French Bulldog Reverse Sneezing: Why It Happens & How to Stop It


Whilst our French Bulldog doesn’t reverse sneeze a lot, I still remember the first time it ever happened. Nothing could really prepare us for the noise; it was horrific sounding, and completely unexpected. For him, and us if I’m honest!

Claude was at the top of our stairs and suddenly started to reverse sneeze with his head down to the carpet. It went on for about 15 seconds or so and was really weird. None of us had a clue what was going on, and the dog even looked shocked once it had stopped.

That night I decided to find out why French Bulldogs reverse sneeze, whether it’s dangerous, how you can stop it, and whether there are any treatments available. Here’s a guide to French Bulldog reverse sneezing based on everything I found out, plus what our vet and other owners told us.

Why do French Bulldogs reverse sneeze?

What causes a French Bulldog to reverse sneeze? The exact reason French Bulldogs reverse sneeze has never been medically proven. However, vets believe it’s due to irritation or inflammation in their nasal cavity. That can be brought on by pollen, dust, and other foreign particles. 

After the event, I happened to bump into our dog’s vet whilst out shopping. He’s a good friend of mine so I stopped him for 5 minutes to tell him about Claude’s behaviour that night.

Here’s what he quoted back me:

“Your Frenchie could be reverse sneezing at night due to dust in the carpet. The fact he happened to do it at the top of the stairs is an indication he might have inhaled some dust mites from the floor. Because he is not reverse sneezing a lot, I wouldn’t be too concerned. However, Frenchies are more inclined to do this due to the way in which their shortened snouts. This can lead to them overheating more than other dog breeds leading to irritation and dryness in the throat or nasal cavity.” 

I found that last part about their genetics quite interesting. As a regular reader of my blog, or as a Frenchie owner, you will be well aware of the health issues our loveable pals can suffer from. 

I looked into this aspect a little bit more and found that there had actually been a study published in 2013 which had examined how brachycephalic dog breeds can suffer more from this ailment.

There is also an article on the Cambridge University website which explains how brachycephalic dogs are more prone to this problem.

“Reverse sneezing is a common event in brachycephalic dogs, the actual causes of the episode are unknown, but it is likely to be related to the elongated soft palate that irritates the throat. Episodes of reverse sneezing usually last from a few seconds to one minute. Usually as soon as it passes, the dog breathes normally again.” (source)

More reasons for reverse sneezing 

  • Allergens: it could be seasonal, as dogs are prone to pollen allergies and hay fever symptoms just as humans are. Your vet can test your Frenchie for common allergies.
  • Excitement: when over-excited, your dog could have a small spasm of the throat resulting in a loud reverse sneeze.
  • Nasal mites: these can be picked up from other dogs and can result in sneezing, head shaking, discharge from the nostrils, and coughing.
  • Temperature changes: a change in body temperature can make their throat spasm resulting in a sneezing episode. 

As a short conclusion, it doesn’t appear that Claude’s very intermittent reverse sneezing episodes (which I would estimate to happen once every couple of months) aren’t a problem or danger.

However, having spoken with other Frenchie owners on social media, a few other questions and concerns popped up which I wanted to address.

My French Bulldog is reverse sneezing at night

We don’t let Claude sleep on our bed. His snoring is just way too much, and we would never get a good night’s sleep if we let him sleep in our room.

I can’t imagine what it might be like to have the snoring combined with nightly reverse sneezes, but that’s just the issue a few owners told me they were experiencing.

french bulldog puppy sneezing
Guess who just reverse sneezed and got a BIG SURPRISE?

But what does it mean, and how can you stop your Frenchie reverse sneezing at night?

Well, firstly, don’t be overly concerned about it. I am going to talk further down this page about what possible warning signs you should look out for, but generally, it’s a common Frenchie thing.

Here are a few tips people shared with me on how to stop their French Bulldog reverse sneezing at night.

  1. Make sure your dog is not over-heating: whilst it’s tempting to give your pooch loads of lovely warm blankets and toys, this could be leading to the problem. This is even more so if you are sharing a bed with him, due to the body heat you will give off.
  2. Keep your dog’s bedding clean: their blankets could have dust, pollen, and other small particles present in them if not cleaned regularly. In our house our cat likes to share Claude’s blanket, and her hair gets everywhere. It could be allergy-related.
  3. Change your dog’s sleeping area: it might be that there’s something in the sleeping area or room that’s playing havoc with his respiratory system. I mentioned our cat earlier which could be one problem, or it might be that there’s a plant near him that’s making him sneeze.

My French Bulldog is reverse sneezing and has a runny nose

If your Frenchie has a runny nose in addition to the sneezes, then this could be the sign of a health problem.

French Bulldogs have something called stenotic nares; this is where their nostrils are excessively narrow making breathing very difficult.

A runny nose combing with reverse sneezing could be a sign of the following health issues:

  • Allergy
  • Blocked nasal passages
  • Cleft palate
  • Common cold
  • Distemper
  • Fistula
  • Infection
  • Polyps
  • Stenotic nares
  • Tumours

If the runny nose persists and is not a clear discharge, you should consult with your vet immediately. Runny noses are not an immediate cause for concern, but if it’s combined with persistent sneezing and blood or yellow discharge then it could be a sign of a bigger issue.

Handy Hint: Reverse sneezing and snoring go hand in hand due to this breed. But there are ways in which you can reduce Frenchie snoring at night.

