Friday, March 6, 2015

Reverse sneezing: What all Boston terrier owners should know

Sinead the Boston terrier in her bed

Flat-faced dogs like Sinead make all sorts of noises that other dogs simply don't make. She snorts and sniffles and wheezes, and sometimes, she even coughs. But she also makes a very specific set of noises when she's a little too excited and she has a little too much snot.

It's called "reverse sneezing," and it's pretty common for pups like Sinead, especially in the springtime. Thankfully, it sounds a lot scarier than it really is.

A reverse sneeze is nothing more than a dog's attempt to clear out a blocked nasal passage. Pups can't blow their noses gently, so they stand with their feet apart and blow air back out and back in, trying to move the mucus along.

When Sinead gets a fit, she stands with her feet far apart, and she holds that stiff posture until she clears that wee nose out. In a few minutes, she's done.

In most cases, it's best to leave reverse sneezing dogs alone. Typically, they'll go through the episode without a lot of stress, unless their owners stress out. If I get worried and I overreact, Sinead gets nervous, too. And then the episode lasts longer.

Sinead looks cute in her bed

But, if the whole problem seems to last and last without getting better, there are a few things owners can do to help. When Sinead seems stuck, I massage her throat very gently. Often, that makes her swallow, and that action helps to clear out her sinuses. If that doesn't work, I place my fingers over her nostrils for a second or two. As she inhales against my fingers, the blockage gets moved and she feels fine.

Dogs who reverse sneeze a lot (like daily) should see the doctor, experts say, as it could be a sign of some anatomical disorder. And episodes that last and last with no relief might also merit a visit to the doctor (or the emergency veterinarian, depending on the severity).

But, I've never had an episode of the wheezies last for more than just a few seconds. With a little patience and a touch of help, my dog gets through them without difficulty. I hope your dogs have the same experience!


  1. My border collies occasionally reverse sneeze, too. The first time it happened it worried me and I called my vet. I was so relieved when she explained what it was!

    1. I had no idea border collies did that!