Although it may sound like your dog snorts when they’re excited, the sound you are hearing is not actually snorting, it’s a reverse sneeze. A reverse sneeze is entirely harmless. Excitement can trigger a reverse sneeze because it causes a change in breathing pattern. Breathing should return to normal within a minute or two.
Many dogs have an odd habit of snorting when they are excited. Perhaps your dog greets you with snorts when you come home from work. Or maybe your dog snorts when they play with another dog. Regardless of what causes your dog to snort, this can be an odd behavior to witness if you don’t understand what is going on.
But why do dogs snort when they are excited or happy?
Believe it or not, your dog is not actually snorting, they are reverse sneezing. Reverse sneezing sounds a lot like a snort!
The behavior can seem odd, maybe even concerning. We have received emails from many owners stating that they are concerned their dog is developing breathing problems or experiencing seizures.
However, reverse sneezing is rarely a cause for concern. So what is reverse sneezing and how does it occur?
Reverse sneezing is a reaction to either an irritation in the throat and nasal passages or quick changes in breathing. Many factors can trigger reverse sneezing, including excitement, eating and drinking, allergens, environmental irritants, weight, temperature, and genetics. Anything that irritates your dog’s throat or changes his breathing can trigger reverse sneezing.
This article will describe what reverse sneezing is and many of the factors that trigger reverse sneezing episodes. You will also learn how to calm a reverse sneezing episode and when you should take your dog to the vet.
What You'll Learn
What Is Reverse Sneezing?
Reverse sneezing is literally what it sounds like—it’s the opposite of a sneeze. During a sneeze, the body forces fluid and irritants out of the nose. During a reverse sneeze, the body brings air in through the nose by means of involuntary spasms and snorts.
During an episode, the dog will involuntarily make rapid and long inhalations which produce a snorting sound. To stop the spasms and return his breathing to normal, your dog may stand still, stretch out his neck and head, and puff out his chest. In most cases, this episode only lasts a few minutes.
Two main situations trigger a reverse sneezing episode. The first situation is when there is an irritation to the soft palate and back of the throat or the nasal airway. This irritation causes a spasm that results in your dog’s snorting behavior.
The second situation is when your dog’s breathing rapidly changes. For example, your dog may begin to snort after waking up quickly from a nap. This is also why dogs snort and sneeze when excited. During the excitement, their breathing becomes rapid. Once they calm down, the reverse sneezing episode ends.
Though reverse sneezing can look terrifying, it is rarely a cause for concern. Reverse sneezing can seem distressing and painful, but it’s not at all painful for your dog.
It is simply a reaction that some dogs must deal with from time to time. A typical reverse sneezing episode lasts no longer than a few minutes.
Causes Of Reverse Sneezing
Overexcitement is the most common reason dog owners witness reverse sneezing. Dogs are social creatures who become incredibly excited when they see a friendly dog or their owners.
When dogs become excited, they quickly go from a calm breathing state to a rapid breathing state. Consequently, snorting and reverse sneezing are very common for excitable dogs.
Eating and Drinking
You’ve probably witnessed a dog snort while eating. Dogs can inhale air while eating and drinking. This may trigger a reverse sneezing episode, especially if your dog likes to eat fast. Training your dog to eat more slowly or calmly should prevent any more episodes. One of the best things you can purchase for fast eaters is a slow feeder bowl.
A drastic temperature change can cause your dog to snort. Your dog may be sensitive to temperature changes if he frequently snorts while coming in or out of the house.
This will be most obvious on days when the temperature in your house is drastically different than the temperature outside. Since you can’t control the weather, the best thing you can do is calm your dog down each time he has a reverse sneezing attack.
Dogs develop allergies just like humans. Some allergens, like pollen or fungal spores, will irritate your dog’s nasal airways and throat, which may trigger your dog to snort.
If you notice that your dog begins snorting during certain times of the year or every time he goes outside, he may have an allergy.
Pulling On His Leashes
Have you ever heard your dog grunt and snort while he pulls hard on his leash? This is a very common situation that triggers reverse sneezing.
Unfortunately, it’s common for dogs to pull on their leash. Even if you have the most obedient dog, their prey drive will still kick in if something catches their eye.
When a dog pulls on its leash, it decreases the amount of air it can inhale, which disrupts its breathing process, causing a reverse sneezing episode. Training your dog to walk calmly beside you will prevent this from occurring.
Environmental irritants that may induce a reverse sneezing episode (or other problems) include household cleaners, perfumes, and smoke.
If your dog snorts, sneezes, or reverse sneezes whenever he is near these products, he may be sensitive to those items. You should either rid your home of the items triggering your dog or only use them when he isn’t around.
Certain dog breeds deal with this problem more than others. Pugs, Shih Tzus, Bulldogs, and Pekingese are examples of breeds that tend to snort a lot.
These breeds have a flat and wide skull that makes them more prone to reverse sneezing and snorting.
Overweight dogs are more prone to airway obstructions than dogs that are a healthy weight. This can cause breathing difficulties along with snorting/reverse sneezing. If your dog is overweight, you should change his diet (reduce the total calories) to promote weight loss.
An object in your dog’s nose or throat can trigger reverse sneezing and snorting. The object can be as small as a blade of grass. In most cases, your dog will be able to work out the issue on his own. However, if your dog has been snorting for a while due to a large obstruction, you should call your vet for help.
How to Stop A Snorting Episode
Regardless of the reason for snorting or reverse sneezing, you probably want to help calm your dog down.
When a reverse sneeze episode starts, gently rub your dog’s throat. Reverse sneezing starts in the muscle that connects the throat to the nasal passages.
Rubbing the throat will send a calming effect to your dog’s throat muscle that relaxes the muscle and stops the spasms.
Once your dog is calm and begins exhaling again, he will stop snorting.
When To Take Your Dog To The Vet
Since most owners don’t understand reverse sneezing, many of them take their dog to the vet right away, thinking their dog is having a severe health issue. However, snorting is rarely a cause for concern as it is just a reaction to a mild irritant or breathing change.
However, if your dog is snorting more than usual or for long periods, you may want to get him checked out by a vet. You should also take him to the vet if you see any sign of pain or discomfort while your dog snorts.
Excited Snorting is Common
Sometimes, reverse sneezing can seem like a series of cute snorts; other times, it can look painful and scary. However, snorting and reverse sneezing are rarely a source of concern as your pup is not in any pain.
Reverse sneezing is just a reaction to an irritant or a rapid change in breathing. Many factors can contribute to reverse sneezing, and some breeds experience episodes more than others.
Even though reverse sneezing is harmless and is often a result of excitement or joy, if you are concerned, it never hurts to talk about the situation with your vet.
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