Reverse Sneezing

by Janice Jones     |Last Updated 02-13-2020

Reverse Sneezing is a common name for pharyngeal gag reflex or paroxysmal respiration.  This honking type sound occurs when there is a rapid inhalation and exhalation of air. 

What is Reverse Sneezing?

Owners are often concerned when they hear their dog hacking, but it is not really a health problem, and the whole episode may last for less than two minutes.  Although it is not the same as an actual sneeze, it seems to have no more effect on the dog than a sneeze.  It may sound like the dog is choking or suffocating, but reverse sneezes are not dangerous. 

Dogs do not pass out during episodes and they do not collapse.  It is characterized by honking, hacking, or snorting sounds.  It usually happens when a dog is excited or can sometimes happen after drinking, eating, running around, or while pulling on the leash.  The dog will usually extend his/her neck while gasping inwards with a distinctive snorting sound.


Dogs will do this when they have a mild irritation or post nasal drip to the back of their throat that often accompany an allergy. 

The reverse sneeze could be the dog's way of trying to remove any mucus from their throat. 

Other causes include rapid eating or drinking, being pulled by the leash and excitement.

Types of Dogs Affected

Often confused with seizing or gasping for air, it is usually a harmless event and very common in brachycephalic dogs such as the Shih Tzu. 

It seems to be more common in small dogs, but it can happen in any size dog. Age seems to be a factor, but some dogs have this condition their entire life.

Treatment for Reverse Sneezing

You will be happy to know that the treatment is simple and does not cost a thing.  Unless their coughing is due to other problems, there is no medical treatment. 

Usually by gently rubbing the throat of your dog, the spasms will stop after they swallow a couple of times and that is the end of it. 

Other dogs respond well by taking them outside for some fresh air. 

Another option you could try is to cover the dog’s nose, thereby forcing the dog to breathe through her mouth and that will usually stop an episode as well.

Some people have stopped the episode by blowing gently into the dogs face.

This is a harmless condition and medical attention is not necessary, but if you wish to seek veterinary help, your vet may be able to prescribe steroids or antihistamines for your dog if he has a problem that seems to be allergy-related or chronic.

Explanations from the Experts

This video was done by Dr. Karen Becker and describes this sensation and ways to help your dog.

About Janice

Janice is the voice behind Miracle Shih Tzu. Having lived with dogs and cats most of her life, she served as a veterinary technician for ten years in Maryland and twelve years as a Shih Tzu dog breeder in Ohio.

Her education includes undergraduate degrees in Psychology with a minor in biology, Early Childhood Education, and Nursing, and a master's in Mental Health Counseling.

She is a lifelong learner, a dog lover, and passionate about the welfare of animals. Her favorite breed for over 50 years has been the Shih Tzu.

When not writing, reading, or researching dog-related topics, she likes to spend time with her eight Shih Tzu dogs, her husband, and her family, as well as knitting and crocheting. She is also the voice behind Small Dog Place and Smart-Knit-Crocheting.