It is certainly true that our pets make strange noises every now and then. Sneezes, snorts, coughs, scratches, and so on that make up the auditory delight that is our furry friends. But there are some sounds that can be more concerning than others. A sudden gagging or honk noise is something to be investigated.

Reverse sneezing is a common condition in small and brachycephalic dogs. There are a few different things that can contribute to this condition and the team at Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital is here to explain what it is and how you can help your pet.

The Reverse Sneeze

The reverse sneeze, also called pharyngeal gag reflex, paroxysmal respiration, or mechanosensitive aspiration reflex, sounds a lot like a goose honk. In a normal sneeze, the air is pushed forward through the nasal cavity and nose. Reverse sneezing is when the air is quickly pulled into the nose in such a way that they noise sounds like an allergy or asthma attack

Along with the noise, your dog may appear to be standing with their legs flailed out and neck extended. They will also seem like they are trying to catch their breath, so no wonder when this first begins to happen a pet owner will be worried. 

The reverse sneeze, though, is relatively harmless. It does not require treatment and many pets will develop the sneeze as they age, or if they have had it in their younger years, it will become more pronounced.

Most brachycephalic dogs will have this condition because of their anatomy. Brachycephalic refers to the short nose and flat face of dogs like Pugs, Shih Tzus, Pekingese, Lhasa Apso, and English Toy Spaniels. These breeds are more likely to have other respiratory issues because of their soft, elongated palate and “smooshed” nasal cavity. 

Smaller breeds are prone to reverse sneezing because they have smaller throats.

When You Should Seek Help

There are some signs that can alert you to a greater problem. Any of the following should be cause to call your veterinarian.

  • Discharge from the nose
  • Unusual appearance to the face or nose
  • Something foreign in the nostril or throat
  • Bloody nose
  • Inflammation
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy

Is There Anything You Can Do for Reverse Sneezing

To help your pet relax during these episodes, give them a drink of water and massage the throat. Stay calm and wipe your pet’s nose, if there is mucus. Most reverse sneezing episodes resolve themselves quickly and without any problems for your pet.

If we can answer any questions about reverse sneezing, or if you would like to schedule an appointment, please call us.