Inverted or Reversed Sneezing in Dogs

Despite what some pet owners might think, reverse sneezing isn’t really dangerous and can occur in many dogs and even in cats. In today’s article, we’re looking at exactly what it is, what you should do about it, and if there are any issues that it can cause.

What is inverted or reversed sneezing in dogs?

We all know what regular sneezing looks like, and we know how some dogs experience it whenever they come in contact with irritants, dust, pollen, dirt, or anything else that might bother a portion of their respiratory tract.

But reversed sneezing is a phenomenon where the dog tries to get rid of a potential obstacle from the respiratory tract, whether that be a speck of dust, dried nasal discharge that might hinder their breathing, or dander, for example.

Reverse sneezing is usually more common in dogs that already have a unique anatomy of their respiratory tract. Brachycephalic breeds are an example. Think about a French Bulldog and the way this type of dog seems to snort and sneeze all the time.

In most cases, inverted sneezing is not risky for the animal’s health and shouldn’t worry you to the extent that you both end up at the emergency vet clinic. However, there are some signs that you should look out for just to be on the safe side of things, and we will address them in one of the sections below.


How can you tell if your dog is experiencing a reverse sneeze?

Well, it’s quite simple. Most pets will breathe out some air and then abruptly inhale to the point that it sounds like they’re rapidly snorting something instead of sneezing.

If there’s something stuck in their throat (either the pharynx or the larynx), whether some discharge or anything else, they’ll do this until they try to get rid of it by gagging and then potentially swallowing it or by sneezing.

More often than not, it is not something to be concerned over, and the majority of pets that experience it do not have to be taken to the vet.

Can inverted sneezing be treated?

Since this is not a disease or condition per se, there is no specific treatment for it. However, given that reverse sneezing can be caused by allergens and various other factors that can irritate your dog’s upper respiratory system, veterinary assistance is never a bad idea.

There could be some underlying health issues causing this phenomenon, especially if it tends to happen every day or several times a week, for example.

Your dog may be allergic to something you have in your home, they might have inhaled a foreign body, or they may have contracted nasal mites – there are many possibilities.

As you can tell, the treatment for all of these causes largely differs from one factor to another.

Determining the exact cause if this is happening time and again can be a challenge in itself. Dogs can be allergic to many things, so an accurate diagnosis might involve multiple tests.

There’s also the possibility that the dog finds it more and more uncomfortable to breathe normally because maybe not a foreign body, but a growth has caused local irritation and is at the root of the reversed sneezing.

Although throat cancer is quite uncommon in dogs, it can show up in some pets. Some types that can be seen in this species are fibrosarcoma, malignant melanoma, chondrosarcoma, as well as squamous cell carcinoma.

Are some dog breeds more likely to experience reversed sneezing?

Yes. We’ve already noted that all brachycephalic breeds have a higher frequency of experiencing inverted sneezing compared to others.

That includes the following:

  • Bulldog
  • Pug
  • French Bulldog
  • Pekingese
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  • Boxer
  • Boston Terrier
  • Dogue de Bordeaux
  • Shar Pei
  • Tibetan Spaniel

Despite this, reverse sneezing is something that any dog can experience at one point, depending on whatever’s bothering them when breathing.

What to be on the lookout for

While inverted sneezing is generally not life-threatening, it would not hurt if you paid a little attention to your dog’s behavior in general, their visible mucous membranes (the gums, the lids, and the nose), and their respiratory and cardiac rate.

If your dog experienced an episode of reverse sneezing and after it ended, they sneezed normally, and their nasal discharge contained blood, it’s time to see the vet. It could be an occasional lesion of the lining, or it could be something much more serious, including cancer.

Can you prevent inverted sneezing in dogs?

This type of phenomenon, along with many other respiratory pathologies, can be caused by factors such as pollutants, toxic substances, allergens, dust, and more.

Keeping your house as clean and dust-free as possible and making sure that you do not smoke or vape in your dog’s presence, burn any candles or use any air fresheners can be a good way of preventing this phenomenon.

If the air in your home is too dry, you should use a humidifier to ensure that your dog’s respiratory tract is properly lubricated.

If your dog is predisposed to developing allergies, especially during allergy season, you should give them a bath with very mild shampoo or just plain water after every walk and clean their paws, their face, and other body regions that might have gotten in contact with pollen or other allergens.

In the end, as much as you try any of these preventive methods, if your dog is brachycephalic, inverted sneezing might be something you may have to get used to.

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