Many dog owners tend to be quite worrisome when it comes to their canine pet; they look for any signs of pain and/or distress, as they are aware of the fact that their dogs cannot speak for themselves to communicate any problems. One of the behaviors that never fails to terrify dog owners, especially the first time they witness it, is the "reverse sneeze." While the majority of dog breeds has an occasional bout of reverse sneezing, breeds with short noses, also called Brachycephalic breeds, seem to be especially prone to this behavior; Boston Terriers are among the Brachycephalic breeds and they are among the breeds that most commonly exhibit reverse sneezing.
In reverse sneezing, also known as inspiratory paroxysmal respiration, the dog actually seems like he is forcefully trying to inhale a sneeze through his nose; the dog rapidly gasps and snorts, while his head and neck are extended. The actual cause of the reverse sneeze is unknown, but some experts believe that the elongated palate of Brachycephalic breeds could make them prone to this condition; there are quite a few breeds, however, that display reverse sneezing which are not Brachycephalic and which do not have an especially elongated palate. There are certain factors that seem to increase the likelihood and frequency of the behavior, such as the presence of allergies, stress, respiratory infections, irritants, tooth infections, and others. With regards to the Boston Terrier and other short-nosed breeds, if fluid or debris becomes trapped under the elongated palate, breathing may be limited and/or the throat may be irritated.
These episodes are not harmful to the dog, and may just be a bit scary to both a dog that first experiences reverse sneezing and his human owner who witnesses it for the first time. Some owners report successfully calming an episode by talking to the dog in a soothing voice and rubbing the throat area gently; rubbing the throat causes the dog to swallow and this usually ends the reverse sneeze. Other owners have pinched the nose of the dog, blown in his face and/or taken him outside. Even if the owner doesn't intervene, though, reverse sneezes are self-limiting, which means that they will end on their own. The dogs are not affected at all by the episode, and are normal both before and after a reverse sneeze. A dog will most likely experience several episodes throughout his life at various times; some dogs will reverse sneeze after a nap or when they get excited, while others will have completely random patterns of reverse sneezing.
While the condition does not usually require medication, certain dogs may be put on antihistamines or anti-inflammatory drugs if allergies are responsible for triggering "attacks." If your dog experiences prolonged and severe bouts of reverse sneezing more than twice a day, it may be a good idea to take him or her to the vet; try to videotape the dog on several occasions during episodes of reverse sneezing. If the attacks are severe, they may be an indication of some other condition, such as a tracheal collapse or a nasal tumor.