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Reverse sneezing is a common condition that sounds a lot worse than it actually is.

You may not know what it’s called, but you do know that it scares the heck out of you when you hear and see it happening to your dog. Reverse sneezing, also known as Pharyngeal Gag Reflex or Paroxysmal Respiration, is quite common in dogs—especially breeds that have a flat face (Shih Tzus, Pugs, Boxers, Boston Terriers, and Bulldogs). Your first instinct may be to grab your dog and run to the vet’s office. But before you freak out, you should know that a reverse sneeze will pass and can last anywhere from a few seconds to a minute or two. Once it’s over, your dog will return to his normal, happy self.

What is a Reverse Sneeze?

When we sneeze, air is pushed rapidly out of our noses. That’s where you get the quick “Achoo!” sound (often followed by a vigorous nose blowing). But with a dog, that sneeze happens in reverse—air is pulled into his nose, resulting in a loud honking or snorting noise. Here are a few other signs that your dog is in the middle of a reverse sneezing fit:
  • Standing still with elbows spread apart
  • Bulging eyes
  • Backwards head motion

What Causes Reverse Sneezing?
A reverse sneeze is caused by a spasm of the throat and soft palate, set off by an irritation in the throat, pharynx, or larynx. It’s hard to pinpoint what can set it off, but a few of the most common causes include environmental odors (smoke, household cleaners, perfume, room sprays, dust, and pollen), exercise, weather changes, tight collars and sudden movement from a leash.

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