How do I get my Frenchie to stop reverse sneezing?

In the majority of cases, you shouldn’t really worry. There’s not much you can do if your French Bulldog is reverse sneezing a lot. There really is no cure.

In fact, if you do decide to help them out, it could actually stress your dog out and makes things worse.

However, having looked up some tips online, here are some ideas and things you could do to stop your Frenchie from reverse sneezing.

  1. Massage your dog’s throat: by massaging your Frenchie’s throat lightly and softly, you will encourage them to swallow. The theory behind this is that it will suppress the sneezing.
  2. Cover your dog’s nostrils: only do this for a few seconds, as it will make your Frenchie swallow which can then clear any irritants which could be in the throat causing them to sneeze.
  3. Cool and calm your dog down: reverse sneezing can be caused by over-heating and excitement so calm your Frenchie down and blow some cool air onto their face and nose area.
  4. Press down on your dog’s tongue: put your hand in your Frenchie’s mouth gently and press down the tongue. This will make them open their mouth wider, offering a larger flow of air through the respiratory system.

Comments from other Frenchie owners

I went on Facebook and asked an owner’s group what they would do as my French Bulldog is constantly reverse sneezing. It was a little white lie, but I wanted to see what other people said. He’s a selection of the best comments.

“I just talk to them calmly about something they are interested in. I ask ours where the sausages are, and it usually does the trick! Once they start, they become scared and it can lead to what humans would consider a panic attack. Being calm just gets their mind off of it quickly.”

“We rub our Frenchie under her mouth and around the neck area and she soon stops reverse sneezing. Our vet taught us this cool trick.”

“My boyfriend and I breed them and have had a couple of French Bulldogs that keep reverse sneezing. We have always opened their mouth straight away as soon as it starts to happen, and this make it stop straight away.”

“To stop it quickly get your finger between the tongue and the roof of the mouth and move it from side to side. This has worked for me and rarely does it require more than one time.”

“Sneezing is completely normal, so you really have no need to worry. We took our little man to the vet and she told me to lift his head and then turn it ever so slightly. We find this usually makes it stop pretty quickly. I’ve also heard that sometimes massaging the throat a little bit can help to stop it. Don’t worry, your Frenchie is okay!”

“Our little guy does it every so often. I will just take my finger and stick it right underneath his nose. I then just rub there and tell him it’s ok. It’s scary when you first hear it, but he will be fine.”

“It’s kind of like when we get the hiccups. You can plug his nose as this will force him to breathe out of his mouth and to stabilize his breathing. Mine now runs to me to do it when he starts reverse sneezing. You might need to do it a couple times per episode but it’s all I’ve ever had to do for my guy.”

“You can also relieve him almost instantly by placing your hand over his snout. It slows down the air intake and relieves them. I do it with my girl all the time whenever she is reverse sneezing, she will come to me on her own knowing I can help.”

“Make sure there’s not dust or something in his nose. He may have inhaled something that’s triggering it, like dust or some kind of irritant. Just make him be calm and tell him he’s okay and everything will be alright. I noticed that the more you stress out the more the dog stresses and then it just gets even worse.”

Dog reverse sneezing treatments

The Cambridge University website states that:

“Reverse sneezing rarely needs treatment. Sometimes, after upper airway surgery, reverse sneezing will stop or decrease in frequency. However, for dogs that have turbinectomy surgery, the frequency of episodes might increase until the tissue debris has been cleared out.” 

However, in more serious cases your vet might need to take action.

For example, if you believe it’s an allergic reaction, and perhaps a seasonal thing like hay fever, there are prescribed antihistamines that dogs can take for treatment.

They tend to come as saline drops and will help to clear the nasal passage of any microscopic debris. 

The majority of French Bulldog reverse sneezing won’t require any treatment at all, unless it’s happening constantly.

If it is a constant problem it might be the symptom of a more serious health issue, your vet can perform a rhinoscopy which lets them look up the nose for any obstructions and problems.

Can reverse sneezing kill a dog? 

Are reverse sneezes dangerous for dogs? No, and actually, they aren’t really a sneeze. Whilst a reverse sneeze might sound dangerous, it won’t kill your Frenchie. Your dog should be absolutely fine during and after the episode. 

However, if you notice prolonged and persistent reverse sneezing, you should take your dog to the vet for a full diagnosis, as it could be signs of something more serious.

When you should consult a vet

If you see coloured discharge that isn’t clear (e.g. yellow or bloody), it could be more serious. Can you see anything up your dog’s nose? One way to check is to use a small torch.

If the sneezing is also combined with a loss of appetite and coughing, I’d also recommend a trip to the vets.

Conclusion

Just as we humans will have sneezing fits at points during our lives, so can Frenchies. They are known to be prone to allergies, pollen, and dust just like us.

Yes, this breed is more prone to reverse sneezing, but in the majority of cases it’s nothing to be worried about and will pass almost as soon as it’s started.

However, if it is persistent and is happening constantly, please do think about having a consultation with the vet, as if combined with other factors as outlined in this guide, it could be something more serious.

Handy Hint: It’s not just your dog sneezing that could be a sign of an allergy. Humans can also sneeze due to dogs, and in fact, Frenchies are not hypoallergenic despite what you might have read on other websites.

Marc Aaron

I am one of Claude the French Bulldog's human parents. I write about all the things I've learned about owning a Frenchie, the adventures we have, and any advice and tips I've picked up along the way. Read more about Marc Aaron.

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