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How to Recognize Reverse Sneezing in Your Pet

Video:  How to Recognize Reverse Sneezing in Your Pet

Story at-a-glance
  • Reverse sneezing is a fairly common respiratory event in dogs, but is rarely seen in cats. Small and brachycephalic breeds are more prone to the condition than other dogs.
  • In a regular sneeze, air is pushed out through the nose. In a reverse sneeze, air is instead pulled rapidly and noisily in through the nose. The sound of reverse sneezing is sudden and startling, and many owners wonder if their pet is choking or having an asthma attack.
  • Reverse sneezing is caused by a spasm of the throat and soft palate that is triggered by an irritant. Common triggers include excitement, exercise intolerance, a collar that’s too tight, pollen, perfume, a household cleaner… even a sudden change in temperature.
  • Intervening in a reverse sneezing episode is usually not necessary, but if you can keep track of when your pet reverse-sneezes and what he’s doing right as it happens, you can often figure out the triggers and work to avoid them.
  • If your pet’s reverse sneezing becomes a chronic problem, or episodes are becoming more frequent or longer in duration, it’s a good idea to make an appointment with your veterinarian to rule out other potential health problems.

 

By Dr. Becker

Reverse sneezing — also known as mechanosensitive aspiration reflex, inspiratory paroxysmal respiration, and pharyngeal gag reflex – is actually a fairly common respiratory event in dogs. It happens more often in small breed dogs, perhaps because they have smaller throats and windpipes.

Brachycephalic breeds, like pugs and bulldogs, with elongated soft palates, occasionally suck the palate into the throat, which can cause an episode of reverse sneezing.

Interestingly, the phenomenon is very rarely seen in kitties.

How to Recognize an Episode of Reverse Sneezing

In a regular sneeze, air is pushed out through the nose. In a reverse sneeze, air is pulled rapidly and noisily in through the nose. For some dogs, it’s a more or less normal event. Just as sneezing is a part of life, reverse sneezing is also a part of many dogs’ lives.

The sound that accompanies reverse sneezing is kind of a sudden, startling sound that makes many dog owners think their pet is either choking or having an asthma attack.

A dog who is reverse sneezing typically stands still with his elbows spread apart, head extended or back, eyes bulging as he makes this loud snorting sound. The strange stance on top of the strange snorting sound is why many dogs end up getting rushed to the veterinarian or the emergency clinic by their panicked parents.

Episodes of reverse sneezing can last from a few seconds to a minute or two. As soon as it passes, the dog breathes perfectly normally once again and behaves as if nothing happened.

Here’s one example of what a reverse sneeze looks like:

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Causes of Reverse Sneezing and How You Can Help Your Pet

Reverse sneezing is caused by a spasm of the throat and soft palate. The spasm is triggered by an irritation to the throat, pharynx, or laryngeal area. The most common triggers are excitement, exercise intolerance, a collar that’s too tight, pulling on the leash, an environmental irritant like pollen, perfume, or even a household chemical or cleaner, room sprays, or even a sudden change in temperature. Rarely, there can be a respiratory infection or chronic post-nasal drip that causes the condition.

In the winter, my Boston terrier reverse-sneezes every single time he goes from inside to outside. I open the front door and he automatically reverse-sneezes. It no longer makes him nervous, and I’ve also come to expect this reaction from him when he heads outdoors in cold weather.

Reverse sneezing rarely requires treatment. As soon as the sneezing stops, the situation is resolved.

But since episodes of reverse sneezing can make your dog anxious, it’s important that you remain calm. The biggest issue I see in my practice is a conditioned panic response in a pet, triggered by an owner who freaks out each time the dog reverse-sneezes.

If you feel the need to do something for your dog, you can try massaging her throat to stop the spasm. You can also try covering your pet’s nostrils very briefly. This will cause her to swallow, which usually helps clear the irritation and stop the sneezing.

If the episode doesn’t end quickly and if you trust your dog’s response, you can try putting your hand in her mouth and pressing on her tongue. This will cause her to open her mouth wider and help move air through the nose effectively.

But honestly, these types of intervention are usually not necessary and can sometimes add to everyone’s stress level. I do recommend owners pay attention to when reverse sneezing occurs, where the dog is and what she’s doing right before or as it begins.

One of my dogs only reverse-sneezes when she’s suddenly awakened at night. So we take extra care not to disturb her when she’s sleeping. With any type of movement or noise, especially if it’s sudden or loud, she’ll stand up and reverse-sneeze. It scares her, so we remain calm, tell her everything’s fine, and in a few seconds it passes.

If you can figure out what’s triggering your pet’s reverse sneezing episodes, you can work to reduce or resolve the problem.

When to See the Vet

If your pet’s reverse sneezing becomes a chronic problem, or episodes are becoming more frequent or longer in duration, I recommend you make an appointment with your vet to rule out things like a potential foreign body in the respiratory tract, nasal cancers, polyps or tumors, nasal mites, a collapsing trachea, kennel cough, or a respiratory infection.

If you’re able to catch a reverse sneezing episode on video to play for your vet, it can sometimes help him or her discern what’s really happening – whether it’s reverse sneezing or perhaps something else.

If your pet is experiencing prolonged episodes of reverse sneezing, bloody or yellow discharge from the nose, or any other accompanying respiratory problems, it’s time to make an appointment with your veterinarian.

And if you have a cat with chronic reverse sneezing, since the condition is less common in kitties, it’s important to investigate the possibility of feline asthma or an upper respiratory infection.

Just as dogs sneeze intermittently throughout their lives, most dogs have at least a few reverse sneezing episodes during their lives as well. In the vast majority of cases, the episodes are temporary and intermittent, resolving on their own, and leave the dog with no aftereffects to be concerned about.

