It can be extremely alarming to see your dog suddenly start to choke on air. As dog guardians, this is an extremely frightening experience. They wish to quickly help their dog but don’t know what to do. This article will cover everything about this condition, also known as reverse sneezing in dogs. The medical name of this condition is paroxysmal respiration. When suffering from this, the dog rapidly pulls air in through the nose. In the case of normal sneezing, the air is rapidly pushed out of the nose while in reverse sneezing it’s rapidly taken in. It may seem that your dog is snorting in quick succession.
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Topics covered in this blog post
Understanding dog reverse sneezing
Even though it is extremely alarming to see your dog going through an episode of reverse sneezing, the first thing you must remember is that this is a temporary episode. It will go away on its own and won’t leave any side effects. The dog will be completely normal once the episode is over.
During a reverse sneezing episode, you may notice your dog making long, rapid, and scary-sounding inspirations while standing still. He may have his head and neck extended. During dog reverse sweeping, the dog produces a snorting sound. It may seem that your dog has something stuck in his throat. An episode of reverse sneezing can last for a period of a few seconds to several minutes.
Causes behind reverse sneezing in dogs
Reverse sneezing can affect any and all dogs. However, this is more commonly seen in dogs of small sizes like Terriers and other dog breeds that are brachycephalic in nature. Since reverse sneezing is a paroxysmal type respiratory response, it occurs with spasms-like episodes.
Even though reverse sneezing is common in canines, it is rarely observed in feline species (cats). In most cases, reverse sneezing in dogs is caused by the presence of irritation or inflammation of the sinus, pharyngeal, or nasal passages. If your dog engages in reverse sneezing as a result of allergy or irritant presence, this may be your dog’s way of removing foreign particles like powder, dust, or any other irritant that may be present in the passageway of the upper respiratory tract. You may also observe such behavior if your dog is overexcited as well.
Characteristics of reverse sneezing
The most common characteristic of reverse sneezing is that it forces the dog to engage in repeated inhalation of air through the nostrils causing sounds like shooting or gagging. As mentioned before, reverse sneezing does not harm the dog. However, if your dog has a pre-existing heart issue, then this sign must not be ignored. Dogs who have undergone reverse sneezing will not necessarily undergo reverse sneezing repeatedly in on multiple occasions.
Why does reverse sneezing in dogs occur?
The exact cause behind the occurrence of reverse sneezing has not yet been uncovered. Researchers believe that inflammation or irritation in the nasal passages or throat can bring in such responses. Some of the possible triggers can be:
- Foreign objects
- Leash pulling
- Respiratory infections
One more thing that you must remember is there are certain dog breeds, like the ones belonging to the brachycephalic sections or are small in size have a higher chance of suffering from reverse sneezing due to the make of their anatomy.
As I mentioned previously, reverse sneezing in dogs is not a serious condition. Therefore, this symptom does not need any form of treatment. However, on the other hand, if the reverse sneezing occurs in prolonged episodes or occurs along with other symptoms like difficulty in breathing or coughing, you must consult your veterinarian as soon as insanely possible. To identify the underlying cause, your vet may recommend nasal endoscopy or X-rays. These will help identify and rule out the underlying health condition. This will also help the vet identify the best treatment course to take for your dog.
Which dog breeds undergo reverse sneezing?
Technically dogs of any breed can suffer from reverse sneezing. However, dogs of certain breeds are more prone to reverse sneezing owing to their anatomy. Some of the breeds that show reverse sneezing are:
- Brachycephalic breeds like boxers, Shih Tzu, pugs Boston Terriers and Bulldogs
- Toy breeds like toy poodles, chihuahuas, and Maltese.
- Small breeds like dachshunds
- Sight hounds like Greyhounds, Saluki etc.
Signs and symptoms of dog reverse sneezing
I will again reiterate this factor that reverse sneezing is not indicative of a serious health issue. However, witnessing your dog go through such an experience can be horrifying. The primary symptom of reverse sneezing is the rapid and sudden inhalation of air via the nose. This in turn leads to the generation of a noise that resembles a snorting or honking sound. Some of the other common reverse sneezing symptoms are
- Standing very still with the neck in an extended position during an episode
- The dog looks like he cannot breathe on is choking on something.
