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The Brachycephalic Boston Terrier, Reverse Sneezing

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Author: John P Jackson


Boston Terriers are an adorable little breed loved by many. The experienced Boston Terrier owner is aware of the process called "inspiratory paroxysmal respiration" - or, in layman's terms, reverse sneezing. However, when a first time Boston Terrier owner first sees this process, they may panic. The process of the reverse sneeze is not a pleasant one to watch; it can easily look like the dog is in pain or suffering, but there is no actual harm being done.

If you are owning or purchasing a Boston Terrier for the first time and are curious about reverse sneezes, you have probably at least heard of the behavior, if not witnessed it in another dog. While it can be quite scary to witness, it really is a harmless process of the dog's body trying to rid itself of toxins or debris, much like a normal sneeze. Bouts of reverse sneezing typically last anywhere from 30 seconds to a couple minutes. The dog will stick out his head, extending his neck as much as possible, and breathe in and out rapidly and loudly. It sort of seems like the dog is hyperventilating, but that is not what's happening. Veterinarians have not determined what actually initiates a reverse sneeze, but it is assumed that the dog's body is trying to cleanse itself of some foreign matter.

Boston Terriers, like other small-muzzled breeds, are Brachycephalic. These means that they do not have a very long nose and tend to have a lengthier palate than other breeds. Some veterinarians believe being Brachycephalic is linked to inspiratory paroxysmal respiration, even though it does affect some dogs or breeds of dog who are not Brachycephalic. There is no surefire way to cure or end a bout of reverse sneezing, but trying to calm your dog down with a soft voice and stroking his or her throat can help curtail it sooner. Gently stroking your terrier's throat in a downward motion can help to initiate swallowing, which is likely to end the reverse sneezing process.

While the actual act of a reverse sneeze is harmless to the dog, if reverse sneezing is becoming unusually frequent, it can be an indication of other problems, such as a respiratory irritant or infection, tooth or gum infections, an irritated throat, or even allergies. If your Boston Terrier is have excessive bouts of reverse sneezing, there is a good chance he or she has developed allergies. Your veterinarian can prescribe anti-inflammatory or antihistamine medication that can counteract the allergy and will thus result in less reverse sneezing attacks. In some severe cases, in which the dog is having bouts of reverse sneezing several times daily, you should take him or her to the veterinarian immediately. Reverse sneezing of this frequency can indicate a far more serious problem, such as tumors in the breathing passages or respiratory system, or a collapsing trachea.

Excessive reverse sneezing, as with any strange behavior from your dog, can be indicative of a greater problem, but almost every Brachycephalic dog will undergo several reverse sneezing attacks in his or her lifetime and it is not anything to be too concerned over. The best defense in determining whether your Boston Terrier is suffering from a regular attack or if his or her body is trying to tell you something's wrong is to be very aware of what your dog is like healthy. Measure the frequency with which these reverse sneezing attacks happen and pay attention to any other possibly signs of illness, such as a change in appetite, activity level, or sleeping patterns.


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