Reverse Sneezing in Chihuahuas: Causes + 6 Tips to Reduce It

Why do Chihuahuas snort is a common question puzzling many dog owners.

Chances are you’ve heard that distinctive and sometimes funny snorting noise they make.

Reverse sneezing is common, but it can be alarming to see your Chihuahua snorting like a pig and gasping for air.

Two days after we adopted our Chihuahua, he surprised us with his best rendition of a honking goose.

Caught off guard, we didn’t know whether to laugh or to dive into panic mode.

Thankfully, Michelle our dog-savvy superhero, sprang into action and helped Leo get through his honking episode using the tips mentioned here.

In this blog post, we uncover all the reasons why Chihuahuas snort plus 6 helpful tips to reduce reverse sneezing.

Tan chihuahua looking into the distance before reverse sneezing

Why Do Chihuahuas Snort?

Chihuahua snorting can seem strange and maybe even a bit alarming.

It’s important to know that it is usually nothing to worry about, as snorting in Chihuahuas is a completely normal reflex, but there can be other causes that may need medical attention.

Chihuahuas snort due to a variety of reasons. Reverse sneezing is the most common cause of snorting and honking in Chihuahuas.

Other reasons include tracheal collapse, allergies, a respiratory infection, excitement, eating or drinking too fast, pulling on the leash, nasal mites, and a foreign object obstructing the airway.

What is Reverse Sneezing?

Backward sneezing, or paroxysmal respiration as your vet may call it, is a common reflex that occurs when your dog’s soft palate becomes irritated. 

In short, the soft palate muscle spasms which then narrows the trachea.

The narrowed trachea does not allow the dog to inhale a full breath of air which causes them to inhale through their nose.

This forceful inhale sounds like a harsh rhythmic snort or like a goose honking to defend its territory.

During a reverse sneeze, your dog will also stand still and extend its head and neck as it begins to honk.

An episode can last anywhere between a few seconds to a full minute.

This condition is more common for brachycephalic and toy-dog groups as well as for dogs with narrow nasal passages (long noses).

Why Do Chihuahuas Reverse Sneeze?

While the exact cause of a reverse sneeze is unknown, the condition is attributed to irritation of the nose, sinuses, or back of the throat. Common irritants include:

  • nasal mites
  • secretions
  • allergies
  • smoke
  • odors
  • foreign bodies such as seeds, pollens, or grasses 

Some other causes are eating or drinking too fast and over-excitement

Something as simple as showing your dog a new toy might trigger an episode.

Either way, it is a good practice to try and pin down what exactly is irritating your dog so that you can nip it in the bud.

An example of a Chihuahua reverse sneezing

9 Reasons Why Chihuahuas Snort Like a Pig

Chihuahuas exhibit many peculiar behaviors like licking inside your nose, sleeping between your legs, or licking bed sheets, but one of the most distinct is their tendency to honk and snort.

So, why do Chihuahuas snort like a pig? Here are the 9 possible reasons apart from reverse sneezing.

1. Eating or Drinking Too Fast

Chihuahuas, like many other dogs, tend to gulp their food and water.

This can cause the soft palate to become irritated, resulting in a reverse sneeze.

Slow down your Chihuahua’s eating using a slow feeder or feeding smaller meals more frequently.

2. Allergies

Allergies are common in Chihuahuas and can cause snorting due to irritation of the nose, throat, or sinuses.

Keeping an eye out for other symptoms such as constant scratching, licking, and red or watery eyes can help you identify an allergy.

Chihuahuas can have contact allergies, food allergies, or environmental allergies.

Read next: Are Chihuahuas Hypoallergenic?

3. Respiratory Infections

Respiratory infections are a common cause of snorting in Chihuahuas or strange breathing noises.

These infections can cause irritation and inflammation of the airways, resulting in honking sounds during breathing.

If you suspect your Chihuahua has a respiratory infection, it’s important to get them to the vet as soon as possible.

4. Tracheal Collapse

Tracheal collapse is a serious condition that can cause snorting in Chihuahuas.

This condition is caused by a weakened tracheal wall, which can cause wheezing, coughing, and snorting.

If you suspect your Chihuahua is suffering from a tracheal collapse, it’s important to take them to the vet immediately.

5. Excitement

Chihuahuas can get excited easily and when this happens, they may start snorting or honking.

While it isn’t cause for alarm, it’s good to be aware of this as it can be an indication that your Chihuahua is over-stimulated and needs a break.

6. Pulling on the Leash

Chihuahuas have fragile tracheas.

Pulling on a leash can cause your Chihuahua to snort due to irritation of the soft palate.

To avoid this, make sure your Chihuahua is wearing a properly fitted harness and not a collar.

7. Foreign Object

A foreign object or foreign material stuck in the nose, airways, or throat can cause irritation and lead to snorting.

Pieces of food, dirt, and other small objects can get stuck in the nose or throat, blocking the airway, so it’s important to check your Chihuahua for any signs of a foreign body.

If you see your Chihuahua snort, keep an eye out for any other symptoms such as choking, vomiting, or difficulty breathing.

