We love our dogs and want them to be healthy. We expect our healthy dogs to pant, bark, yip, and sometimes even howl. What we don’t always expect is for our dogs to start snorting like a barnyard pig. It is even more startling if our dog doesn’t seem to be snorting on purpose. But what is this behavior, why do dogs do it, and what does it mean? Let’s find out!
So, why does my dog snort like a pig? Your dog may make a loud snorting sound if they are experiencing paroxysmal respiration, or what is commonly referred to as “reverse sneezing.” This is caused when the upper airway or soft palate at the back of a dog’s mouth becomes irritated and makes a dog spasm to clear the airway. It is very similar to human sneezing, but because air is being sucked in instead of pushing out, it leads to a quite surprising snorting noise!
If you have noticed your dog snorting loudly, you aren’t alone in wondering why the noise is happening.
It is bizarre.
At first, it is kind of funny and amusing, but after a while, it naturally leads to concern.
So, let us explore snorting in dogs in much further detail.
That way, we will be much more assured next time they start to do it and know what to do in response!
What Does It Mean When Your Dog Is Making A Snorting Noise?
If your dog has ever started to make a loud snorting noise, it can be quite alarming. This noise, which is often described as sounding like a pig snorting, is actually known as ‘reverse sneezing.’
This reverse sneezing is caused by an irritated airway or soft palate (the tissue located toward the back of a dog’s mouth and near their airway) that makes the dog rapidly breathe in air.
Just like they are sneezing – but in reverse!
The medical term for reverse sneezing is paroxysmal respiration.
That’s quite the mouthful!
What it really means is that instead of sneezing outward like dogs and people often do, your dog is sneezing by breathing in.
This usually happens as a series of spasms that have a dog snorting rapidly for a short period of time. The sound is often a bit loud and attention-grabbing, which scares some owners.
The cause of reverse sneezing is often very similar to the cause of normal sneezing.
Something a dog eats or breathes irritates the dog’s airway, and in an attempt to regulate itself, the muscles in the area spasm.
The spasms make the dog take in air and start sneeze-snorting like crazy.
Things that can trigger an episode of reverse sneezing include pollen, dust, pollution, having an airway that is short or easily irritated, smoke, or any other environmental irritant the dog inhales.
Some dogs naturally reverse sneeze much more than others.
Is Reverse Sneezing In Dogs Normal?
While some dogs may never reverse sneeze, this bizarre phenomenon is quite normal for dogs to experience at least once in their life. Some types of dogs are more prone to experiencing reverse sneezing than others. Dog breeds with short snouts and airways are more likely to experience regular reverse sneezing episodes than others.
Some dog breeds experience more reverse sneezing episodes than others.
Dogs that are known for their “smushed” faces, such as Bulldogs, Pugs, and Boxers, are more likely to reverse sneeze than breeds with longer snouts and airways.
Dogs such as Shih Tzus with short snouts are what is called “brachycephalic,” which refers to their short snouts and large soft palettes.
The large soft palate of brachycephalic dogs is what causes them to experience reverse sneezing more regularly than dogs whose palette is smaller.
Any time the soft palate becomes irritated or disturbed, it can lead to an episode of reverse sneezing.
Outside of dogs with short snouts, dogs with naturally smaller throats are also more likely to experience reverse sneezing.
With their airways being narrower than other breeds, they can become more easily irritated, which leads to a snort and sneeze fest.
All in all, reverse sneezing is an occasional normal occurrence for any dog and may happen with some regularity in certain breeds whose airways are easily irritated. While most dogs reverse sneeze now and then and are completely fine, there are sometimes it may be a good idea to check with your vet about your dog’s reverse sneezing.
Let’s take a look at that.
When Should I Worry About Reverse Sneezing?
You should contact your veterinarian about reverse sneezing if your dog has never, or very rarely, reverse sneezed before and is now reverse sneezing frequently or on a regular basis.
If your dog’s reverse sneezing lasts for a prolonged amount of time or is happening frequently enough to interfere with your dog’s regular activities of eating, drinking, and playing, it is time to seek veterinary assistance.
If your dog’s reverse sneeze is paired with noticeable discharge (running nose), drool, or loss of appetite, you should contact your veterinarian.
While reverse sneezing happens at least once in most dog’s lifetimes and is usually no cause for concern, it can be a sign of an underlying problem.
This is more likely to be the case if a dog that has never had a habit of reverse sneezing begins doing it frequently without any known cause.
Because reverse sneezing is usually started due to an irritation in the airway, a veterinarian will want to make sure that any frequent reverse sneezing or reverse sneezing that is paired with signs of illness is not caused by a more concerning medical condition.
Some things that may need treatment are illnesses such as upper respiratory infections, masses in the airway, or an airway obstruction caused by something the dog inhaled while sniffing around.
Most of the time, your vet will look over your dog and find nothing wrong.
If your veterinarian does find a noticeable cause for the reverse sneezing that needs treatment, they will lay out options for medical intervention to get your pup back on track.
How Do You Stop Reverse Sneezing In Dogs?
There are a few things you can do to attempt to stop a dog’s reverse sneeze. Most of the time, the best intervention for this is to do nothing at all. Watch your dog and monitor for the episode to pass on its own. If you feel the need to intervene, you can try lightly blowing on your dog’s face, moving your dog to an area of fresh air, or briefly covering your dog’s nostrils with one hand while gently massaging his throat with the other. The last option should only be done briefly and carefully to avoid causing your dog further breathing difficulties.
A beagle I once owned had a regular habit of reverse sneezing.
I’ll admit, the episodes were a bit nerve-wracking at first as he would snort and sometimes jump a bit with the force of his reverse sneezes.
Most of the time, after a few loud snorts, he would be just fine.
If he seemed to be struggling, I would place my hands on the side of his head to tilt his face toward me and gently blow on his nose from a short distance.
This blowing technique seemed to startle his senses back to normal most of the time. Then he was off in search of food with a love of snacks only a Beagle can have.
Sometimes your dog’s airway may be polluted by dander, dust, pollen, or smoke in the air.
If you notice your dog having regular bouts of breathing difficulty when in a certain environment, you may need to avoid that location with your dog.
You may also try taking your dog outside for a fresh breath of cool air, depending on the weather. Cool air helps constrict the airways and soothe irritation to stop a reverse sneezing moment in its tracks.
One technique some have claimed to have success with is by gently covering their dog’s nostrils for a few seconds during an episode while giving the throat a gentle exterior rub.
This technique must be done with caution as any time that you cover your dog’s nose; you are interrupting your dog’s airflow for breathing.
This method works by essentially resetting your dog’s breathing pattern while the throat rubbing hopefully soothes anything that has caused the airway to spasm.
In general, your dog’s loud snorting during a reverse sneeze is a cosmetic worry more than a medical concern.
It can be a bit scary the first time your dog takes off on a sneezing fit, but in time you’ll learn that when it does happen, it is short-lived.
If you have a dog with a short snout, you may notice they reverse sneeze more than some other types of dogs.
If your dog acts ill, begins to have sudden, frequent reverse sneezing episodes, or has a lot of discharge or drool during or after a spell, contact your veterinarian for an exam.
You can help your dog attempt to stop reverse sneezing, but the best thing to do is monitor them and comfort them with your voice while they work through a sneezing fit on their own.
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.