- Nasal discharge or mucus
- Excessive coughing or snorting
The good part about reverse sneezing is that it is usually short-lived. It lasts from a period of a few seconds to a few hours. Most dogs do not exhibit any form of symptom after the episode gets over. However, in case your dog is constantly reverse sneezing or shows other signs like coughing, or difficulty in breathing, consult your veterinarian,
How does dog reverse sneezing differ from regular sneezing?
There are many differences between regular and reverse sneezing in Dogs. In reverse sneezing, the dog struggles to inhale air while in the case of a normal sneeze, the dog exhales the air from his nostrils. Here are some other differences between reverse and regular sneezing-
In case of reverse sneezing the dog produces a choking and hacking sound. You may also hear your dog inhale shallow breaths. If may seem like your dog is having a very hard-time breathing. On the other hand, when a dog sneezes, their purpose is to expel air from the nostrils. It does not occur with a frightening sound.
Reverse sneezing is generally seen to last from a few seconds to of a period of a minute. On the other hand, sneezing can go on for a few minutes.
The frequency of occurrence of reverse sneezing is infrequent. Thus, it is not a cause for your concern. On the other hand, regular sneezing tends to occur regularly. It an also be a sign of an existing underlying health issue.
Anything that triggers the nasal cavity of your dog can cause reverse sneezing. This can either be foreign materials, excitement, infections, allergies, etc. Sneezing regularly can also be in response to infections or allergies. It is a reflex mechanism to clear out your dog’s nasal passages.
In most cases, reverse sneezing stops on its own. No external treatment is needed. However, if your dog repeatedly experiences reverse sneezing, it is a sign of an underlying medical condition and must be addressed at the earliest. The frequent reverse sneezing episodes may occur due to infections, anatomical issues (narrow nasal cavities or elongated soft-palate section), or allergies.
Causes behind reverse sneezing in dogs
As I have mentioned before, reverse sneezing can occur due to various reasons. However, in most cases this is not a cause for concern for dog guardians. Unfortunately, the exact cause of reverse sneezing has not yet been identified. There are many conditions that have been known to boost reverse sneezing. Allergies towards plants and pollens are one of the most common conditions. Mostly, in response to this, dogs will sneeze. However, reverse sneezing may also take place for the following reasons:
Another factor that may contribute to reverse sneezing is nasal mites. If you feel that your dog has nasal mites, take him to the vet as soon as possible so that the best course of treatment can be identified and started.
Dogs with longer snouts are much more prone to reverse sneezing that ones with shorter snouts. However, any dog can develop this problem. This can also be a part of a chronic reverse sneezing issue. Thus, if your dog is having repeated episodes, take him to the vet. Dogs with brachycephalic anatomy are also more prone to developing the problem of reverse sneezing due to the occurrence of the elongated soft palate and narrow nasal passages.
If you have a hyperactive dog who gets excited or hyper-stimulated very quickly, he may face reverse sneezing during conditions of hyper-excitement.
If your dog is suffering from a viral or bacterial infection of the respiratory tract, it can cause irritation and inflammation that can in turn cause reverse sneezing.
Certain irritants like perfume, smoke, chemicals, and cleaning products can cause the nasal passages to get irritated and in turn, initiate a reverse sneezing episode.
If your dog inhales foreign objects like grass, dust or seeds, it can lead to nasal passage irritation which in turn can cause reverse sneezing.
The vet will first examine your dog to find out if any underlying condition is causing reverse sneezing like nasal tumor, a collapse in the trachea, etc. If your vet rules out all medical conditions that may cause problems, they may diagnose your dog with an idiopathic reverse sneezing condition.
How to prevent reverse sneezing in dogs?
Reverse sneezing is a common reflex action in dogs. It is not always possible to prevent it. However, you can take certain steps to ensure that the frequency of reverse sneezing reduces or at least the severity of the same is on the lower side.
Ensure that your dog stays away from every possible irritant like perfumes cleaning products, chemicals etc
Keep a clean home
Clean your home regularly so that irritants like dust, cold, and other allergens can be eliminated.
Install air purifiers
Make sure that your home is equipped with air purifiers so that all the pollutants and allergens can be removed from the air.
