Reverse Sneezing in Dogs: Is My Dog Choking?

Unless you are familiar with it, reverse sneezing can look like your dog is choking.

Reverse sneezing involves a lot of snuffing, snorting, gagging, and generally scary sights and sounds. It looks nothing like regular sneezing, which is recognizable to anybody. Instead, reverse sneezing looks absolutely scary the first time you witness it.

Reverse Sneezing in Dogs: Is My Dog Choking?

What is the difference between sneezing and reverse sneezing?

Simply put, sneezing = air out, and reverse sneezing, as the term indicates = air in. Sneezing is a reaction to an irritant in the nasal passages. Reverse sneezing is caused by a spasm of the throat and soft palate in response to irritation of the throat, pharynx, or laryngeal area.

If you’re unfamiliar with reverse sneezing, it can startle the pants off you.

When I first witnessed Jasmine’s episode of reverse sneezing, I was concerned. I thought she was either choking or having some asthma attack. However, it t passed before I managed to rush her to an emergency hospital, and she was perfectly normal after that. A reverse sneezing episode typically lasts from a few seconds to a few minutes.

Compare this to a regular sneeze.

Fortunately, reverse sneezing looks way scarier than how dangerous it is.

Reverse sneezing rarely requires medical attention unless it is chronic, frequent, or prolonged in duration.

Typically, reversed sneezing can be triggered by excitement, irritants such as pollen particles or perfume, a tight collar, exercise intolerance, or even a sudden temperature change.

However, when your dog gets more than the odd episode, just like with excessive sneezing, you might be looking at something more serious such as a potential foreign body, infection, collapsing trachea, polyps or tumors.

Whether or not a typically normal physical reaction such as sneezing, panting, reverse sneezing and others is a problem or not depends on the degree of severity and frequency.

Related articles:

Further reading:
Reverse Sneeze in Dogs

Categories: Reverse sneezingSymptoms

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Jana Rade edited by Dr. Joanna Paul BSc BVSc

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience. Dr. Joanna Paul BSc BVSc is our wonderful sponsor and has been kind to edit and fact-check my important articles.

  1. I first witnesses this when I was volunteering at the animal shelter & it did scare the heck out of me! I thought the poor little dog was choking, but it seems it’s pretty common in certain dogs, usually brought on by allergies or some other irritant.

  2. I have never heard of this but wow, you are right, it would have me in a total fit of worry. It sounds a bit like a cat trying to rid itself of a hairball with that barfy choking sound! Thanks to you I would not be running to the vet right away but I would be keeping an eye on future episodes!

  3. Wow! This is very informative. I’ve heard about reverse sneezing in dogs, but I’ve never seen or didn’t think I had until I saw your video. Now, I’m wondering if what Henry does that I think is a little cough every now and again after playing in the grass, which is disturbing, is actually reverse sneezing. Hmmm…. I’ll definitely be paying closer attention to that “cough”. Thanks for this one, Jana! I’m sharing it with all my dog parents.

  4. Baby used to get reverse sneezing and my vet told me not to worry but rub her nose and it would stop which it did, I was relieved and less worried

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