Why Does My Dog Huff at Me?

Dogs have their quirks that leave us feeling curious and sometimes worried. Why do they chase their tails and eat their poop? Why do they irrationally hate the kid next door?

Why would they rather play with sticks than an interactive toy you bought from the pet store?

One common question most dog parents ask is, why does my dog huff at me? 

Huffing or reverse sneezing is a common phenomenon in dogs, especially those with short snouts and flat faces. 

Why do dogs huff? How can you treat it? We share with you everything you need to know about dog huffing.

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dog huffing

What is Dog Huffing?

Huffing in dogs, reverse sneezing, or inspiratory paroxysmal respiration, is a sudden, quick, and extreme forceful inhalation of air through the nose.

This causes the dog to make repeated snorting noises, which may sound like they are choking. 

It sounds like your fur baby is trying to inhale a sneeze.

Usually caused by a muscle spasm at the back of the dog’s mouth, dog huffing usually lasts for around 30 seconds.

It narrows the opening of the trachea, making it difficult for your dog to inhale. 

When dogs huff, they usually stand very still with their front legs and neck extended. You will also notice that their chest and abdomen are rapidly moving in and out. 

Huffing can also sound like your dog snorting backward or a honking cough. They are short-lived and usually over quickly.

Why do Dogs Huff?

Dogs reverse sneeze or huff for several reasons which are very similar to why they sneeze or cough normally. They want to expel an irritant. 

An ordinary sneeze helps in expelling an irritant in the nasal cavity. On the other hand, coughing removes irritants located down the trachea.

As for reverse sneezes, they are the body’s way of expelling an irritant that’s slightly further down, at the nasopharynx, and area by the soft palate. 

Here are possible causes of irritation in the soft palate that lead to huffing:

  • Allergies
  • Household products like perfume, cleaning products, and air fresheners
  • Pulling on the leash while they are attached to a collar
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Nasal mites
  • Overexcitement
  • Eating and drinking
  • Objects in the throat area like foreign body or mass
  • Elongated soft palate.

Your vet should further evaluate if huffing or reverse sneezing becomes a frequent occurrence. 

This is because there may be a treatable underlying cause of the episodes, such as mites or allergies. In many cases, however, the cause cannot be identified.

Dog Breeds Prone to Huffing

As mentioned, the elongated soft palate is one common cause of huffing. Sadly, some dogs are more prone to this because they are born brachycephalic. 

These are flat-faced dog breeds such as Pugs, Boxers, and Shih Tzus. These dog breeds will occasionally suck the elongated palate into the throat as they inhale. 

Other small dogs like Beagles and Yorkies are also prone to huffing because of their similar throats.

This video shows a dog huffing or reverse sneezing.

How to Treat Dog Huffing

Reverse sneezing in dogs can cause anxiety for some pet parents who mistake it for coughing. But huffing in dogs does not require medication or treatment. 

It is usually a fairly benign process in your dog, as long as it happens infrequently.

If your pooch has never had an episode before, take them to a vet to make sure that it is actually huffing and not something else, like choking and coughing.

However, if they become severe and frequent, consult a vet to evaluate the underlying cause. 

They will likely perform chest x-rays and possibly rhinoscopy, where a camera is inserted in the nasal cavity and throat, to look for any abnormalities.

For minor huffing you can simply cover their nostrils to cause your dog to swallow. This will help get rid of the irritant that caused the episode. You can also try massaging your dog’s throat to dislodge or soothe irritation in that area. 

If you think that your dog is reverse sneezing because of airborne allergens like perfume and cleaning sprays, then the best solution is to keep these scents away from your furry friend. 

Pay close attention when your dog begins reverse sneezing. Is it when you smoke? Light a candle? Or spray cologne? Or when you are using household cleaning products?

Try using only all-natural, pet-friendly products for cleaning. We recommend Rocco & Roxie’s Professional Stain & Odor Eliminator.

It is strong enough to remove vomit, poo, and other sources of stain, as well as the stink. But it’s also safe and gentle enough to use around your dog and children.

This cleaning product is color-safe and free from chlorine, without hazardous propellants that leave residue behind. Not only that, but it also has natural enzymatic bacteria that are activated on contact with odors and stains!

For weather-related triggers, try a humidifier or heater in your pup’s favorite space. Homasy has a cool-mist diffuser that also acts as a humidifier.

It features a one-piece & top-fill opening design that makes it easy to refill the water and clean it.

You and your dog will be able to breathe and smell fresh air as they avoid that inconvenient huffing! That’s because Homasy can moisturize the air for up to 30 hours of continuous operation at a 360° uniform humidification!

If Your Dog is Huffing – Don’t Panic!

Huffing or reverse sneezing is a disconcerting phenomenon in which your dog makes an alarming respiratory sound, like a honking noise. 

Often caused by an irritation of the palate or laryngeal area, huffing causes spasm in the muscles of the pharynx which lasts only for a few seconds.

There is no need to panic or be worried if your dog starts to reverse sneeze. Most of the time, you can stop this spasm by massaging their throat or briefly closing their nostrils until they swallow.

In some cases, huffing is caused by foreign bodies in the nasal passage, irritation from allergies or irritants.

In this case, avoid spraying perfume or smoking near them. Make sure to use pet-friendly cleaning products too.