It was last Fall that I went to pick up my two dogs from an afternoon at doggy daycare when Maddie started having an “attack.” The first thing that came to mind was that it was asthma, or maybe a version of kennel cough. The daycare owner (whom we trust) quickly said it was “reverse sneezing” and “no big deal.”
Ack! No big deal?? It kind of sounds like my dog might die!!
Turns out my reaction wasn’t at all uncommon. Many a dog is rushed to a veterinarian with symptoms of reverse sneezing, a fairly innocent occurrence that rarely requires treatment.
So, what IS reverse sneezing?
“In a regular sneeze, air is pushed out through the nose. In a reverse sneeze, air is pulled rapidly and noisily in through the nose. For some dogs, it’s a more or less normal event. Just as sneezing is a part of life, reverse sneezing is also a part of many dogs’ lives.
The sound that accompanies reverse sneezing is kind of a sudden, startling sound that makes many dog owners think their pet is either choking or having an asthma attack. A dog who is reverse sneezing typically stands still with his elbows spread apart, head extended or back, eyes bulging as he makes this loud snorting sound. The strange stance on top of the strange snorting sound is why many dogs end up getting rushed to the veterinarian or the emergency clinic by their panicked parents.
Episodes of reverse sneezing can last from a few seconds to a minute or two. As soon as it passes, the dog breathes perfectly normally once again and behaves as if nothing happened.” – Dr. Karen Becker via Healthypets.com
Of course, my dog was completely fine a few moments later, as indicated above. And the next time she had an “attack” of reverse sneezing, the same was true. The only difference? I was calm, so as a result, Maddie was a bit more calm.
What causes reverse sneezing?
The main cause of reverse sneezing for dogs is irritation to the throat or laryngeal area. This can happen when a dog gets overly excited or pulls on a leash. It can also be caused by a collar that is too tight. Additionally, inhalant irritants like strong odors, smoke, pollen, etc. can cause this response. Some report sudden changes in temperature, i.e., their dog going from a really warm home to a really cold outdoor area, can cause reverse sneezing as well. Paying attention to which types of irritants trigger the dog’s reverse sneezing can help.
How can you help your pet?
- Pay attention to the trigger. For my dog, I’ve narrowed the trigger down to getting overly excited and/or leash pulling. When she hasn’t seen someone in a long time, or if she is outside on a leash and gets overly excited and pulls, the reverse sneezing can begin. Trying to avoid those triggers helps.
- Remain calm. Like I mentioned, the first time it happened, I sort of freaked out. Maddie was probably startled by this sudden and new physical occurrence, and me also being startled certainly didn’t help.
- Try to soothe your pet. In addition to staying calm, stroking your dog’s back while they are having an episode, can help to soothe them through their short ordeal. You should stay away from stroking their face, and do not roll them over to pet their tummy until their breathing has normalized completely.
Do I need to see a vet?
I’m not a vet, and I don’t play one on TV. While I love providing helpful tips, the information here is not intended to diagnose any ailments. If you aren’t positive if your dog is experiencing reverse sneezing, please seek out a veterinarian’s opinion. Prolonged bouts of reverse sneezing, discharge, or any other combination of respiratory issues could indicate something more serious.