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Reverse Sneezing in Dogs

Reverse sneezing in dogs can look alarming.

Reverse sneezing in dogs is an event where the dog makes odd respiratory noises for a few seconds to several minutes at a time. It can be quite a scary thing because it is easy for an owner to confuse it with choking or being unable to breathe. Luckily, reverse sneezing usually is not a dangerous event for a dog.

Presentation and Signs of Reverse Sneezing in Dogs

Find out what reverse sneezing in dogs looks like.

Reverse sneezing is an event that sounds like a dog is inhaling a sneeze. He is, in fact, rapidly pulling air into his nose rather than exhaling it out. He extends his neck, and his chest expands as he tries to inhale a normal breath. He makes honking, snorting, and spluttering noises that sound like something's stuck in his nose or throat. You can see a dog that is reverse sneezing in this video.

Causes of Reverse Sneezing in Dogs

Reverse sneezing in dogs is caused by irritation to the throat or soft palate (the fleshy structures in the back of the mouth, extending into the throat). In flat-faced (brachycephalic) breeds, the soft palate may be long enough to extend into the airways too far, resulting in a higher potential for reverse sneezing. Irritations that can cause reverse sneezing include:

  • Excitement
  • Eating or drinking
  • Pulling on the leash
  • Allergies
  • Foreign bodies such as foxtails
  • Perfumes, candles, incense, or cigarette smoke
  • Bacteria or viruses
  • Chemicals such as household cleaners
  • Tumors in the nasal cavity

Breeds, Gender, and Ages Most Commonly Affected by Reverse Sneezing in Dogs

Dogs with long noses and, therefore, more narrow nasal passages are affected more commonly by reverse sneezing, as are flat-faced dogs. Small breed dogs seem to be affected more often than larger breeds. There is no gender or age predilection.

Diagnosis of Canine Reverse Sneezing

The diagnosis of reverse sneezing is generally made through giving your veterinarian an oral description of your dog's episodes. There are some conditions that may present with similar signs. The most notable of these are collapsing trachea, upper respiratory infection, and tracheobronchitis (commonly called kennel cough). Therefore, your veterinarian will take a history from you about your dog's episodes and do a thorough physical examination to look for signs of a problem other than reverse sneezing. It is sometimes helpful to video record an event to show the doctor. This will help him or her to identify whether it is a reverse sneeze or something else.

Treatment of Reverse Sneezing in Dogs

Most of the time, reverse sneezing does not require treatment. You can sometimes help shorten the episode by massaging your dog's throat gently. You should remain calm, so your dog doesn't react to your panic by becoming upset himself.

There are some instances when a dog that experiences reverse sneezing should be checked out by the veterinarian:

  • If you aren't sure whether your dog is reverse sneezing or coughing, having trouble with a collapsing trachea, or regular sneezing. Try to record an episode to show your veterinarian for verification.
  • If your dog has reverse sneezing that becomes chronic, is extensive, or begins suddenly and occurs often, you should visit the veterinarian. He or she may wish to test for allergies, polyps, or other conditions that may be treated to improve the reverse sneezing.
  • If any more serious signs of illness develop along with the reverse sneezing, such as nasal discharge, lethargy, or a cough, further testing will also be required.

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