Our dogs are weird. Yes, I know that’s a vast overgeneralization of a set of animals who are each unique and complex individuals… But you know I’m right about this one!
Think about it. How often have you caught your furry friend making a goofy face at you? Or lying down in a seemingly uncomfortable position? It happens all the time, doesn’t it?
How about your dog suddenly snorting at you like a pig?
If you have witnessed this habit from your dog and you’re beginning to feel a bit worried about his health, I’m here to tell you that you likely have no reason to panic.
These pig-like noises are actually relatively common and are hardly ever a cause for concern. Allow me to tell you a little bit about the phenomena of reverse sneezing.
What Is Reverse Sneezing?
A reverse sneeze is precisely what the name implies! Rather than expelling air from their body, your dog will instead breathe in too much air through his nose.
Subsequently, his neck will become stretched, and his trachea will narrow, causing your pup to make a snorting noise.
That may sound scary, but I promise it’s a mostly harmless and temporary behavior. More often than not, a reverse sneeze shouldn’t last more than 30 seconds to a minute.
The following are a few explanations as to why your dog might be reverse sneezing:
Brachycephalic and Small Breed Dogs
Some dogs are simply predisposed to reverse sneezes. This group primarily includes brachycephalic and small dog breeds.
If you’re unsure whether your dog is a brachycephalic breed, take a quick look at his face. If his features could be considered smushed and his skull considered flat, you have a brachycephalic dog!
Some examples include Bulldogs, Pugs, Shih Tzus and Pekingese.
Dogs who are brachycephalic or who have smaller noses and throats may be subject to reverse sneezes their whole life just because their genetic makeup has given them features that make it inherently more difficult to breathe.
Here’s how it may look like:
Irritants in the Nose and Throat
If your dog is not of a smaller or brachycephalic breed, then irritants in the nose and throat will be the most likely cause of your dog’s reverse sneezes. These irritants can range anywhere from a blade of grass to a speck of mud to a piece of a soft toy.
Again, this may sound like a reason for alarm, but your dog does know what he’s doing. If he’s reverse sneezing, it just means he’s working with his body to expel whatever is irritating him.
However, suppose that you notice your dog reverse sneezing while also demonstrating signs of an allergy, such as watery eyes or regular sneezing.
In that case, you may want to consider that these irritants are inciting some sort of allergic reaction from your pup, and a visit to the vet may be in order.
Excitement, Laughter and Sense of Smell
Did you know that your dog can laugh? It’s true!
Normally, it will resemble the sound of an exhale, but as you likely know from being a devoted dog parent, not all of our little buddies are the same.
If you find your dog reverse sneezing while playing around with a new friend at the park or meeting up with a person he hasn’t seen in a long time, then you can probably just chalk up his snorts to sheer excitement and energy.
Reverse sneezing could also be caused by your dog catching a whiff of an unpleasant or strong smell, which is why it’s always important to take note of your surroundings as well as your dog’s behaviors in these specific environments.
Collar or Excess Weight
If you’ve ever wondered why harnesses are preferred to collars, this is why. Pressure on your dog’s throat ultimately forces his trachea to narrow, which may cause him to reverse sneeze and struggle with his breathing.
Additionally, any extra pounds that your dog has put on in recent months could contribute to his newly developed issue with reverse sneezing.
This weight can obviously cause difficulty with breathing due to your dog having to exert more energy for everyday activities.
What Are the Solutions for Reverse Sneezing?
When searching for ways to help your dog with his reverse sneezing, there are two appropriate routes:
To aid your dog from home, the most you can do is provide him with small physical comforts.
Since reverse sneezing is a sign of your dog having a hard time breathing, you can always try massaging his throat to help him pass whatever irritant is bothering him.
Alternatively, you can also plug his nostrils for a few seconds and essentially force him to swallow and stop the reverse sneezing. If this still doesn’t help, try softly blowing on his face.
Unless the reverse sneezing continues for an extended period of time, there should hardly be any reason for you to visit your veterinarian about this problem.
That being said, small breeds may reverse sneeze due to a collapsed trachea, and brachycephalic breeds may need some form of help with clearing up passageways.
Depending on the issue causing your dog to reverse sneeze, your vet may suggest surgeries that could help open these clogged, narrow passageways and shorten the soft palate.
Or, you may find that your vet can have an easier time removing a lodged object. You can also find allergy relief for your dog through prescribed medication.
When it comes to reverse sneezing, the choice is yours in terms of how you would like to approach treatment. Whether he honks or snorts like a pig, your dog is likely to be just fine at the end of the day!
Only if the behavior lasts for a long time should you truly consider contacting your vet for advice.
Li-ran is the Founder and Executive Editor at PuppyTip. He is a holistic pet parent and believes that dogs can teach us more than we could ever teach them. He also loves cooking, especially for his dog, Richie!