If you notice any of these symptoms, get your Chihuahua to the vet as soon as possible.

8. Nasal Polyps

Nasal polyps are growths in the nasal cavity that can cause snorting due to their presence.

If you think your Chihuahua might have a nasal polyp, visit your vet for a proper diagnosis and treatment.

9. Nasal Mites

Nasal mites are tiny parasites that can invade the nasal passages and cause irritation.

The mites multiply quickly and can cause snorting due to irritation.

They can be hard to diagnose, so if you think this might be the cause of your Chihuahua’s snorting, see your vet to get diagnosed and treated.

6 Tips to Reduce Reverse Sneezing and Stop an Episode

Now we understand all the various reasons that cause Chihuahuas to snort and reverse sneeze.

If your Chihuahua snorts all the time, let’s look at some tips on how to stop reverse sneezing from happening as frequently.

1. Massage your dog’s throat

Use long strokes to rub your pup’s throat while speaking to them in a calm voice.

This will have a two-fold effect; help relax the throat to encourage swallowing and to keep your dog calm.

2. Gently blow into their nose

With a gentle blow into their nostrils, you help them swallow and pass through the episode.

This can also help to dislodge any irritants that may be causing the reverse sneezing reflex.

3. Use an air purifier

Along with daily hygiene habits, a purifier removes allergens and particles from the air that could irritate your dog’s throat and nasal passages.

Dogs are close to the ground near carpet and dust, so removing those particles will help.

After several days of our Chihuahua experiencing reverse sneezing episodes, we ordered two air purifiers for our house.

Leo quit reverse sneezing the next day and now it only happens every once in a while.

The air in our house might have been too dusty for him. 

4. Use a harness and not a collar

Collars put a lot of pressure on the neck, and are a bigger threat for breeds prone to tracheal collapse like our Chihuahua.

A harness will distribute the pressure more evenly so when your dog pulls, it will not harm their neck and start a reverse sneeze episode.

5. Lower indoor air pollution

Keep your dog’s air as clean as possible so their passageways don’t get irritated.

A reverse sneezing episode can be a great motivator to quit smoking, or at least move it outside. 

Candles and air fresheners can increase indoor air pollution which affects dogs and humans alike.

Make sure to regularly ventilate and vacuum your space for a boost in fresh air. 

6. Use a slow-feed dog bowl

Eating or drinking too fast can also cause reverse sneezing.

If this is triggering your dog’s reverse sneezing, try using a slow feeder so they don’t eat so fast.


Now you have your answer to “why do Chihuahuas snort” plus 6 ways to reduce reverse sneezing.

Although reverse sneezing in Chihuahuas sounds scary, it is typically nothing to worry about.

However, it is important to recognize the signs of reverse sneezing so you can distinguish them from something more serious, like tracheal collapse. 

If your dog is reverse sneezing excessively or is experiencing other symptoms like choking, you should see your vet immediately. 


Is Reverse Sneezing Dangerous?

Reverse sneezing is alarming but not particularly dangerous. It is very common and the episodes don’t last long. 

But watch out for any accompanying symptoms that would need medical attention like choking, vomiting, blood, or tracheal collapse.

Can a Dog Suffocate From Reverse Sneezing?

Reverse sneezing is a scary noise, but it does not hurt your dog and they won’t suffocate from it. Reverse sneezing is caused by irritation to your dog’s throat, comparable to humans feeling post-nasal drip.

Check out our tips above to help your dog stop reverse sneezing.

Should I Take My Dog to the Vet for Reverse Sneezing?

Usually, reverse sneezing is not a reason to worry if it’s happening occasionally.

If starts happening more and more frequently or gets a lot worse, it’s a good idea to go to the vet to make sure your dog is not suffering from tracheal collapse or an illness. 

What’s the Difference Between Reverse Sneezing and a Collapsing Trachea?

Reverse sneezing episodes usually last for a few seconds to a minute. It is usually triggered by something such as allergens, excitement, or odors. After an episode, your dog goes right back to normal.

A collapsing trachea sounds like a harsh cough but is accompanied by difficulty breathing and lethargy. This is a serious condition and requires a trip to the vet.

Is It Normal For a Dog to Reverse Sneeze Every Day?

Dogs can reverse sneeze every day and it’s nothing to worry about. But if it’s happening multiple times a day, it’s best to figure out what the root cause is.

Some common causes are over-excitement, allergens, using a collar instead of a harness, and eating too fast.

Is Reverse Sneezing Painful for Dogs?

No, reverse sneezing is not painful for dogs and they can usually go right back to normal after an episode. However, if your dog is experiencing reverse sneezing multiple times a day, it’s best to figure out the root cause and take measures to prevent it.

If your dog is having difficulty breathing or appears lethargic after an episode, you should see your vet.

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One Comment

  1. Thanks for this article! Our chihuahua reverse sneezes rarely, and I know what this is from being around other dogs in the past, but I think she might have some seasonal allergies this year since it has gotten a bit worse this Spring.

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