A reverse sneeze is one of the most common pet conditions I discuss with owners. A reverse sneeze occurs when a dog attempts to clear the back of the nasal cavity. It is a protective reflex of the body similar to a sneeze for the front part of the nasal cavity and a cough for the trachea or windpipe. The first time your dog has a reverse sneeze, it can be a scary situation. A dog that undergoes a reverse sneeze episode can have a sudden interruption in their breathing pattern. Many times owners believe that their dog is having an asthma attack or is choking.
A reverse sneeze can be a spontaneous or random episode similar to if you or I would sneeze. If the episodes become more frequent, it can also have several other underlying causes, such as nasal mites, allergies, foreign bodies, elongated soft palates, or cancer. Your veterinarian can help determine if there is an underlying cause for your pet’s reverse sneeze with diagnostics such as blood profiles, radiographs, microscopic examination nasal tissues, and computed tomography scans.
If the episodes are less than 30 seconds less than once a month treatment is oftentimes not necessary. If these episodes last longer than 30 seconds, you can try pinching your dog’s nose, rubbing your dog’s throat, or blowing in your pet’s face to stop the reverse sneeze. If an underlying allergy is causing the reverse sneeze, you may notice more severe or frequent episodes during the peak allergies seasons—spring and fall. Medications to treat allergies, such as antihistamines or corticosteroids, may be beneficial during these situations.