Reverse Sneezing in Dogs: Causes & How to Help

Dr. Jason Gagné, DVM, DACVIM
By Dr. Jason Gagné, DVM, DACVIM
Updated: 5/20/20242-4 minutes
woman snuggling with a Frenchie laying on a couch

Have you ever seen your dog do something that looks like sneezing, but isn’t quite that? Chances are you’ve probably witnessed reversed sneezing in dogs! Dog backward sneezing is common and is usually nothing to worry about. Keep reading to find out more about reverse sneezing in dogs and when treatment could be needed. 

What is Reverse Sneezing in Dogs?

Reverse sneezing in dogs, also known as "paroxysmal respiration," is when a dog quickly sucks air into their nose, rather than the opposite with regular sneezing. Reverse sneezing usually makes a loud noise called "snorking" and will last about 10-30 seconds each time. 

What Causes Reverse Sneezing in Dogs?

The exact cause is unknown, but it’s thought that reverse sneezing in dogs is caused by inflammation or irritation of the nose or throat, and it may help to get rid of irritants. These irritants could be: 

  • Dust 
  • Air particles 
  • Pollen 
  • Household products (like perfume or hairspray) 
  • Cleaning products 
  • Foreign object 
  • Overexcitement 
  • Eating or drinking 

Reverse sneezing may also be more common in brachycephalic breeds, like pugs, because of their flat faces. 

Why is My Dog Reverse Sneezing at Night?

You might’ve noticed your dog reverse sneezing at night and wondered if it is more common at this time. The answer may be yes because reverse sneezing in dogs sometimes occurs right after a long nap. When they’re sleeping, they might inhale irritants like dust or other air particles. 

When Should I See a Vet About Reverse Sneezing in Dogs?

If your dog's backward sneezing is becoming more frequent or more severe than usual or you notice a difference in their breathing, it’s time to contact your vet. While reverse sneezing is usually nothing to worry about, it could be a sign of something more serious. 

Take a look at what reverse sneezing in dogs could indicate below: 

Upper Respiratory Infections

Watery eyes in dogs, dog sneezing, and a "honking cough" could be signs of an upper respiratory infection. These are usually caused by a virus or bacteria, and you should consult your vet for advice. 

Heart Disease

Dogs with heart disease may develop a build-up of fluid in the lungs. This can result in sneezing, gasping, retching, and coughing. You should consult a vet immediately if you notice any of these signs. 

Asthma

Dogs don’t get asthma in the same way that humans do. However, they can get a form of allergic bronchitis in response to chronic irritation of the lungs and airways by environmental irritants and allergens. The signs of allergic bronchitis include coughing in dogs, wheezing, and labored breathing. 

Brachycephalic Syndrome

As we mentioned briefly above, short-nosed and/or flat-faced dogs like pugs and bulldogs are more likely to reverse sneeze and can have trouble breathing or will breathe loudly because of their shortened airways. 

If you’re concerned about any of the conditions above, it’s imperative that you see your vet to get treatment. 

Dog Reverse Sneeze Treatment

In most cases, reverse sneezing in dogs doesn’t require any treatment. However, if it’s more frequent, dog reverse sneeze treatment could be needed to help your dog. The treatment will depend on the underlying cause. For example, if allergies are causing your dog to reverse sneeze, your vet might prescribe an antihistamine or anti-inflammatory medication. 

For more expert tips on dog health, explore our other dog respiratory health articles.

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