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To the Rescue: Reverse Sneezing


When North was about four months old, he had his first reverse sneezing attack. One moment he was fine, the next his chest and neck were puffing in and out and he was making these horrible sounding wheezes. I'd never seen (or heard) anything like this before and I did what any new parent would do . . . I panicked. I scooped up my pup and my purse, hailed a cab, and headed straight to the vet. By this time, he looked shaken up but he appeared to be breathing normally, and I was taking no chances as I waited for my time at the "puppy ER" of Bergh Memorial. After a short wait, he was checked out, proclaimed to be just fine, and we were sent on our merry way. When I got home, I promptly did some web research to figure out if there was a name for my pup's attack. See what I found out when you read more.

North experienced a pharyngeal gag reflex, or reverse sneeze, a common ailment for those smooshy pooches we love. Reverse sneezing is inhaling instead of exhaling when you sneeze and often happens when something goes into your pup's mouth or throat the wrong way and causes a spasm. Dogs with flat faces have elongated soft palates which they occasionally suck into the throat while inhaling, causing a reaction. Because his trachea had narrowed from this attack, little North was trying to inhale which was making his neck extend and his chest expand.

Turns out, as the vet said, I didn't need to bring my pooch in but I picked up tips to be ready in case there was a next time . . . which there was . . . at least once a week. I usually can solve this problem with the first step, but I included their three options to try at home.

  • Massage the dog's throat to stop the spasm. North was so startled by this attack that he was very tricky to grab, but he's so used to it by now that he will stand still for this process.
  • Cover the dog's nostrils – this forces the pup to swallow which then clears on the irritation and stops the sneezing. If at any point your dog is struggling or doesn't seem to be successful, uncover the nostrils immediately.
  • Try depressing the dog's tongue. I wouldn't recommend sticking your hand into your pooch's month, but if you find a safe way to get to his tongue, this can open the mouth and aid in moving air through the nasal passages.

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