I remember the first time I heard that HONKING noise as my dog shuddered, eyes bulging, ribcage expanding and contracting, tail sticking straight up in the air. It was terrifying.

If this is your first small dog, you probably panicked the first time you heard it, too. If you had a larger dog before, you may have never heard this horrific HONK. It’s more common in small and/or brachycephalic (flat-faced, for example, a Pug) dogs.

Long story short, it’s perfectly normal and you don’t need to do anything about it.

That loud, startling noise is called a reverse sneeze. It’s the sound of your dog rapidly pulling in air through their nose, past their soft palate. In small or flat-faced dogs, this palate can be longer, and their throat may be shorter in proportion.

It’s often triggered by excitement, allergies, dust, collar pressure, exercise or changes in temperature. Sometimes there’s no apparent trigger.

What To Do When Your Dog Is Reverse Sneezing

You really don’t have to do anything. Just stay calm. If you get all excited, your dog will panic too. The spasms should stop after about 5-10 seconds. Your dog will probably resume whatever they were doing before the reverse sneezing episode.

If you feel the need to take action, gently massage your dog’s throat or cover their nostrils. This will encourage your dog to swallow and to breathe through her mouth, helping her breathe normally a bit faster.

Take note of any additional symptoms like discharge, lethargy, fever or lack of appetite. In some cases, reverse sneezing could be a symptom of a bigger problem, but it happens to most small dogs from time to time, just like a typical sneezing episode.

If it’s happening a lot, or the episodes seem to go on forever, you should take a video and head to your vet for further examination.

How To Prevent Reverse Sneezing

Just like people, dogs can be sensitive to common environmental allergens like dust or pollen. It couldn’t hurt to vacuum and dust more often to prevent irritation that leads to reverse sneezing.

You should always walk your small dog on a harness, not a collar. Their collar should only be used to carry their identification/rabies/registration tags, and you can attach those to your dog’s harness instead so they can go collar-free.

Your small dog’s harness should be, above all comfortable. There’s no need to use no-pull, front-clip or any other type of training equipment on a small dog. If you have issues with pulling, you can solve those problems through loose leash training

Lindsay Pevny
Lindsay Pevny lives to help pet parents make the very best choices for their pets by providing actionable, science-based training and care tips and insightful pet product reviews.

She also uses her pet copywriting business to make sure the best pet products and services get found online through catchy copy and fun, informative blog posts. She also provides product description writing services for ecommerce companies.

As a dog mom to Matilda and Cow, she spends most of her days taking long walks and practicing new tricks, and most nights trying to make the best of a very modest portion of her bed.

You'll also find her baking bread and making homemade pizza, laughing, painting and shopping.