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Reverse Sneezing in Dogs

Reverse sneezing is a condition which is characterized by the rapid pulling in of air through the nose and accompanied by an audible strange sound. The condition is also known by a variety of names like “pharyngeal gag reflex”, “mechano-sensitive aspiration reflex”, and “paroxysmal respiration”. It is opposite to the simple act of sneezing to remove irritants in the upper respiratory passages.

Reverse sneezing is associated with the spasm of the soft palate and throat in response to the presence of an irritant. It is not actually a typical sneezing reflex where the dog pushes air out through the nose. The spasm results in the narrowing of the air passages making it difficult to breathe in air temporarily. Other recognized causes of Reverse Sneezing include hypersensitivity to common potential allergens like dust, mites, household chemicals, and pollen. It can also be triggered by viral infections, post-nasal drip, and inflammation of the nasal passages. Sinus infections, rapid eating or drinking, poor exercise tolerance, and pulling on its leash excessively can also cause pharyngeal spasms associated with Reverse Sneezing. There are also studies which were able to demonstrate a genetic link in the occurrence of the condition.
Although it is not a serious condition, it may pave the way for serious health problems to occur including nasal discharges, sneezing, breathing difficulties, epistaxis (nose bleeds), and facial deformities on the nasal region.

A Pug’s short nose may often force him to inhale air accompanied by a loud snorting noise which is often repeated. You may observe your Pug exhibiting Reverse Sneezing shortly after drinking water or when he gets overexcited. A tight collar can also put pressure and subsequently irritate his pharynx. Your dog usually appears to be normal before and after his bouts with reverse sneezing.

Although there are dogs that develop Reverse Sneezing when they are older, some suffer from this condition since puppyhood. It is not really a serious health problem and rarely entails any form of surgery or medical treatment.
When a dog undergoes Reverse Sneezing, it will extend its neck while giving off a gasp accompanied by a loud, forceful snort. Its eyes may bulge with elbows turned outward. The spasm causes the trachea to become narrow making it difficult for sufficient amount of air to enter the lungs. Its neck will also expand as your dog will try to take in more air.

Oftentimes, Reverse Sneezing can be mistaken for other common health problems in Pugs such as an Elongated Palate. When your Pug exhibits Reverse Sneezing, you might think it is choking or having a seizure. However, most episodes of Reverse Sneezing last for about a minute or two.

Reverse Sneezing is effectively managed by correcting the predisposing factor/s. If it is caused by allergies, antihistamines are usually prescribed. Gently massaging your dog’s throat during episodes has been found to stop spasms. Another way to address Reverse Sneezing is to encourage your dog to swallow by covering his nostrils. This can eventually clear out any irritants present in his throat. When an episode lasts for more than two minutes, depressing or gently pulling on his tongue will help open his mouth and allow more air to pass through the nasal passages. Giving him water or something to eat can also stop the Reverse Sneezing. If the irritant is present inside the house, you can also distract him by taking him on a stroll outside to get some fresh air. An increased in the frequency of Reverse Sneezing in dogs may also warrant a visit to your veterinarian because medications may be needed to control the bouts.

Reverse Sneezing is not really an alarming condition in dogs. However, if you observe that your dog is undergoing several bouts or more severe episodes, it is wise to bring him to a veterinarian to eliminate more serious underlying health problems. Your vet may examine the dog’s nasal passages via a rhinoscopy and remove tissues for biopsy to test for nasal cancer. He may also attempt to demonstrate the presence of nasal mites.

When your dog is suffering from an episode of Reverse Sneezing, stay calm and speak to him in a soothing voice to avoid exciting or frightening him. It will also be advantageous to keep your dog’s weight at desired limits.