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Ah-Choo! Who Knew?

Updated: Apr 13, 2022

What You Need To Know About Reverse Sneezing.

What is it? If you have never experienced it before, reverse sneezing in dogs can be scary. But luckily, once you educate yourself on what it is, it is not as alarming.

Reverse sneezing, or a “backward sneeze,” is when a dog forcefully attempts to inhale through their nose during a soft palate muscle spasm causing a snorting or honking sound. With a regular sneeze air is pushed out through the nose, but with reverse sneezing the dog rapidly pulls air into the nose.

A reverse sneeze can occur if a dog’s soft palate becomes irritated. The soft palate of a dog is the muscular area of the back of the roof of the mouth that assists with vocalization, swallowing, and breathing. Irritation causes the soft palate muscle to spasm, which narrows the trachea. A dog who is reverse sneezing will extend their neck as they try to expand their chest to breath, but the narrowed trachea does not allow them to inhale a full breath of air.

Reverse sneezing in dogs can last for several seconds to a minute, although it feels like a lot longer, especially the first time it happens! Although it can be alarming to witness a dog having a reverse sneezing episode, it is not a harmful condition and there are no ill effects. Most cases of reverse sneezing require no medical treatment.

If your dog experiences a reverse sneezing episode, you may gently stroke its neck to try to calm him. Once the dog exhales through the nose, the attack is usually over. One recommended remedy is to hold the dog's nostrils closed for a second and lightly massage its throat to calm him. This is sometimes difficult with the Shih Tzu as their nostrils are so small and their necks are so delicate. Holding a finger over the nostrils may be a good alternative. Lightly blowing in the dogs face may also help. This causes the dog to swallow, which might stop the spasm of the reverse sneeze.

To see what a reverse sneeze looks like, I recommend this video:

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