Reverse sneezing behavior in dogs

Reverse sneezing can be alarming to pet guardians

Another common question I have been asked by canine guardians  over the years is, what is going on with pets who have a history of  making an odd respiratory noise often with a rapid and spasmodic inward snorting that seems to be coming from their throats. Many guardians become extremely concerned as these episodes can sometimes go on for several minutes, and even awaken a pet at night from their sleep. Many pets will express this symptom when overly excited or nervous, such as when people come to the house, or when making trips to the veterinary office.

The fear many guardians has is that their pet is having some sort of asthma or choking attack. What they are actually seeing in most cases is a phenomenon known as “reverse sneeze” syndrome of dogs.   While in most cases we don’t know what causes some pets to develop this syndrome at varying frequencies, canine guardians feel comforted to know that such an issue is not health threatening to their canine companion in most cases. Some have used an analogy that this is sort of a dog’s version of responding to a post nasal drip. Other times allergens can trigger it. Some holistic veterinarians feel that the “reverse sneeze” syndrome is an example of a chronic effect seen as a side effect of rabies vaccination.

No matter what the cause, simply comforting your pet by rubbing their throat for several minutes usually helps during an acute flare-up. I have used natural calming agents like Be Serene as well as Rescue Remedy from the health food store, which sometimes shortens the duration of the episode. If the symptoms seem triggered by allergens outside, than sometimes a trial dose of an antihistamine may be worthwhile such as Diphenhydramine (Generic Benadryl), Clemastine, or Chlorpheniramine may be helpful as well, in addition to the immune booster Vetri-DMG liquid.

If in doubt about whether your pet is suffering from this common and harmless syndrome, it is always best to have a complete veterinary exam to rule out other less common conditions.

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  1. My pet (1/2 lab and 1/2 German Shepard-9yrs old) has suffered from skin allergies (environmental-timothy, weeds, grass, fleas, feathers, wool-almost anything that grows outside, for years; not any type of food); we had a complete dermatological work-up and have been able to control the itching with frequent baths and Temaril-P, Clemestine. Now both tablets are not available….what is going on? The vet substituted Hydroxyzine for the Clemestine, but it doesn’t work as well…she’s scratching her nose and ears more. Now Temaril…it’s not fair to our pets. What can we do?

  2. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianAugust 24, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    You can try asking vet for other antihistamines to try such as amitryptylline or you can even try benadryl. If these are not adequate, then low dose prednisone may be needed. Fatty acid supplementation is recommended with products like missing link from 1800petmeds. Learn more about NAET technique which increasing number of holistic vets are being trained in which is another option for treating allergies in pets.

  3. I have a poodle that is getting over severe esophagitis and has developed reverse sneezing episodes. She has a PEG tube for meds and feeding. The strange thing is….feeding her through the PEG tube seems to stop (at times) or decrease the reverse sneezing episodes. Is there a cure for this reverse sneezing? The common cures such as trying to make her swallow or pulling the tongue. Because of the esophageal stricture ballooning, she cannot have steroids that would inhibit healing. There has got to be an answer out there somewhere……??

  4. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianNovember 20, 2011 at 7:26 pm

    There are no conventional answers for dogs who reverse sneeze alot. I would look into finding homeopathic vet in your area who may be able to help overall health and reverse sneezing with homeopathic workup and consultation.

  5. My dog sneezes forward and reverse. Lately she sneezed so severely, one of her notrils bled quit a bit. Our vet thought it was it was a broken blood vessel. It’s been a week without any bleeding, but now it has started again.
    What could this be?

  6. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianAugust 16, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    Could be from reverse sneezing but also could be from foreign body in nostrils or perhaps clotting problem. Vet exam and x rays and/or blood tests may help sort it out.

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