If you’ve ever heard your French bulldog snort several times in rapid succession, your dog is most likely reverse sneezing.
Reverse sneezing can happen to dogs of any breed, but it’s especially common in brachycephalic breeds like the French bulldog.
In the following guide, you’ll learn all about French bulldog reverse sneezing and its causes. You’ll also learn how to stop a reverse sneezing episode in its tracks, as well as six tips to reduce future episodes. Let’s get started!
What is Reverse Sneezing in French Bulldogs
If your dog is suddenly making rapid-fire snorting noises, she’s likely reverse sneezing. Your dog may rapidly inhale through her nose in short bursts.
These inhalations are often followed by either snorting or gagging sounds. During the entire episode, your dog will likely stand still with her head and neck extended as she tries to clear her airways.
Reverse sneezing happens when your dog has inflammation or irritation in his sinus, nasal, or pharyngeal passages.
For example, your dog might reverse sneeze when he’s trying to get dust or food particles out of his upper airways.
While sneezing is the most common way to clear unwanted particles out of the airways, brachycephalic dog breeds may struggle to sneeze normally.
Whether it’s the first time or the hundredth time you’ve heard it, reverse sneezing is often a sound that’s alarming to dog owners.
As frightening as the sounds may be, reverse sneezing often happens in short episodes without any lasting medical impact (just like regular sneezing).
Symptoms of Reverse Sneezing
You really can’t miss a reverse sneezing episode. These are the most common symptoms of reverse sneezing in French Bulldogs.
- Difficulty drawing air
- Extended neck
- Discharge from their nose
- Bleeding from their nose
- Scratching at their face
- Shaking their head
I freaked out badly the first time I saw a Frenchie reverse sneezing. The little puppy felt so miserable during its reverse sneeze attacks.
Should I Worry about Reverse Sneezing?
Infrequent episodes of reverse sneezing are rarely dangerous to your dog, especially if he doesn’t have any underlying medical conditions.
If you notice an increase in reverse sneezing episodes, it’s a good idea to make an appointment with your dog’s vet to make sure you aren’t missing any underlying causes.
Sometimes pet parents confuse reverse sneezing with tracheal collapse. The snorting and honking sounds your dog makes during both these events may be similar.
If your French bulldog doesn’t quickly return to normal, it may be a sign that he’s experiencing tracheal collapse instead of merely reverse sneezing.
Tracheal collapse occurs when your dog can no longer draw air all the way into his lungs. Because this is life-threatening, it requires immediate veterinary attention.
If the episode of honking and snorting does not resolve within a minute or two, seek immediate care.
Causes of Reverse Sneezing in French Bulldogs
There is no proven medical reason why French Bulldogs reverse sneeze. However, vets believe the problem comes from inflammation or irritation of the nasal cavity caused by pollen, dust, and other foreign particles.
There are many other factors that can cause reverse sneezing in French bulldogs. The following are the top causes of reverse sneezing in Frenchies.
Allergies, especially environmental ones like dust or pollen, can cause your Frenchie to have episodes of reverse sneezing. It could be seasonal since dogs are also prone to pollen allergies and hay fever symptoms.
Since reverse sneezing occurs due to a combination of inflammation and irritants, it’s no surprise that allergies are often the cause of reverse sneezing.
When your French bulldog is struggling with allergies, he may also rub his face, cough, wheeze, or have discharge coming from the nose or eyes.
If you notice these symptoms, along with an increase in reverse sneezing episodes, follow up with your dog’s veterinarian to create a treatment plan for your dog’s allergies.
2. Warm Weather
Warm weather can make reverse sneezing episodes occur more frequently. French bulldogs struggle with overheating.
Reverse sneezing and rapid or labored breathing may both occur when your Frenchie isn’t able to keep cool enough.
3. Strenuous Activity
Whenever your French bulldog breathes faster, she’s more likely to induce a reverse sneezing episode.
Your dog might begin breathing harder if she’s been playing, running, or otherwise exerting herself. While you should still encourage your Frenchie to be active, too much activity at once may cause strain.
French bulldogs are often easily excitable. When walking your dog on her leash, make sure she isn’t pulling on it too much.
The strain from pulling, combined with the pressure on her throat, may be enough to cause a reverse sneezing episode. You can reduce this risk by attaching your dog’s leash to a harness instead of a leash.
If your Frenchie is excited, especially if he is overexcited, that extreme excitement can induce an episode of reverse sneezing.
Take note of situations that make your dog especially happy or anxious, as both good and bad excitement can cause rapid breathing and induce reverse sneezing.
5. Nasal Mites
Mites are small parasites. When your dog gets nasal mites, these parasites make their home in your dog’s sinuses and nasal passages. Because of their infectious and parasitic nature, nasal mites can be passed from one dog to another.
