We love our dogs so much; they are family and we treat them as such. But you have to agree, they’re a tiny bit weird, aren’t they? They have some terrible habits for a start. Eating their poo sometimes, getting a hefty whiff of another dog’s poo, eating out of the rubbish bin, given half a chance. They are always up for some extra food, no matter how much they’ve just eaten, you know what I mean.
They also do some strange things as well, like reverse sneezing. I didn’t even realize it was a real thing until my dog made some peculiar honking, snorting, and choking sounds. After it was over, I rushed to my computer, and frantically looked it up on Google.
What Is Reverse Sneezing In Dogs
The official name for a reverse sneeze is paroxysmal respiration. As the name suggests it’s the opposite of a normal sneeze.
When a dog sneezes they are trying to rid themselves of a nasal irritant, they do this by forcefully expelling air through their nose. Now, this is not a conscious thing, it’s completely involuntary.
During an episode of reverse sneezing, a dog is sucking air into their nose. The dog will stand still and widen their stance, extend their head and neck, at the same time they make a startling snorting sound, as though they have something blocking their nose.
It sounds like they have sucked something into their nose, like a piece of Lego, or whatever. You might even see their eyes bulge and chest constrict sharply.
When you witness your dog behaving like this, it’s shocking and you think your dog is going into some kind of epileptic seizure or having a heart attack, at least I did. After perhaps one or two minutes it stops, but it feels like it lasted for an eternity.
Why Do Dogs Reverse Sneeze?
Animal scientists and vets cannot give a definitive reason why dogs do this backward sneeze. What they say is that any kind of irritation that gets to the back of a dog’s throat, usually around the soft pallet area, can induce a reverse sneeze in a dog.
Things like dust, pollen, and other environmental issues can bring it on. Other causes, they suggest, like allergies, nasal mites, even tumors, and if there really was a foreign object stuck up their nose.
Can You Stop A Dog’s Reverse Sneeze?
Not really. Once it has started, it has to run its course. When your dog stops sneezing the spasm is finished, there’s no way of telling if this will be one or two sneezes or many. In fact, there’s nothing medical that can stop a bout of reverse sneezing.
But if you feel you must do something, there are a few things that you may like to try. There are a few provisos though, you must be sure your dog will not bite you. Remember he’s likely in a bit of stress himself, he won’t understand what’s going on, and might just want to be left alone.
But you might try these:
- Try to move the soft palate by repositioning your dog’s head and neck. If he’s small enough, pick him up to move him.
- Gently massage his throat. You want him to swallow, which will help clear whatever is irritating his throat.
- If he will open his mouth for you, push down on his tongue. Do this very gently because you only want him to breathe through his mouth.
- Try to distract him with a favorite toy, if his mind can focus on something else it might work to stop the spasm.
If you’re not comfortable trying any of those solutions then not to worry, the spasms will stop naturally. When it’s over the dog will behave as though nothing has happened. The only one panicking will be you.
One thing that causes some concern to dog parents is the worry it might be an asthma attack. Well, to put your mind at rest, reverse sneezing has nothing to do with asthma.
Closer Look At Causes Of Reverse Sneezing In Dogs
Several things can irritate the dog’s throat and kick off a spasm.
But the usual suspects include:
- Heavy panting through over-excitement.
- Pulling hard on the lead when it’s attached to a collar.
- If your dog is prone to allergies.
- Any kind of upper-airway infection that inflames the throat.
- Sometimes even eating or drinking too quickly can set off an attack.
Brachycephalic breeds such as Frenchies, Shih Tzu, pugs, or breeds with shortened snouts can sometimes suck the soft palate back into the throat. In fact, reverse sneezing is more common in these breeds of dogs.
Is A Visit To The Vet Necessary With Reverse Sneezing
Usually, it’s not something to be too concerned about. It can be common for a dog to have two bouts in 24 hours. If your dog has more than this regularly, it would be prudent to ask your vet what could be going on.
One thing you could do is video your dog having a bout of reverse sneezing. Then take him and the video along to your vet. The video will help because it’s very unlikely he will have a bout of reverse sneezing at exactly the time you’re in the vet’s surgery. Your vet can assess the situation from there.
If it happens infrequently your vet will not want to do anything, he might suggest some anti-histamines in case it’s an allergy issue. But if it’s happening regularly, he may give your dog a general anesthetic to look at the back of the throat and nose, he might suggest trimming the palate if it’s too long.
The Last Word
In summary, dogs with short snouts and small breeds are more prone to reverse sneezing. It’s quite common, and most of the time it will not require a vet’s visit or any kind of treatment.
If it’s concerning you because it happens more frequently than you like, video an attack and take it and your dog off to the vet. He will watch the video and advise you from there.