The Reverse Sneeze in Dogs and Other Alarming Pet Noises

A dog in the middle of a reverse sneeze.

Pets make noise, and some pets are louder than others. Sometimes they can make some pretty strange sounds, though, and it can be hard to know whether to be worried. 

The reverse sneeze in dogs can be a worrisome event that our team at Animal Medical Hospital & 24 Hour Urgent Care often gets questions about. Here’s the most important information you’ll need to know on reverse sneezing, goose honking, and other strange noises that your pet might make. 

The Reverse Sneeze in Dogs

The reverse sneeze in dogs is a pretty disturbing, but typically harmless occurrence that pet owners tend to worry about.

Reverse sneezing can certainly look scary. Pets performing this reflexive action often stand with their neck extended and then pull it back while inhaling dramatically, often making a gagging sound. This may happen over and over again for several seconds. 

While it may appear that your pet is choking, a reverse sneeze in dogs is really not much different from a regular sneeze. A sneeze is elicited when something irritates the nasal passages. Similarly, a reverse sneeze occurs when the back of the nose or pharyngeal area is irritated.

Reverse sneezing is almost always harmless. If it continues to happen over and over, however, we may need to try to figure out what is causing the problem. Sometimes a piece of foreign material or some type of growth is eliciting the sneeze and must be removed. 

Other Unusual Utterances

There are definitely other causes of those strange sounds coming from your pet. Some of them are quite harmless, while others are cause for concern.

A few of the more common causes of noises from your four-legged family member include:

Brachycephalic syndrome—Those brachycephalic breeds with a smooshed face such as bulldogs, pugs, pekingese, and Persian cats often have respiratory challenges. They may have small nasal openings as well as an elongated palate and other breed-related changes that somewhat obstruct the airway. The result is often snores and snorts. 

Cardiac disease—If the heart is not working properly, it may not pump blood efficiently. This may result in fluid accumulation in the lungs leading to congestive heart failure. 

Lower airway disease—Irritation and inflammation in the lower airways such as that seen with bronchitis and asthma can lead to wheezing, coughing, and labored breathing. 

Obesity—Weight gain may cause excess fat accumulation around the airways, resulting in snoring other noises. 

Tracheal collapse—In some pets, the normally rigid windpipe (trachea) may not stay open all the time. This can result in intermittent collapse of the trachea especially during times of excitement, leading to coughing. 

Upper respiratory infection—Dogs and cats are susceptible to bacteria and viruses just like people. These infectious agents may cause things like wheezing, sneezing, and ocular discharge. In particular, kennel cough (infectious tracheobronchitis) is known for causing that characteristic goose-honk cough. 

When to Be Worried 

It can be hard to tell sometimes whether a new noise for your pet is harmless or worrisome. It is never wrong to call us if you have concerns. When it comes to breathing and respiratory issues, erring on the side of caution is best. 

Some symptoms qualify as a pet emergency no matter what. These include things like:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Blue/gray mucous membranes
  • Fast or labored breathing
  • Lethargy
  • A pet who seems distressed or in pain
  • Increasing frequency or intensity of noises
  • Sudden change in activity level

Many respiratory problems in pets can present with similar symptoms. If you are worried, it is always best for one of our expert veterinarians to evaluate the situation. When it comes to your pet’s breathing, it is better safe than sorry!