Pugs & Reverse Sneezing Syndrome

Reverse sneezing is usually nothing to worry about.
i Sitting Pug image by LOLA from Fotolia.com

If you're a pug lover, then snorting and snoring are all a delightful part of the cute pug package. But new pug owners may panic when he starts reverse sneezing. Fortunately this isn't life threatening. Understanding what is happening and why he does it is the key to pug care.

Pug Anatomy

Reverse sneezing syndrome is associated with dog breeds who have flat faces and short noses, like the pug, English bulldog and Boston terrier. The term for this is brachycephalic. Your pug has a shortened nasal passage and upper respiratory system that causes him breathing difficulties generally, hence your pug's tendency to snore loudly. He is also prone to irritation of the soft palate and throat, which is a result of his anatomical structure. This irritation is the most likely cause of what is known as reverse sneezing, although your pug isn't actually sneezing at all.

Reverse Sneezing

Reverse sneezing is actually a spasm that vets call paroxysmal respiration or pharyngeal gag reflex. During this spasm, your pug may extend his neck and make loud gasping, snorting sounds. His eyes may also bulge. When he does this his trachea, or windpipe, narrows, making it more difficult for him to draw in air and you will probably notice that his chest expands as he tries to inhale more. Unfortunately, it can look as if your pug is having a seizure. It may also seem to you that he is inhaling sneezes and choking on them, hence the term reverse sneezing. A bout of reverse sneezing typically lasts anything from a few seconds to about two minutes, and your pug should be fine once it stops.


The irritants that cause reverse sneezing may vary from dog to dog, but in general they are the irritants associated with allergies, such as dust, pollen, household cleaners and perfumes. Too much excitement from play or exercise might also trigger an episode, as might eating or drinking too rapidly. In general, you won't need to take your pug to see his vet about reverse sneezing, but if the bouts become more frequent it is a good idea to get the vet to check for any other underlying causes that might need treatment, such as an allergy. In this case the vet may recommend antihistamines.

Helping Your Pug

When your pug has an attack of reverse sneezing, the best thing you can do is talk to him calmly and stop him from getting more excited. Massaging your pug's throat gently may also help stop him sneezing, and covering his nostrils with your thumbs encourages him to swallow and get rid of the irritant. This is similar to pinching your own nostrils to stop excessive sneezing. You could also try getting him to drink and remove the irritant that way.

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