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The Root of the Behavior
An inward sneeze, in the most basic sense, is exactly what its name suggests. It is the intake of air rather than the exhaling. There are several names by which inward sneezing may be referred to depending on what expert you consult or which information source you read. Other names for the event include mechanosensitive aspiration reflex, inspiratory paroxysmal respiration, and pharyngeal gag reflex. Whatever name you choose to call it, inward sneezing is a common respiratory event in most dogs. The causes behind it, however, may be debatable with some experts.
First, let's take a look at how to know if what your dog is exhibiting is an inward sneeze or something else entirely. When your pooch experiences an inward sneeze he or she will stand still, with their head and neck extended. This will be followed by a loud sort of snorting sound, which shouldn't be confused with a honk that could indicate something different. The onset is sudden and typically only lasts for a few seconds.
While there are many suspected causes of an inward sneeze, most are harmless and nothing out of the ordinary. One of the most common is simply an irritation of the nasal or sinus passage. This irritation can stem from foreign particles, such as dust, powder, or allergens, being present in your dog's respiratory passages. The sudden and rapidly repeated inhalations of the inward sneeze usually serve to clear these particulates.
It has been found that there are a couple of groups of dog breeds in particular that are more susceptible to inward sneezing episodes. One is the brachycephalic, or shortened head, breeds. This would include breeds such as Pugs and Bulldogs. These breeds, due to their shorter heads, have more elongated soft palates that contribute to more frequent episodes of sucking air into their throats. Smaller breed dogs have also been found to be more prone to frequent bouts of inward sneezing. These small canines have smaller throats and windpipes, which can contribute to foreign particles becoming more easily lodged in your pooch's airway.
Encouraging the Behavior
Your first response when witnessing your dog inward sneezing may be to panic and wonder what you can do to help. Since most episodes are in fact harmless, there is no real treatment that is required. If you feel you have to do something, there are some suggestions that can lessen the severity or duration of the inward sneezing episode.
Blowing in your fur baby's face is one suggestion that could help ease their inward sneezing episode. This is similar to the same act with a human baby. Blowing in their face will cause them to briefly hold their breath and then take a strong gulp of air. Other suggestions include massaging your pup's throat or holding their nostrils closed for just a few seconds. Any of these methods are something you can do yourself to help alleviate the inward sneezing.
There are some things to consider that could help prevent excessive episodes in your pet as well. Some experts suggest that you avoid using the more aromatic cleaning products. Additionally, you should avoid smoking inside, burning candles, and using air fresheners. Any of these can potentially create particulates in the air of your home, which create the possibility of becoming an irritant for your pup.
Lastly, walking your dog on a shorter, flat leash is recommended. This will help to better control where Rover sticks his or her nose. Helping them to avoid areas where allergens can be inhaled also helps reduce the risk of an inward sneezing episode. These few preventative measures can assist in the reduced likelihood of your pooch enduring the inward sneeze.
Other Solutions and Considerations
You may want to be more concerned if the inward sneezing episodes are too frequent or if they are lasting longer than the few seconds that is typical. If you feel that there is a more serious issue at the root of the episode, or if they are excessively frequent, you should seek the aid of your veterinarian. The treatment will depend on what the underlying cause is found to be. Issues ranging from nasal mites (small parasites in the nasal and sinus passages) to allergies, infections, masses, and anatomical abnormalities can contribute to more than frequent, and perhaps more serious, inward sneezing.
So while some may view the inward sneeze as more concerning than others, it always best to monitor any out of the ordinary behavior from your pup. Some sounds coming from your pooch are definitely more concerning than others, but that's not to say that every little 'Ah-choo' (or 'Choo-ah' in this case) should warrant a midnight run to the emergency clinic.