My dog had this episode when he was snorting – I thought he was suffocating


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Our question this week was:

Dr. Debra – I was so worried – I have a 25 pound mixed breed dog and he just had this episode when he was snorting – I thought he was suffocating but then he was okay. It wasn't quite a sneeze or cough or gag. It is hard to describe. I really thought he was dying. It went on for at least a minute which seemed like forever. Then he was fine. As I type this he is looking at me like I'm crazy for worrying! What was it? Should I worry? This is the only time it ever happened.

Donna – Colorado Springs, CO


Hi – thanks for your email. It sounds like your dog had an episode of "Reverse Sneezing". It sounds like he is fine now.
A reverse sneeze is something particular to dogs. In a regular sneeze, a dog pushes air out through the nose. In a reverse sneeze, air is pulled rapidly in through the nose producing a noisy inspiratory effort.

I have an article about it on our site – go to Reverse Sneezing in Dogs. The article says it well. This is what a reverse sneeze looks like:

During a reverse sneeze, your dog will make rapid inspirations, stand still with his elbows spread apart, extend his head, and his eyes may bulge. He'll make a loud snorting sound, which might make you think he has something caught in his throat. Many dog owners think their pet is suffocating during a reverse sneeze episode. Each reverse sneezing occurrence generally lasts for less than a minute up to two minutes.

No need to worry. It if is infrequent and your dog is otherwise healthy, it is not a problem. Your dog will not suffocate!

Best of luck!

Dr. Debra

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About The Author

debra-primovic Dr. Debra Primovic

Debra A. Primovic, BSN, DVM, Editor-in-Chief, is a graduate of the Ohio State University School of Nursing and the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine. Following her veterinary medical training, Dr. Primovic practiced in general small animal practices as well as veterinary emergency practices. She was staff veterinarian at the Animal Emergency Clinic of St. Louis, Missouri, one of the busiest emergency/critical care practices in the United States as well as MedVet Columbus, winner of the AAHA Hospital of the year in 2014. She also spends time in general practice at the Granville Veterinary Clinic. Dr. Primovic divides her time among veterinary emergency and general practice, editing, writing, and updating articles for, and editing and indexing for veterinary publications. She loves both dogs and cats but has had extraordinary cats in her life, all of which have died over the past couple years. Special cats in her life were Kali, Sammy, Pepper and Beanie.