Health Symptoms & Solutions Reverse Sneezing in Dogs: Identifying And Dealing With It

Reverse Sneezing in Dogs: Identifying And Dealing With It

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It can be scary when you first encounter an episode of reverse sneezing in dogs. But, fortunately, this is usually not a serious problem and it will rarely require medication or treatment.

Of course, there are issues that are more serious, such as Lyme disease. You should read this to recognize the symptoms.

What Is Reverse Sneezing in Dogs?

The medical term for reverse sneezing is paroxysmal respiration and it occurs when the dog’s soft palate is irritated. This commonly occurs when the dog rapidly pulls air into his nose instead of pushing it out. A regular sneeze expels air forcefully from the body.

With this occurence of sneezing, the dog’s soft palate muscles go into spasm and narrow the dog’s trachea. Should this occur, the dog will remain still, extend his head and neck while attempting to expand their chest.

Remember, stand still, extend, that’s reverse sneezing in a nutshell. The aim is to increase the flow of air to their lungs.

However, the narrowed trachea restricts the opportunity to inhale full breaths. Realizing this your dog will attempt to inhale through the nose. The consequence is bouts of reverse sneezing. The entire episode will usually last for 30 seconds or less.

Prolonged reverse sneezing is exceptionally rare, although does occasionally happen and is a cause of concern. During the reverse sneezing attack, your dog will be struggling to breathe. As breathing supplies oxygen to all the cells in their body, the longer the episode lasts the greater the possibility of damage to their organs.

A good indication that the episode has finished is when your dog exhales from their nose. This signals that breathing and oxygen have returned to normal.

What Does Reverse Sneezing Sound Like?

Highlighting the sound allows you to identify it as similar to that made when geese honk. This is appreciably close enough to the actual sound and a good benchmark for you to remember.

This can be particularly scary and disturbing when you have never heard or experienced it before. It can also be dangerous if you mistake coughing, choking, or other common respiratory issues for reverse sneezing.

If you’re finding it difficult to identify the sound your dog is making, you’ll find it advantageous to record one of your dog’s episodes. To facilitate a diagnosis you can dispatch a copy of the video to your local vet, they’ll be happy to administer a professional opinion. However, if it becomes apparent that your dog is choking or has an alternative condition, use his carrier and transport him to the vet instantly.

Note: The dog will make a rapid loud snorting sound, that’s the distinguishing mark of reverse sneezing.

What Causes It?

If your dog reverse sneezes, it signals that he has an irritant that requires expelling. The irritant or stimulant has the same effect on your dog as the trigger for a normal sneeze or cough.

The difference illustrates the fact that regular sneezing or coughing expel irritants from the upper respiratory tract. Reverse sneezing expels irritants from the area by the soft palate, that’s the lower respiratory tract, a bit further down the nasal passages.

Unfortunately, the array of possible causes leading to the desire to reverse sneeze is vast. These include allergies, overexcitement, elongated soft palate, foreign objects in the throat, and nasal mites. Household products such as perfumes or cleaning products and pulling on a leash while attached to a dog collar have also been demonstrated to cause reverse sneezing.

Tricolor Beagle on fabric sofa. Part of the "What Is Reverse Sneezing in Dogs and What to Do About It?" article.
Photo by Andres Arbelaez on Unsplash

How to Treat or Stop Reverse Sneezing in Dogs?

Reverse sneezing is a benign process and doesn’t generally require treatment or medication. However, if the episodes become more frequent and severe, get in touch with your vet to determine the underlying cause. If this is caused by allergies, he may prescribe an antihistamine. If there are nasal mites present, he will treat them with an antiparasitic medication.

Fortunately, there are several methods which are successful at stopping spasms and reverse sneezing in dogs. You can try to briefly cover the nostrils or close them to help your dog swallow. This can assist in stopping the reverse sneezing. Essentially you need to remember not to keep the nostrils closed for too long.

You may also try to massage your dog’s throat to soothe the irritation or dislodge an object that may be stuck in his throat. However, it may be necessary to take your dog to the vet to remove a foreign object.

Did you find this article interesting and would you like to read more about your dogs health? Worms are a common cause of dog health problems. Read our in-depth article on dog worms and how to recognize them.


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