My dog had this episode when he was snorting – I thought he was suffocating

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Our question this week was:

Dr. Debra – I was so worried – I have a 25 pound mixed breed dog and he just had this episode when he was snorting – I thought he was suffocating but then he was okay. It wasn’t quite a sneeze or cough or gag. It is hard to describe. I really thought he was dying. It went on for at least a minute which seemed like forever. Then he was fine. As I type this he is looking at me like I’m crazy for worrying! What was it? Should I worry? This is the only time it ever happened.

Donna – Colorado Springs, CO

Answer

Hi – thanks for your email. It sounds like your dog had an episode of “Reverse Sneezing”. It sounds like he is fine now.
A reverse sneeze is something particular to dogs. In a regular sneeze, a dog pushes air out through the nose. In a reverse sneeze, air is pulled rapidly in through the nose producing a noisy inspiratory effort.

I have an article about it on our site – go to Reverse Sneezing in Dogs. The article says it well. This is what a reverse sneeze looks like:

During a reverse sneeze, your dog will make rapid inspirations, stand still with his elbows spread apart, extend his head, and his eyes may bulge. He’ll make a loud snorting sound, which might make you think he has something caught in his throat. Many dog owners think their pet is suffocating during a reverse sneeze episode. Each reverse sneezing occurrence generally lasts for less than a minute up to two minutes.

No need to worry. It if is infrequent and your dog is otherwise healthy, it is not a problem. Your dog will not suffocate!

Best of luck!

Dr. Debra

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