How to tell if a dog is reverse sneezing

Updated November 21, 2016

Reverse sneezing is an involuntary spasm, caused by an irritation of the soft palate. During the spasm, air is rapidly pulled in through the nose and produces a loud snorting, honking or wheezing sound. The reverse sneeze often alarms dog owners, who may think their dogs can't breathe. The condition is minor and generally does not require a veterinarian's attention. However, it is vital to recognise a reverse-sneeze episode and rule out serious conditions, such as a collapsing trachea.

Look at your dog's posture. During a reverse-sneezing episode, the dog will stand still and stiff, with his elbows turned outward.

Notice how the dog holds her head. The dog will extend her neck and head upward as she reverse sneezes. Her eyes usually open wide.

Pay attention to the sound the dog makes. During a reverse sneeze, a dog will make a loud snorting and honking sound as the air is drawn inward through the nose. It may sound like "Snork!" If your dog has had more than one of these episodes, you'll notice that reverse sneezing has a very distinctive sound. The sound of a reverse sneezing is similar to a more serious condition, a collapsing trachea. A dog with a weakening and collapsing trachea will have a chronic cough similar to the honking of a goose. A dog with a collapsing trachea makes raspy sounds or coughs when you rub his throat. He will then gag or dry-retch at the end of the cough. Take your dog to the veterinarian if you suspect a collapsing trachea.

Notice how long the episode lasts. Reverse sneezing lasts one to two minutes.

Make sure your dog is behaving normally after the reverse-sneezing episode ends. Call your veterinarian if the dog acts ill or fatigued after a reverse-sneeze attack.

Gently massage the dog's neck or briefly pinch his nostrils shut to get him to swallow and breathe through his mouth. You also can try carefully touching the dog's tongue to stimulate the swallowing reflex, which may shorten an episode.


Offering the dog something to eat or drink may shorten the reverse-sneezing episode. Take the dog outside into the fresh air. If your dog experiences reverse sneezing after pulling on his leash, switch from a traditional neck collar to a harness collar. The harness will not put pressure on the neck when the dog pulls on his leash. Reverse sneezing often occurs at night or after a nap. It also can be triggered when the dog pulls on a leash or becomes very excited. Consult a veterinarian if the dog has frequent reverse-sneeze attacks. Veterinarians typically test for viral infections, polyps, nasal mites and excessive tissue in the soft palate.


Make sure your dog is not choking on a foreign object. If you suspect he has something caught in his throat, take him to veterinarian immediately. If you are worried that your dog may have a collapsing trachea, take him a veterinarian as soon as possible. The major sign of a collapsing trachea is a chronic cough that sounds like a goose honking. The cough often seems violent because the dog is forcing air through the trachea to open it. Dogs experiencing a collapsing trachea cough when excited or after a lot of activity. If you fear that your dog is in serious distress, cannot breathe or collapses, take him to a veterinarian immediately. A reverse sneeze should last no longer than two minutes. If the episode lasts longer, consult with your veterinarian. Your dog should act normally after reverse sneezing. If he appears sick after an episode, take him to the veterinarian for evaluation.

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