return to business as usual once it’s over.

To be on the safe side, see your veterinarian if a pet you’ve had for a while suddenly starts reverse sneezing. Also, if your pet’s episodes start occurring more frequently, or the reverse sneezing is accompanied by other symptoms, contact us right away for a thorough examination. Sometimes an underlying infection, anatomical malformation, or other medical condition can be to blame. Signs to watch for include:

  • Fever

  • Discharge from the mouth or nose

  • Loss of appetite

  • Lethargy

  • Behavioral changes

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Retching/trying to vomit

Treatment for Reverse Sneezes

Most pets don’t require treatment for infrequent reverse sneezes. Some pet owners find that gently massaging the pet’s throat can soothe the spasm. If your pet’s problem becomes chronic, a careful evaluation with diagnostic testing may be needed.

If you have concerns about your pet’s breathing or have noticed that reverse sneezes are occurring more frequently, please give us a call. We are here to help your pets live long, healthy lives.

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