Dr. Dolittler

Puppy has attack of the reverse sneeze



Q. Last week our new puppy started making a horrible sound we’d never heard before. We couldn’t tell if it was coming from her nose or throat. We honestly thought she was going to die, but a neighbor told us it was normal. How can that be?

What you’re describing was almost certainly a common spasm that’s often called a reverse sneeze. Cats, too, occasionally experience this disconcerting but benign condition.

The cause of reverse sneezing is believed to be an irritation of the soft palate. The result is a hiccup-like spasm that looks like a rhythmic combination of a cough, sneeze, gag, honk or snort.

Any irritant can cause it, including excitement, eating or drinking, exercise, leash-pulling, inhalation of pollen, strong odors, viruses, bacteria, household chemicals and respiratory allergies.

The causes are so varied that it’s almost impossible to know what caused an episode, which, of course, makes it hard to prevent another one.

You might find that relaxing your puppy – by massaging her throat, hugging her or providing some other type of soothing stimulus – ends future episodes more quickly. Alternatively, eliciting a swallow reflex by briefly closing her nostrils might help clear any irritant from the soft palate.

Persistent or especially violent bouts of reverse sneezing may warrant investigation to rule out underlying disorders. If you’re not sure it’s normal, take a quick smart-phone video of the event for your veterinarian to see.

Dr. Patty Khuly has a veterinary practice in South Miami. Her website is drpattykhuly.com. Send questions to khulyp@bellsouth.net, or Dr. Dolittler, Tropical Life, The Miami Herald, 3511 NW 91st Ave., Doral, FL 33172.

Read more Pets stories from the Miami Herald

  • Talking Dog: Training and treats can stop leash pulling

    Question: I have taught my dog Brutus to walk on a leash without pulling, which he does perfectly, but only on the way home from the park where he gets to run every day. On the way to the park, he pulls so hard that he retches, and I can hardly control him. I've put a harness on him so he doesn't choke himself, but it hasn't helped. -Brent

  • Animal Island: Dog doesn't get along with other canines

    Q: My 5-year-old Maltipoo is sweet and lovable, but when she sees another dog, she starts growling and whining. She barks at all breeds, from Yorkies to Great Danes. I would appreciate your advice on what to do when this happens and why she acts this way.

  • Pet Vet: Dealing with an itchy problem

    Skin problems, particularly itchy skin problems, can be quite frustrating to deal with, both as a caretaker trying to help our companion, and as a veterinarian with the same goal.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category