What Causes Reverse Sneezing in Dogs?
Posted by Volhard Dog Nutrition on Jan 23rd 2023
Reverse sneezing, or paroxysmal respiration, is a fairly common condition among dogs. Parents associate it with the scary image of their dogs making a snorting sound as if inhaling their own sneeze (i.e., a "backward sneeze''). What happens during reverse sneezing episodes is often alarming for dog parents — the dog rapidly pulls air into the nose and repeatedly sneezes to push it out. In the meantime, the dog extends their head and neck and keeps their mouth open while their lips puff out and get sucked in.
The first occurrence of a reverse sneezing episode is always alarming for dog parents. Fortunately, however, reverse sneezing is not a severe medical condition, nor does it require medication or surgery. Symptoms last anywhere between a couple of seconds and a minute. During a reverse sneezing episode, all that parents can do is comfort the dog until it stops. If you're concerned about your dog's well-being, don't hesitate to seek veterinary help to rule out any underlying causes of this condition.
Which Breeds Are Predisposed To Reverse Sneezing?
Although it occurs among all dogs, the breeds that most often go through reverse sneezing episodes are:
- Toy breeds
- Brachycephalic breeds
Is Reverse Sneezing in Dogs Dangerous?
The first reverse sneezing episode is always frightening for dog parents. Fortunately, there's nothing for you to be afraid of. Your dog will be completely fine once the episode is over. Keep comforting your dog until the end of the reverse sneeze, and reward them with praise and treats to make the memory of this unpleasant experience go away.
How Long Does a Reverse Sneezing Episode Last?
It is impossible to predict when a reverse sneeze will occur or its duration. In general, a reverse sneeze will last anywhere between a couple of seconds and a minute.
What Lies Behind a Dog's Reverse Sneeze?
Irritation is the main reason behind a dog's reverse sneezing. It mainly occurs in the nose, the sinus passages, or even the back of the throat. Environmental factors and different irritants, such as nasal mites, thick secretions, smoke, certain odors, and even foreign bodies (e.g., seeds, pollen, dust, or grass), can trigger a reverse sneeze.
In the case of brachycephalic breeds, their elongated soft palate is sometimes sucked into the throat, leading to reverse sneezing. Bulldogs, Pugs, and Boxers are among the most common breeds with an elongated soft palate.
In more severe cases, veterinarians will conduct extensive testing (e.g., blood tests, X-rays) to ascertain whether mast tumors or polyps are the reason behind your dog's reverse sneezing.
Do I Need To Take My Dog to the Vet?
Although unnecessary in mild cases, taking your dog to the vet will help put your mind at ease concerning your dog's reverse sneezing, especially if the episodes repeat themselves with unsettling frequency (e.g., every 2-3 minutes). The vet will thoroughly inspect your dog's respiratory system to ensure no obstruction of the nasal passages or upper respiratory tract infection causes abnormal breathing.
Are Reverse Sneezing and Collapsing Trachea the Same?
Another medical condition you should be on the lookout for when diagnosing your dog's reverse sneezing is collapsing trachea. It occurs when the C-shaped cartilage rings forming the trachea (i.e., the tube transporting air to and from the lungs) weaken and collapse on themselves. Smaller breeds (e.g., Chihuahuas, Shih Tzus, and Yorkshire Terriers), whose trachea is smaller and weaker, are predisposed to this condition.
It's easy for dog parents to mistake tracheal collapse for reverse sneezing since both manifest themselves through a similar, loud honking sound. However, they significantly differ in severity. While reverse sneezing quickly resolves itself, frequent tracheal collapse episodes will cause inflammation in the trachea, making it more likely to collapse. Medication or surgery is necessary to treat tracheal collapse in dogs.
Treatment for Reverse Sneezing in Dogs
Fortunately, most reverse sneezing cases require no medical treatment. There's no telling when the next episode will occur, which is why no amount of preparation can prevent it. The best you can do is gently stroke the neck to calm your dog down during an episode. Your vet may prescribe antihistamines or decongestants if allergies are the main contributing factor to your dog's reverse sneeze.
Acupressure (i.e., the practice of applying pressure to specific acupoints using one's fingers) can stop reverse sneezing in dogs. During each episode, focus on the pressure point in the front legs, near the knee, or GV14 (i.e., Governing Vessel 14), found at the base of the neck, in front of the shoulder blades. Focusing on the GV14 will also balance your dog's internal heat levels during the dog days of summer.
Most Dogs Reverse Sneeze, and There's Nothing Wrong With It!
We know that the loud snorting sound makes you constantly worry about your dog's health — that's completely normal. But the best you can do during an episode of reverse sneezing is comfort your dog and reward them with praise and treats. Don't hesitate to see a vet if your dog's reverse sneeze occurs every 2-3 minutes or if you suspect they might be dealing with another medical condition. For more advice on dog nutrition, health, and training, make sure that you contact us and check out our blog!
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