Pet Tips

Reverse Sneezing in Dogs – Pet tip 233

If you have a small breed dog, chances are that you are already familiar with the term “reverse sneezing”. This phenomenon is most commonly seen in small dogs (especially those with shortened snouts), although it can affect any breed. Dog will suddenly go still and stretch out their necks, and start breathing rapidly in and out through their noses. They make a sound that lands somewhere between a cough and snort, and it often looks like they can’t quite catch their breath. The term “reverse sneezing” comes from the fact that it looks like the dog is almost “inhaling” its sneeze. These episodes can last anywhere from a few seconds to one minute, and while they might be very concerning to the owner, they aren’t harmful to the animal.

The official term for this is inspiratory paroxysmal respiration, and while the exact mechanism is unknown, there are several theories as to why it might occur. Some think it could be an irritation of the nasal or pharyngeal passages, others think it could be an attempt to clear mucus from the body, and still others think that it might simply be due to over-excitement on the part of the dog. One difficulty in trying to determine a cause is that there seems to be little correlation between the act of reverse sneezing and any kind of trigger. For some dogs, all it takes is a walk from the couch to the front door to start an attack, while for other dogs it can happen as they wake up from a nap. What makes it even harder is that there seems to be little consistency between dogs, and an event that causes reverse sneezing one time might not do so the next time.

Even though this condition is not medically urgent, it’s hard to sit there and watch your dog go through one of these episodes. If you want to try and help them through a bout of reverse sneezing, it may be helpful to think along the same terms as if you were trying to cure the hiccups. While not the same physiological mechanism (hiccups are a quick contraction of the diaphragm), the basis for trying to cure the hiccups is the same as it is for reverse sneezing; you want to try and “re-set” the breathing pattern. That’s why if you have the hiccups, you might try holding your breath, or have a friend try and scare you. These home remedies, along with dozens more, are all designed to get your breathing pattern back on track. The same concept holds true with your canine friend; you want to get its breathing back to normal. There are many ways to do this, but some of the most common techniques are; pinching your dog’s nose and scratching its throat, lightly blowing in its face and calming the dog down by rubbing the sides of its back.

If you are not convinced that your dog’s breathing abnormality is an episode of reverse sneezing, there are a couple of other things that you could consider. A dog with a respiratory infection will often present with sneezing, although that is often accompanied with a runny discharge and/or a cough. Likewise, a dog with a foreign body stuck either on the top of its mouth or lodged in its trachea will often cough repeatedly in an attempt to clear the object from its system. A third option is something called collapsing trachea; this is a condition in which the cartilaginous rings of the trachea are weak and collapse in on themselves, blocking the passage of air to the lungs. This usually has a genetic basis, and is most often seen in toy breeds such as Pomeranians and Yorkshire Terriers. Often, this occurs following exercise as the dog is breathing more heavily. If you’re concerned by what you’re seeing, a great idea is to try and videotape your dog during one of its episodes and bring it to your veterinarian. The vet can then watch the video and help you decide what might be going on.
By Kyla Townsend – writer

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