Rapidly inhaling with short, loud snorts, almost as if gasping for air or gagging. Sound familiar? If you have ever lived with a smooshyface aka brachycephalic dog, chances are you’ve witnessed the “reverse sneeze.” Although it’s most common in these breeds (pugs, boxers, Cavaliers, Boston terriers, etc.), it can happen to any dog. I see this all the time, especially when dogs get overexcited to go home at the end of a long spa day with the groomer.
The vast majority of the time, there is no reason to worry! Though the exact cause is unknown, inspiratory paroxysmal respiration aka reverse or backwards sneezing is a common reaction for dogs with allergies or irritation, as well as a reflex when highly excited. The dog may just be having a short “fit,” or he may be trying to clear mucus or a simple irritant from their nose or throat. Most of the time your dog will recover quickly on her own. You can calmly pet her back or side to help calm her down. Or softly massage her throat. If you’re relaxed about it, your dog will recover much faster. Some people swear by lightly covering their dog’s nostrils, so they have to breathe through their mouth, but that could make the dog feel like she can’t breathe at all. That could make for a scary experience.
If your dog seems to have frequent episodes of backward sneezes, it may be a sign of allergies. Dogs are also susceptible to common colds, or there may just be something in the air.
Yesterday was the first time I’d ever heard of a backward sneeze gone wrong. My coworker’s dachshund actually passed out after an episode. If your dog seems to be having serious trouble breathing or may have an obstruction, animal CPR would be a great skill to have. Unfortunately, I can’t cover all of that in one blog, but if your dog is having a hard time recovering from a reverse sneeze fit, you can deliver some simple mouth-to-nose help. Gently hold your dog’s mouth closed and carefully blow a little air into her nose. When my coworker did this for her dog, he was just fine. However, please consult your vet if this happens, since passing out from reverse sneezing is not normal.