It’s scary the first time it happens. All of a sudden, your dog starts making a series of short, loud, unpleasant noises. It seems like she’s doing some combination of wheezing or sneezing or snorting; it’s hard to tell. Then, after 15 seconds or so, she’s quiet again, and everything is back to normal. What was that?!?

The incident we just described is a “reverse sneeze,” and it’s a common but little known occurrence in dogs that often scares new dog parents when they first see it. If you can’t picture it, watch this quick video of a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel reverse sneezing as an example.


The good news is, reverse sneezing is usually harmless. It is called “reverse sneezing” because the dog is pulling in air into the nose rather than out of it. There is no known cause of reverse sneezing. Some has suggested that it is brought on by allergies, mucus buildup or over-excitement. It also appears to affect small, short-nosed (or brachycephalic) breeds like Pugs and Shih Tzus most often, and occurs rarely in cats.

“Most cases of reverse sneezing require no medical treatment,” says Ernest Ward, DVM on VCA Animal Hospital’s website. Most reverse sneezes resolve in under a minute and the dog shows no ill effects afterwards. To help your dog during a reverse sneezing episode, Ward suggests gently massaging their neck and speaking in a calm, soothing voice to help your dog relax.

There are a few instances, however, when reverse sneezing could be a sign of an underlying condition that necessitates a visit to the veterinarian. If your dog is reverse sneezing more often than usual, your vet may want to test for allergies or infection, and could prescribe an antihistamine or a decongestant to help reduce the dog’s discomfort. Chronic reverse sneezing could also be a sign of a foreign body in the nose or mouth, or even a collapsing trachea, so your vet will want to examine your dog to rule out these more serious issues.

So the next time your dog makes those strange noises, don’t be alarmed. Stay calm, and keep an eye on how often it occurs. And maybe get a reverse sneeze on video to explain it to your friends when they call you about their new puppy’s strange snorting!