Reverse Sneezing in Boston Terriers

The Boston Terrier is one of many short-faced breeds that suffer from brachycephalic syndrome. This syndrome encompasses several anatomical abnormalities such as elongated soft palate, stenotic nares, and everted laryngeal saccules which contribute to breathing problems in dogs that have shortened faces. Another problem that short-faced breeds like the Boston Terrier frequently experience is reverse sneezing.

What is Reverse Sneezing?

Also known as inverted sneezing, reverse sneezing is the unofficial term for a pharyngeal gag reflex or inspiratory paroxysmal respiration. Whereas a regular sneeze involves expelling air from the noise, a reverse sneeze involves the dog rapidly pulling air into the nose. When they reverse sneeze, Boston Terriers often stand still, making long and rapid inspirations, sometimes while extending the head – it might make you think that he has something caught in his nose. In reality, however, it is most likely due to irritation of the soft palate which causes a spasm that narrows the airway, making it hard for the dog to take in air. Some of the factors that can contribute to reverse sneezing in Boston Terriers including over excitement, eating or drinking, exercise, allergies, chemicals, household cleaners, post-nasal drip, and viral infections.

How is Reverse Sneezing Treated in Dogs?

Though reverse sneezing can look violent in Boston Terriers, it is generally not a life-threatening or even a harmful condition. There are no ill effects of reverse sneezing in dogs so treatment generally isn’t necessary as long as they dog is able to resume normal breathing after the episode. In some cases, however, episodes that look very similar to reverse sneezes can actually be a sign of a respiratory problem in which case the dog should be examined by a vet. Episodes of reverse sneezing can last from several seconds up to a minute and some say that you can stop the episode by covering the dog’s nostrils with your hand or by massaging his throat. Both of these things can encourage your Boston Terrier to swallow which may help to clear any irritants from his throat.

Choking versus Reverse Sneezing

Though reverse sneezing is not dangerous for your dog, it is easy to confuse within something that is – choking. If your Boston Terrier is choking he might experience difficulty breathing and he might adopt a strained posture, pulling his head forward like he would during an episode of reverse sneezing. The difference between reverse sneezing and choking is that a dog who is choking may start to drool and his gums may turn blue or gray due to lack of oxygen. If your dog is choking, you may need to perform the Heimlich maneuver on him and you should definitely consult a veterinarian. You should also take your Boston Terrier to the vet if he seems to experience frequent or very prolonged episodes of reverse sneezing or if he has trouble breathing afterward.

The short-faced anatomy of the Boston Terrier is what sets this breed apart from all the others but, unfortunately, it can also contribute to some health problems like reverse sneezing. Though reverse sneezing is not dangerous for your dog, it can tire him out if the episodes occur frequently in which case you should have him checked by your veterinarian.

Photo credit: lezumbalaberenjena/Flickr