A sneeze is pretty self-explanatory. We have all done it. Air is pushed out of our noses at force.
But a reverse sneeze, as much as it sounds impossible for us humans, is also pretty clear. This is when air is instead drawn into your dogs nose rapidly, and they almost snort as they inhale while sneezing.
It can be alarming to witness this, but in most cases, there is absolutely nothing to worry about. Dogs can be diagnosed with the condition, but there may never be an exact diagnosis as to why it happens.
What Is Reverse Sneezing?
Officially known as paroxysmal respiration, the air is drawn in through their nostrils. It may sound at first like they have caught something in their throat, and they can often stand still and have quite rapid breathing.
Their neck may also extend. It can last for anywhere between a few seconds and a minute. Diagnosis will be based on medical history and the visible signs of reverse sneezing, after ruling out other common breathing issues.
What Causes Reverse Sneezing?
Irritation to the throat, soft palate or nose is often the main cause, but this can be anything from allergies to items such as grass, to foreign objects like seeds and flies on a walk.
Secretions such as excess mucus can also irritate the breathing passages, and dogs with narrow nasal passages and long noses seem to be the most affected, as opposed to short-nose breeds who are often found to suffer from breathing difficulties.
However, those with long soft palates and shorter snouts (Pugs, Frenchies, Shih Tzus, Boxers) can also reverse sneeze. Small breed dogs are usually found to suffer from reverse sneezing than long breed, too.
Common causes include:
- Outdoor irritants (i.e pollen, grass seeds)
- Indoor irritants (perfume, smoke, dust)
- Food or water (eating and drinking)
- Pulling on the lead which can harm their throat
- Inflammation (such as upper airway infections)
- Excitement – some dogs will reverse sneeze when you arrive home or they know they’re going for walkies!
How Can I Stop My Dog From Reverse Sneezing?
There is, unfortunately, no cure or medication, and not much you can do to intervene.
It is simply a case of calming your dog down while they are having a sneezing episode, by using a reassuring voice and stroking the back of their neck. Once they have exhaled, the episode is usually over.
You may also wish to pick them up and allow them to change position which may soothe their throat and breathing, or stop the irritation by massaging their throat or blocking their nostrils. Pressing on their tongue to help with breathing and clearing the throat can also help, although be careful not to be bitten.
Dogs don’t usually suffer any effects from reverse sneezing. For example, they won’t go on to develop issues with their organs or pull muscles. So, if you don’t want to do any of the above, that is fine – your dog won’t always need it.
In some cases, a vet may prescribe anti-inflammatory or anti-histamine medications to help with the effects and likelihood of the attacks. This will usually be if there is a clear cause, such as an allergy or a biological tendency.
If the reverse sneezing is happening really frequently, vets may want to look at their throat under general aesthetic. The soft palate can be trimmed if it is too long.
Can My Cat Reverse Sneeze?
This is not a common health issue with felines. So, if your cat is showing the behaviour patterns of reverse sneezing, such as extended back and neck or choking sounds, one explanation could be a furball.
However, if it definitely doesn’t seem like this, get them checked out at the vets. Asthma could be another explanation and is more likely.