In case your dog suffers from allergies, get in touch with your veterinarian and discuss a treatment plan to help your dog manage the symptoms.
Always ensure that your dog has access to fresh and clean drinking water. This will prevent dryness and dehydration of the nasal passages.
Try to keep your dog from getting overexcited. Do not over-stimulate him either with excessive exercise or playtime. These factors can cause reverse sneezing.
If your dog has a reverse sweeping problem, avoid using narrow or tight collars. Such types of collars can put excess pressure on the dog’s throat and cause irritation to the nasal passages.
Diagnosis of reverse sneezing in dogs
If your vet is suspecting that your dog might be suffering from reverse sneezing, they will focus on the clinical signs and history. They will also check the other causes that may cause such symptoms as foreign bodies, upper respiratory tract infection, nasal tumours, polyps, or collapsed trachea.
In some cases, the vet will also conduct X-rays, blood tests, or allergy tests to rule out other conditions that may be contributing to the reverse sneezing episode.
How to help your dog?
If your dog is having a case of reverse sneezing, there isn’t much you can do. Unfortunately, in most cases, these episodes occur and stop on their own. In case it seems that your dog is stressed because of reverse sneezing; you can pet him in a gentle manner. Do not pet the snout or face. Petting is a good way to reassure your dog that you are there for him and that this will all be over soon.
Apart from petting your pup your dog should get over the episode within a minute or so. If this is the first time your dog has had an attack of reverse sneezing, consult the vet so that any underlying medical condition can be ruled out. If your dog is diagnosed with reverse sneezing, you need not take him to the vet repeatedly. Just know this will be a part of your dog’s life.
In case your dog often has reverse sneezing episodes, your vet may prescribe antihistamines. This is not a common treatment for reverse sneezing. However, it can keep the allergies at bay if the reverse p sneezing happens due to them. In case your vet does not prescribe medication it means the condition is not serious enough to warrant medications. Alternatively, the vet may prescribe an anti-contestant if the reverse sneezing is occurring due to cough and cold.
Treatment for reverse sneezing
If the reverse sneezing is caused by allergies or due to an inflammation in the respiratory tract of the dog, your vet may prescribe medicines like:
Anti-histamines are used to relieve sneezing, itching, and any other symptom of allergy that your dog may exhibit. The most common anti-histamines that are used are diphenhydramine, cetrizine, and fexofenadine.
In case your dog has inflammation in the nasal passages, your veterinarian may prescribe corticosteroids since these can help reduce inflammation. Furthermore, these medicines also help reduce the symptoms of infection and allergies. The most common corticosteroids used in the case of dogs are dexamethasone and prednisone.
Decongestants are prescribed if there is swelling in the nasal passage of the dog. These will reduce the swelling and allow the dog to breathe more freely. However, decongestants and other medications should only be administered to your dog under the guidance of a veterinarian. This is because certain forms of decongestants can be harmful to dogs. The most common decongestants used for dogs are phenylephrine and pseudoephedrine
For the medication, you must consult your net. Please do not give your dog any human medication unless your vet asks you to. When you go to the vet, always inform them about all your dog’s medications.
Reverse sneezing in dogs can occur due to a variety of causes. The good thing is that this is not a permanent problem and goes away on its own. You can give your dog reassuring pets. Other than that, you will have to wait it out. In case your dog is regularly experiencing reverse sneezing, take him to the vet so any underlying condition can be ruled out.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Seeing your dog suffering through an episode of reverse sneezing can be pretty scary for any dog guardian. However, this is not a serious condition. You can either blow on your dog’s nose lightly or hold the dog’s nose closed for a couple of seconds and massage the throat to help stop the reverse sneezing episode.
Even though it is terrifying to watch your dog go through an episode of reverse sneezing, it is not harmful. There are no ill effects from reverse sneezing. Your dog will feel completely at ease once the episode has passed.
Even though anxiety cannot start reverse sneezing in dogs, it can however exacerbate the situation. If your dog is going through a phase of reverse sneeze, try to stay calm and allow the episode to finish.
Generally, reverse sneezing does not occur more than twice a day. If you notice reverse sneezing occurring over twice a day, you should book a consultation with your veterinarian so that you can get your dog checked out for any underlying medical issues.