Is my dog choking, or is it reverse sneezing?

30 January 2024 - 3 min read
This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinary advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian with any questions you may have regarding your pet’s care, treatment, or medical conditions.
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Dogs sometimes like to make strange noises. Whether it’s a curious, mid-dream growl or a judgemental sigh pointed in your direction, they’re no stranger to making their feelings heard. 

Amidst the symphony of sounds they make, one noise often leaves pet owners concerned: reverse sneezing. Thankfully, it’s harmless. But we get it - it sounds scary, as if your dog’s choking or can’t breathe.

So, let’s keep calm, and we’ll work out if your companion needs help. Keep reading to find out what reverse sneezing is, what causes it, what it means and if it’s related to choking. 

What’s reverse sneezing in dogs?

It’s when your dog rapidly pulls air into their nose, which sounds like a snorting noise. 

The medical term for reverse sneezing is paroxysmal respiration, which makes it sound scarier than it is. Here’s the good news: it can’t hurt your dog. It’s very common and only lasts from a few seconds to around a minute. 

But we know how scary it can sound, so don’t worry if you’re concerned - it’s natural to mistake it for a more severe issue. 

We advise visiting your vet if your pet’s reverse sneezing is frequent, though. If it happens rarely, then it likely isn’t anything to worry about.

How to tell if it’s choking or reverse sneezing

The only possible similarity between reverse sneezing and choking is the sound. It’s easy to get confused, but they’re distinct. 

Choking involves a blockage in your dog’s airway - dogs will typically cough loudly, paw at their mouth and look distressed. It’s a life-threatening situation and requires immediate attention. 

Reverse sneezing, as mentioned, is just your dog inhaling air quickly.

The difference is how distressed your dog is. If they’re drooling, retching or pawing at their face, there’s cause for concern. 

Watch our video below for Dr Kirsten Rongrenn’s explanation: 

What causes reverse sneezing in dogs?


Like breathing in things like dust, chemicals or strong odours.


Environmental allergens, like pollen, can kickstart an episode.

Getting excited 

Dogs can be an excitable bunch and sometimes they go over the top, which starts an episode.

Eating and drinking 

The only thing dogs love more than getting hyper is eating food, which can cause reverse sneezing.

Persistent episodes can signify a deeper issue, like asthma, allergies or an infection.

When to seek veterinary care

A nervous Jack Russell is calmed by a female veterinarian in an animal hospital prior to a surgical procedure.We recommend speaking to your vet if: 

  • The sneezing episodes are frequent or prolonged 

  • There are other symptoms, like coughing, nasal discharge or difficulty breathing

  • You have an older dog and they’re reverse sneezing for the first time.

Of course, always visit your vet if you’re unsure and need help. 

How to stop reverse sneezing

So, while we’ve said the condition isn’t dangerous, reverse sneezing probably isn’t comfortable for your dog. 

You can help them by staying calm during an episode - dogs pick up on our emotions quickly, and stressing out can make them feel worse. 

It also helps to keep a calm environment, as stress, excitement, and anxiety can start an episode. 

If you’re comfortable, you can gently stroke your dog’s throat in a downward motion to soothe irritation. You can also offer a treat or some water, as it can help them refocus and stop the reverse sneezing.

We also recommend removing potential irritants or allergens.

How to prevent reverse sneezing

There’s only so much you can do to prevent reverse sneezing, but, at minimum, you should keep your dog’s environment clear of any potential irritants. 

Of course, your dog can still have an episode if they get too excited, but having a clean, allergen-free home is the best proactive step. 

How's reverse sneezing treated?

Typically, there aren’t any treatment options because it’s not a serious condition. 

In severe cases, your vet may prescribe anti-histamines, anti-inflammatories or decongestant medication. Medication will depend on how your dog is feeling.

Overall, reverse sneezing isn’t harmful, but it’s important to check if your dog’s feeling okay. And if your dog suffers from chronic episodes or choking, then ManyPets dog insurance can cover the cost of their vet treatment. 

Our Complete policy provides £15,000 cover for vet fees annually. It also comes with unlimited access to 24/7 video vet calls – so you can always consult a vet about your dog’s reverse sneezing.

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Get £15,000 lifetime vet fee cover with our Complete policy.

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