Reverse sneezing in dogs makes a loud snorting sound that can be scary to pet owners the first time they hear it. For those who are not aware of this condition, they might think that their dogs are choking or coughing. The sound is a result of spasm of the soft palate muscle. This article explains the causes of reverse sneezing and the ways to stop the spasm.
What is reverse sneezing in dogs?
Paroxysmal respiration, commonly known as reverse sneezing, is described as a backward sneeze. It’s a common respiratory condition in dogs when something irritates the throat and soft pallet. This starts a spasm which causes the dog to stretch out his head and neck in an effort to breathe.
However, the narrowed trachea keeps him from inhaling fully. It forces him to try inhaling through his nose which induces reverse sneezing. The dog will make rapid and abrupt inhalations which makes loud snorting sounds.
What does reverse sneezing in dogs sound like?
For those who are curious as to what a reverse sneeze sounds like, it’s similar to a goose honking. Whilst it seems like a serious condition, it’s not as bad as it sounds. In general, reverse sneezing in dogs lasts for about 60 seconds before it goes away on its own.
What is a reverse sneeze in dogs caused by?
A regular sneeze is the body’s way of removing irritants found in the nasal passages. Coughing dislodges irritants that are further down the trachea.
On the other hand, reverse sneezing tries to get rid of an irritant located at the nasopharynx, an area above the soft palate. Various factors can trigger this condition. Here are the most common causes of reverse sneezing in dogs:
- Foreign bodies
- Air particles (e.g. dust and smoke)
- Household products (e.g. air fresheners and perfume)
- Nasal mites
- Long soft palate
- Pulling on the lead
- Eating or drinking
- Inflammation on the airways
- Overexcitement accompanied by panting
- Postnasal drip
What breeds are prone to reverse sneezing?
Canine reverse sneezing affects all dogs regardless of their age and breed. However, brachycephalic or flat-faced breeds such as French bulldog and Pug are more prone to this condition. They often have elongated soft palates that can irritate the throat.
It commonly occurs in small and toys breeds such as the Pekingese and Yorkshire Terrier. Their narrow airways and small windpipes make them more likely to reverse sneeze then their larger counterparts.
Reverse Sneezing in Dogs: How to Stop?
In most cases, dogs with an episode of reverse sneezing rarely require medication or treatment. Reverse sneezing usually lasts for a minute or less, and it will go away on its own.
There are many ways you can try to stop reverse sneezing in dogs. Here are the following things that you can do:
- Gently blowing into your dog’s face
Place yourself at least 6 to 15 cm apart from your dog’s face. Then, aim a few soft puffs of air to his nose. This will break the cycle of repetitive inhalations.
- Massaging his throat
Use your fingers to rub his throat in an up and down motion. It helps in alleviating the irritation on his throat. You may also say soothing words to keep him calm.
- Pinching his nose
This makes your dog involuntarily swallow, which can stop the reverse sneeze. Just do a one-second quick and gentle pinch on his nostrils. Keep in mind not to squeeze too hard as it can damage his nose. Just briefly covering his nose would suffice.
- Move him to an area with fewer irritants
For some dogs, reverse sneezing is caused by air irritants such as smoke or dust. Pick him up and carry him outdoors if an episode starts. Calmly do this to keep him from struggling and feeling agitated.
- Give him a treat
This can help in realigning the back of your dog’s throat. Try letting him chew on food or a treat when a reverse sneeze episode starts.
Is reverse sneezing in dogs dangerous?
Canine reverse sneezing is often a mild condition that does not need treatment. However, frequent reverse sneezing in dogs is not a good sign. It may be caused by an underlying health problem and need to get diagnosed by the vet. Chronic dog reverse sneezing can be associated with other health conditions such as:
It causes lung and airway irritation. This results in breathing difficulties, wheezing, and coughing.
- Brachycephalic syndrome
Flat-faced breeds tend to have difficulties or noisy breathing due to their short snouts.
- Upper respiratory infections
Might be caused by a virus or bacteria. Afflicted dogs are prone to honking cough, sneezing, and watery eyes.
- Collapsing trachea
This occurs when the trachea collapses on itself. This results in laboured breathing and coughing.
- Heart disease
May cause fluid build-up in the lungs leading to vomiting, coughing and gasping.
How is a reverse sneeze diagnosed?
The vet will rely on your dog’s medical history and clinical signs. They will start ruling out potential causes of your pooch’s symptoms. It is a good idea to record and bring a video of his reverse sneezing episodes during the assessment. It is a big help for the vet’s differential diagnosis.
In some cases, blood test, radiograph, fibre optic imaging, anaesthetised examination, and other tests may be required to accurately rule out other health problems that cause the same symptoms.
How to Prevent Reverse Sneezing in Dogs?
Reverse sneezing in dogs is not entirely preventable. However, there are measures you can take to minimise its occurrence. Below are a few tips on how to help with reverse sneezing:
- Do not use harsh cleaning products, candles, or air fresheners. These can leave a strong scent in your home, which can trigger a reverse sneezing fit.
- Keep your home clean regularly to lessen the accumulation of dust. Close your windows to prevent outside allergens or irritants from getting in. Make sure to clean and replace air filters as per manufacturer guidelines.
- Consider walking your dog on a short, flat lead. This will prevent him from sniffing in areas where environmental irritants such as pollen can be inhaled.