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Everything you need to know about dog reverse sneezing

By Dawn Parrish Content Writer

Updated on the

Reverse sneezing is a common occurrence in dogs. Air is pulled rapidly through the nose making your dog snort or gasp for breath

How to recognise a reverse sneeze

Although not really a sneeze as such, if you’ve ever seen your dog gasping for breath, honking, or snorting, you’ve probably just witnessed your dog reverse sneezing! As pet owners, we need to be aware of this action. As a result of this sneeze, your dog may stand with legs apart and elbows tense. His eyes will appear to be strained or bulging. Episodes are probably triggered by excitement or a collar being too tight. Other possible causes could be a sudden change in environmental temperature or exposure to any allergens.  A dog reverse sneezing a lot could be harbouring a more serious condition.

Reverse sneezing in dogs

To give it the technical term of “paroxysmal respiration” or “pharyngeal gag reflex”, or a reverse sneeze. This is not a serious canine condition, although at the time it does sound quite life-threatening, especially if your dog gasps for breath. An irritation to the soft palate on the roof of the dog’s mouth is probably one reason for an episode of reverse sneezing. This may result in a spasm, which in turn brings about a narrowing of the trachea. This makes it much more difficult for your dog to get air, so he will let out a gasp.

Dog reverse sneeze treatment

To help your dog to recover from one of these episodes, begin to cover his nose. This has the effect of making him swallow to clear his throat of any irritation. Likewise, gently massage his throat. If this solution doesn’t appear to be working, offer the dog some water or food. You can also attempt to hold down his tongue to allow more air into his nose. Obviously, take care when you have your fingers in the dog’s mouth as he could be afraid and snap at you. When the dog ceases the reverse sneeze, the spasm will stop. Your pet should show signs of recovery in a short while, with no side effects. Should your dog appear to have episodes of reverse sneezing a lot more than normal, maybe there is something else that the Vet will check out.

Other signs to look out for in a reverse sneezing dog

First of all, a reverse sneeze doesn’t usually indicate a serious health problem. There are however, other symptoms to look out for that certainly could point to something more worrying. Does your dog have a deformity around his nose, difficulty breathing, loss of energy or appetite and any blood or discharge from his nose? If so, further investigation is required.

Breeds more susceptible to reverse sneezing

Dogs with flat faces, such as Shih Tzus and Boxers can experience more bouts of this condition. Their soft palate is more stretched out, and when they inhale, they tend to suck the palate into their throat. As a general rule, smaller breed of dogs, as they have smaller throats, are more at risk of reverse sneezing. The gasp of air is sometimes known as the “Cavalier Snort”, as it is very familiar with Cavalier King Charles spaniel dogs. Cambridge Veterinary School reports that Laryngeal noise is especially attributed to Pug dogs. It is called stridor and it is a high-pitched noise, similar to wheezing and different from low-pitched noises like snoring or snorting. Usually, this type of noise indicates a narrowed or collapsed larynx.

If further treatment is necessary

If your dog has a prolonged episode of reverse sneezing, or he has any underlying causes, further investigation will be needed. If the cause is due to allergies or mites, antihistamines may be prescribed. Any growths or polyps will need to be surgically removed. The Vet will first of all, perform a rhinoscopy. This examination with a speculum will allow the Vet to look into the dog’s nasal passages to check if any tumours, polyps or mites are present. A biopsy may be taken as a result to help diagnose nasal cancer. To assist in the diagnosis of reverse sneezing, a video recording of your dog in the act of sneezing could be very helpful to the diagnosis.

As a rule, a bout of your dog reverse sneezing will clear up very quickly, without any setbacks. It is thought to be just one of those odd canine abnormalities that don’t pose any real threat to the dog. A dog owner will soon get used to seeing their dog or puppy reverse sneezing, and won’t pay much attention to it after the first couple of spells. As for your dog, he will accept it as part of his routine life.

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