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Key takeaways

A ‘reverse sneeze’ is a common occurrence in dogs.

  • Reverse sneezing is defined as a sharp inhalation, or sometimes multiple in quick succession, occasionally accompanied by a honking noise
  • Reverse sneezing appears similar to choking or struggling to breathe, but is no more dangerous than a regular sneeze
  • This behavior clears irritants from the throat, similar to how a sneeze removes irritants in the nasal passages
  • Reverse sneezing is usually not cause for concern, unless it becomes chronic
  • Dogs experiencing excessive reverse sneezing undergo diagnostic tests such as physical examination, rhinoscopy, blood work, and diagnostic imaging to determine the underlying cause
  • Treatment and prognosis, if required, vary depending on the underlying cause
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A closer look: Reverse Sneezing in Dogs

The severity of reverse sneezing varies depending on the exposure to the irritant. It may be chronic or acute, or frequent or rare. In most cases, it is not a cause for concern.

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Possible causes

Reverse sneezing is caused by any irritant to the upper airway. Common causes include:

  • Activity
  • Barking
  • Eating or drinking
  • The pressure of a leash on a collar
  • Pollen
  • Mites
  • Household products (perfumes, cleaning chemicals, etc)
  • Elongated soft palates (common in flat-faced dogs)
  • Allergies
  • Foreign bodies in the throat

Risk factors

Some dogs have occasional reverse sneezing episodes throughout their lives, others develop them as they grow older. Smaller dogs and flat-faced (brachycephalic) dogs are more prone to reverse sneezing. If the reverse sneezing becomes chronic, veterinary attention is necessary to identify the underlying cause.

Testing and diagnosis

If reverse sneezing is severe enough to warrant veterinary investigation, radiographic imagery or rhinoscopy may be used to determine what the irritant is.

Treatment is targeted at the cause. For example, if mites are discovered, then treatment with anti-parasitic medication may be helpful. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to remove a foreign body.

Similar symptoms

Associated symptoms

Reverse sneezing is not generally associated with other symptoms, but follows similar trends as sneezing.


Becky Lundgren, DVM - Writing for Veterinary Partner
No Author - Writing for Pet Talk
Shelby Loos, DVM. - Writing for PetMD

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