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Understanding the Reverse Sneeze

A reverse sneeze is a sudden, uncontrollable and forceful inhalation of air through the nose. It’s exactly what the name implies—a sneeze, only drawing in air as opposed to forcing air out. You may be startled and concerned because it looks worse than it is. Dogs cannot control the reflex any more than we can control a sneeze. And most of the time, there are runs of reverse sneezes, not just one. What’s going on? We can surmise that dogs feel the familiar tickle before they reverse sneeze just like we do before a regular one.

Most veterinary professionals think a reverse sneeze is a reflexive action like a traditional sneeze, precipitated by irritation or inflammation. Nasal polyps (small, benign growths in the nasal passage) can cause recurrent reverse sneezing, as can masses, foreign bodies (pieces of grass or plants, for example) or infections. And some dogs seem to reverse sneeze when they have been outdoors—those noses have been all sorts of places. Should I be concerned? Like hiccups, a reverse sneeze can be quite forceful and alarming to onlookers, but the episodes usually pass without lasting consequences.

Chronic recurrent problems with reverse sneezing must be evaluated by your veterinarian, but occasional episodes are not usually cause for concern. If you notice your dog is having repeated episodes, be sure to mention them to your veterinarian.

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Current Topics

Understanding the Reverse Sneeze

A reverse sneeze is a sudden, uncontrollable and forceful inhalation of air through the nose. It’s exactly what the name implies—a sneeze, only drawing in air as opposed to forcing air out. You may be startled and concerned because it looks worse than it is. Dogs cannot control the reflex any more than we can control a sneeze. And most of the time, there are runs of reverse sneezes, not just one. What’s going on? We can surmise that dogs feel the familiar tickle before they reverse sneeze just like we do before a regular one.

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