If your Frenchie has a sudden increase in reverse sneezing episodes, your dog’s veterinarian will need to rule out nasal mites. Should the vet find evidence of nasal mites, they can prescribe treatment to eliminate these pests.
Sometimes French bulldogs tend to eat their food a little too fast. When this happens, they may inhale parts of their food, causing them to choke.
When these small particles of food are lodged in their sinuses and airways, it may cause a reverse sneezing episode.
How to Stop a Reverse Sneezing Episode in Its Tracks
While most reverse sneezing episodes will resolve on their own, there is a way to stop a reverse sneezing episode in its tracks.
Simply cover your Frenchie’s nostrils with your fingers and lightly blow in his face to encourage him to swallow. Often this will be enough to stop the episode, although an extremely persistent episode may require a few further steps.
If covering your dog’s nostrils and blowing in his face wasn’t enough, very gently massage his throat. This will help calm him down enough to swallow and clear his airways.
Speak calmly to your dog, doing whatever you can to calm his anxiety enough for him to swallow and move past the reverse sneezing episode.
6 Tips for Preventing Reverse Sneezing in Your Frenchie
Now that you know what causes reverse sneezing and how to stop an episode in its tracks, you’re ready to learn how to prevent future episodes.
1. Test Your French Bulldog for Allergies and Reduce His Exposure to Allergens
Since allergies are one of the main causes of reverse sneezing, it’s important to have your dog tested for seasonal allergies. Certain allergens, such as dust and pollen, can be especially potent triggers for reverse sneezing.
You can find at-home allergy tests available online that work by scanning a hair sample you send to their lab.
Veterinary doctors can perform a radioallergosorbent test (RAST) in order to determine whether your dog is allergic to certain things.
If your dog’s allergy testing reveals allergens, do what you can to limit your dog’s exposure to those things.
In cases where an allergen cannot be avoided altogether, talk to your dog’s vet about allergy medication to help manage symptoms.
2. Keep Your dog’s Bedding and Sleeping Area Clean
Even if your dog isn’t allergic to his surroundings, inhaled dust particles can still induce fits of reverse sneezing.
Keep your dog’s bedding clean and his sleep area tidy to improve his rest and limit the number of reverse sneezing episodes.
3. Regulate Your Frenchie’s Temperature
Reverse sneezing is only one reason why regulating your French bulldog’s temperature is so important.
Because of their flat faces, Frenchies aren’t able to regulate their temperature and manage their breathing in warmer temperatures.
It is important to keep your dog cool during the warmer months. Keep your Frenchie indoors and limit her outside time during the hottest hours of the day. Keep your home’s temperature cool and comfortable.
4. Watch for signs of strain or overexcitement
Since your dog’s labored breathing during exercise or excitement can cause reverse sneezing episodes, watch for signs that your dog is struggling and help him calm down when needed. During exercise or play, take regular breaks to allow him time to catch his breath.
If your dog has anxious tendencies, it may be worth talking to his vet about how to manage that anxiety. For some dogs, a low-dose anti-anxiety medication can provide the support they need to manage their anxiety.
5. Seek treatment for nasal mites
If you suspect nasal mites may be the cause of your dog’s increase in reverse sneezing episodes, seek veterinary care for diagnosis and treatment.
Treating nasal mites as early as possible will reduce discomfort and complications down the road. Signs of nasal mites include discharge from your dog’s nose, an itchy face, and nose bleeds.
Suppose you’ve made other changes to your dog’s environment, and he’s still having frequent reverse sneezing episodes, especially when combined with these other symptoms. In that case, it’s time to reach out for veterinary care.
Your dog’s vet will have to perform a deep nasal flush or a nasal scope to officially diagnose nasal mites.
6. Encourage Your Dog to Eat Slower
Sometimes reverse sneezing is caused by eating too fast. If your dog’s reverse sneezing episodes largely occur after meals, look for ways to encourage your dog to eat slower.
Many dogs benefit from feeding bowls with large shapes down the middle that forces them to eat slower.
Food puzzles and snuffle mats are also great ways to slow your dog down during meal times. These activities also encourage natural foraging behavior, which is a fantastic way to stimulate your French bulldog mentally.
Final Thoughts on Reverse Sneezing in Frenchies
As you can see, reverse sneezing is just a way of nature, a way for your French Bulldog to begin breathing again. The real challenge is that it is panic-inducing and downright scary when it happens.
Even though Frenchies tend to reverse sneeze more frequently, it is rarely a cause for concern and usually passes on its own.
Nevertheless, suppose it persists and occurs continuously. In that case, you should consult a veterinarian, as it may be a sign of a more serious condition if combined with other factors described in this guide.
- Lundgren, B. (2020). Reverse sneezing in dogs. Veterinary Partner.
- Brooks, W. (2021). Brachycephalic airway obstruction syndrome in flat-faced dogs. Veterinary Partner.
- White, S. D., et al. (2020). Allergies in dogs. Merck Veterinary Manual.