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Achoo! How To Recognize Reverse Sneezing

When I first saw Shelby having a reverse sneezing attack, I had no idea what it was. Her symptoms didn’t look like a sneeze at all. Instead, Shelby appeared to be having trouble breathing and I assumed that something was either wrong with her heart or even worse, that she was having an epileptic seizure. I didn’t see her eyes rolling back but her body was convulsing and she was clearly having a spasm of some sort. Her head was tilted back and she was snorting so loudly, it scared me. Then, a few seconds later, she was back to her normal self and wagging her tail again. I Googled canine seizures but couldn’t find much about Shelby’s exact symptoms. Her little attacks came and went for several months until one night she actually woke us up in bed with another one. This time, I was COMPLETELY freaked out and immediately started Googling more keywords. I eventually came across an online forum where a vet suggested that somebody’s dog might be reverse sneezing. I had never heard of such a thing! I kept Googling until I found this video:

and then this one:

and finally this one which was actually filmed at a veterinary clinic:

I couldn’t believe my eyes. These dogs had symptoms completely identical to Shelby’s! (I later confirmed that she’s a reverse sneezer with my vet). I had NO idea what reverse sneezing was or that it was so common in dogs. Since Shelby’s diagnosis, I’ve done some research and here’s what I’ve learned:

  • Reverse sneezing is not life threatening. (phew)!
  • It is most common in small breeds but (as you’ve seen in the videos above) bigger dogs can experience it too.
  • It is caused by a spasm of the throat and soft palate and is most likely a result of allergies.
  • An attack can sometimes be triggered by excitement or irritants like pollen, perfume, household chemicals, or even a sudden change in temperature. It can also be caused by exercise intolerance, pulling on a leash, or mites.
  • The easiest way to prevent reverse sneezing attacks is by removing the irritants.
  • You can also try massaging your dog’s throat during the attack, or covering your dog’s nostrils for a brief moment which will make the dog swallow and clear out the irritant.

If your dog is exhibiting these symptoms on a regular basis, it’s best to consult with your vet to get an official diagnosis. My vet recommended that we give Shelby a small dosage of Claritin but to first try looking for what may be causing the attacks. We happen to have an old, feathered sofa that is a bit torn (thanks to Shelby) and feathers occasionally resurface in various parts of our living room. My husband and I decided to stay more on top of the vacuuming and sure enough, Shelby’s reverse sneezing attacks have decreased significantly in frequency. We are relieved to know that her symptoms are not a sign of something more serious.

Is your dog a reverse sneezer? What have you done to prevent the attacks?

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