Addressing Penny’s ‘coughing, snorting’

Ask the Vet

Q: “Penny,” my sweet Pug, started making this coughing, snorting noise. My neighbor says she thinks it’s a reverse sneeze, but I’ve never heard of that. I have an appointment with my vet next week — should I be worried? E.R., Farragut.

A: I hope Penny is feeling well. There are many reasons for coughing and/or snorting in dogs, reverse sneeze being one of them. Reverse sneezing is a spasm at the back of the throat in response to an upper respiratory irritant. It is more common in brachycephalic dogs — dog breeds with short noses — like pugs. With a reverse sneeze, the air flow is inspiratory and often quite loud. In comparison, the breath is outward (or expiratory) with a cough.

A reverse sneeze can be worse with excitement, allergies or other nasal irritants. Since it is not always predictable, it can be helpful to take a video on your smartphone if possible. This may help your veterinarian make a diagnosis.

Other potential reasons for coughing and/or snorting include allergies, bacterial or viral infections, heartworms or primary heart or lung disease. At your appointment next week, your veterinarian will want to examine Penny, including listening to her heart and lungs.

Generally, there is no treatment required for reverse sneeze. Episodes are fairly short, ranging from a few seconds to one-to-two minutes. Talking gently to Penny and stroking her throat may shorten her episodes.

Good luck to you both at her appointment.

If you have questions about your pet, you may e-mail Dr. Myers at