A brown dog looking at the camera

You’re sitting on the couch with your dog and all of a sudden they emit a noise that sounds like choking. This snort and gag may have scared you. What could it be? Are they okay? This phenomenon is known as a reverse sneeze and it is something certain dogs deal with. As weird as it sounds, it’s actually nothing to worry about.

The Pet Experts at Springbrook Animal Care Center are here to explain.

What Is a Reverse Sneeze?

A reverse sneeze, whose medical term is called paroxysmal respiration, is a sneeze that occurs at the back of the throat. During a normal sneeze, air is expelled through the nose and mouth as a result of an irritant. During a reverse sneeze, your dog actually breathes air in to remove whatever is irritating it.

During a normal sneeze, your dog will react to something like dirt, a piece of hair, or some small particle. The reverse sneeze happens when the nasopharynx is affected, the area behind nasal passages and soft palette. 

When something triggers this, it may appear as if your dog is choking. They may even contort their neck, stretching it out, and looking as though they are attempting to cough something up. In reality, they are trying to relieve a tickle in the back of the throat.

What Causes This?

A reverse sneeze is thankfully something most pet owners don’t experience with their furry friends often. The exact cause is unknown, but the sneeze often coincides with an environmental irritant. Some of the triggers for a reverse sneeze can include:

  • Smoke
  • Mites
  • Pollen
  • Seeds 
  • Dust
  • Grasses
  • Foxtail/ryegrass
  • Mass
  • Elongated palette

Anything that causes a tickle in your pet’s nose can stimulate the reaction. Most reverse sneezes are short in duration, usually 2-3 minutes, and do not repeat. If they continue and are causing issues with your pet, please call us for an examination.


While there is no fix for the reverse sneeze, you can do things to prevent the cause. If your pet is allergic to various allergens, vacuum often, wash their bedding weekly, and use a HEPA filter to reduce dust, pollen, and mold. Inspect your pet after coming in from outside and wipe down their nose with a warm washcloth.

Avoid taking your pet through overgrown areas and deep grass and weeds. If you are a smoker, smoke outside or in a separate area, away from your pet.

Since reverse sneezes don’t require treatment, you can rest assured that these occasional outbursts are harmless. If, however, they are ongoing or you notice something, such as a mass in your pet’s nose or mouth, call for an appointment so we can get to the cause.

For more information on reverse sneezing, please call us.