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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


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.


suself suself 9 years
yep yep my doggy does this too! even though i read about it before i actually got my dog, i still wasn't prepared when it first happened! i panicked and called the 24 hour clinic and they said to bring her in. when we went to the garage to get into the car, my dog stopped and was just fine. thank god! its still scary when it happens though. i do pinch her nostrils when it does happen and it def. helps!
megw06 megw06 9 years
omg!! My puggle does this sometimes and I swear he looks like he's possessed, and everyone always thinks he's going to throw up and I can't explain what's wrong. This is such a relief!
French-Fry-NYC French-Fry-NYC 9 years
Thanks for posting this. My three goldens did this all of the time and, while we were used to it, it was disconcerting nonetheless. Woofs to all of your puppers!
jennifer76 jennifer76 9 years
My Boston does this all the time. I didn't even realize it was a problem that I was supposed to do something about. :? I'll have to try some of these tips next time.
guineapiggin9 guineapiggin9 9 years
This happens to angus a lot too. When he was just a puppy, a fellow pug owner told us about the rubbing under the chin thing in case he ever did this. Thankfully, I knew it was normal the first time it happened. Now I know WHY he does it! Thanks!!
red4bonez red4bonez 9 years
my dog gets that from time to time and I just pet her back till it stops. She got it few times it just sounded like she swallowed the wrong way, but i just massaged and patted her back and she was fine in few seconds. It was scary when she did it the first time.
CanadianInVA CanadianInVA 9 years
I've always wondered why some dogs do this. My grandmothers Bostons always did this.
lilmisslainey lilmisslainey 9 years
my beagle does it a lot too. It sounds like an asthama attack right? I noticed it happens a lot more when its a cold during the winter than during the summer.
snapsh0t snapsh0t 9 years
I have a beagle, and she does this a lot when she's out on a walk. I assume it has something to do with the fact that she's constantly sniffing up stuff from the grass. :P
LA-Chicky LA-Chicky 9 years
my toy poodle does that every now and then not often.. but it sounds like hes snorting!! This def sounds like what it is thanks for posting this!!!!
deanMartin deanMartin 9 years
i have a short nosed dog and he does it too................i keep a halls on the floor, when he does this and panicks he licks the halls some and i guess the mento-lyptus action helps..........he discovered this himself actually cause he will rob any un guarded purse. one day he took cough drops from my neices purse and we didn't find out until after he had eaten it. nothing happened but he liked it so i tried it on the sneeze, it worked great so now he does it himself.
ehadams ehadams 9 years
Thanks for posting this, a lot of people have no idea what reverse sneezing is! I volunteer for a dog rescue group and this happens all the time to all sorts of dogs, especially when they are stressed out- and people wanting to adopt them often think there is something wrong with them.
Kristabelle Kristabelle 9 years
Hey, jennb, I think I know you!!! :) Our two Wheatens get the reverse sneezes sometimes too. We rub their throats or actually sometimes blow into their noses and that usually makes them swallow and settle down.
jennb81 jennb81 9 years
The vet I work for also said that antihistamines can also help in certain cases.
jennb81 jennb81 9 years
My little guy does it too, good thing I work in vet clinic so I knew just what it was. He is a terrier cross (rescue dog that was found full of buckshot pellets along the Ohio west Virginia boarder)when he starts he tends to get himself upset which only escalates the problem, so I need to pick him up to calm him first. Good thing he is small.
cubadog cubadog 9 years
Cuba, my doxie does this sometimes. I was watching something on TV and someone made a comment the dog was sneezing so I never really freaked out.
mnp mnp 9 years
Fuji is a shih tzu so he does this now and then. My bf, who has never seen Fuji do this, recently saw Fuji have a reverse sneeze and he freaked out. We know it's harmless but when it happens, we still panic.
pugglelover pugglelover 9 years
This happens to my dogs all the time too! I always wondered what exactly going on
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