Related:

Reverse Sneezing, Chihuahua Honks or Mechanosensitive Aspiration Reflex

Is Your Short-Muzzled Dog Having Breathing Problems?

 

December 3, 2012 Posted by | Animal or Pet Related Stories, Animal Related Education, animals, Chiweenie, Dogs, Dogs, Just One More Pet, Pet Health | , , , , | Leave a comment

Reverse Sneezing, Chihuahua Honks or Mechanosensitive Aspiration Reflex

Reverse sneezing:  Mechanosensitive Aspiration Reflex or Paroxysmal Respiration isn’t a sneeze at all and isn’t an illness, but it is a condition that small dog owners should be aware of.

b-and-w-chiIf you have ever been startled by your dog or cat exhibiting snorting, honking and gasping noises you have probably experienced reverse sneezing.  It makes you feel helpless while you watch your canine or feline friend appear to be struggling to breathe, but although alarming, especially to a first time pet owner, it appears and sounds much worse than it is.

There is no reason to panic. Reverse sneezing is not a serious condition andgenerally poses no threat to a dog or cat”s health or longevity. They are not having a seizure, and it also actually has nothing to do with sneezing, but is a spasm caused by an irritation of the soft palate. The soft palate is a soft, fleshy tissue extension off the hard palate, or roof of the mouth. Small dogs in particular can exhibit this behavior and certain breeds may be predisposed to it. It has sent many a distraught owner to the vet in panic.

Reverse Sneeze Videos: 

Reverse Sneeze

Maggie reverse sneezes 

Puggle Preston Reverse Sneezing

Some animals can have this condition for their entire lives, or it may develop as the dog ages. During the spasm, the pet will usually turn their elbows outward and extend their neck while gasping inwards with a distinctive snorting sound. Gently massaging the throat area or pinching their nostrils shut so they must breath through their mouth can help shorten the episode. Sometimes taking the pet outside in the fresh air stops the spasm. Once the attack ceases, all goes back to normal.

(Another technique sometimes used to stop a bout of canine reverse sneezing by behavior specialist Sarah Wilson is to try to get the dog to swallow, touching the back of the tongue if that is safe.  Sounds like it would work with a cat as well.)

It is thought that the pharyngeal spasm can be caused by a number of irritants, including dust and pollen, or household chemicals. Moreover, some dogs can launch an episode after eating, drinking or running around, becoming anxious or excited or while pulling on the leash.

If your pet (more dogs than cats suffer from it) experiences this behavior fairly frequently and the episodes are severe, a trip to the vet is in order to determine other possible causes, which can include viral infections, polyps, excessive soft palate tissue, and nasal mites. However, many cases of reverse sneezing appear to have no identifiable cause.

A small Chihuahua Beagle mix, Cela, was extremely prone to severe middle-of-the-night reverse sneezing episodes when she first came to her terrified then-foster mom (now adoptive mom) sending them both to the vet in alarm. The vet anesthetized Cela and explored the little dog’s sinus cavities as best she could to see if anything was embedded in her sinus passages. Nothing was found, and after a short course of anti-inflammatory drugs and antibiotics, Cela recovered completely.

In hindsight, it seems quite likely that the time of year, autumn, with its accompanying proliferation of allergens, combined with the stress of being in a new household, may have contributed to Cela’s pronounced reverse sneezing. Since the initial episodes subsided, the little dog has had only one or two minor incidences.

Reverse sneezing appears a lot worse than it is, generally posing no health threats whatsoever. Typically, an episode of reverse sneezing will end soon on its own. Nevertheless, understanding and recognizing the syndrome can go a long way toward helping pet owners and their dogs or cats cope with it. Reverse sneezing should not be confused with Collapsed Trachea, a congenital condition characterized by a frequent cough, a honking rather than a snorting sound, and shortness of breath.

Tracheal collapse is a progressive, chronic, debilitating disease occurring primarily in middle-aged toy-breed dogs.  Pomeranians, Poodles, Yorkshire Terriers, and Chihuahuas are most commonly affected.  The clinical signs of tracheal collapse are a chronic nonproductive cough, exercise intolerance, and varying degrees of dyspnea.  The cough often resembles a “honking-sound.”  Clinical signs are exacerbated by excitement or anxiety and may proceed to collapse and syncope. The dorsal membrane and cartilage rings are both involved in the degenerative process.  The rings become hypoplastic or fibrodystrophic and cannot maintain the normal C-shaped configuration. 

Dogs or cats suffering from a reverse sneeze may stand up, extend their neck, make snorting or honking noises, open their mouth, and appear distressed and frightened. Reverse sneezing is triggered by an irritant or activity that initiates the reflex. For some pets this can occur when they are excited, exercising or eating and drinking too fast. The pressure of a collar on the trachea during leash walking also can set off spasms. And reverse sneezing can be associated with allergies, viruses, pollen, foreign bodies, postnasal drip, perfumes, chemical odors, tumors or infections.

Another common cause of reverse sneezing in dogs is the nasal mite Pneumonyssoides caninum. These small mites live in the nasopharynx of dogs and are a source of constant irritation. The mites are extremely small and difficult to visualize, but easy to treat with routine anti-parasitic dewormers.

Brachycephalic animals, those with short noses, are more prone to reverse sneezing. Reverse sneezing closely resembles asthma, a common cause of respiratory distress in cats. Asthma can be life-threatening and should be ruled out in cats with respiratory signs.

For many dogs and cats reverse sneezing is a one-time or occasional episode that does not require any treatment.  But if the problem repeats itself and becomes a ‘chronic condition’, treatment may be necessary. The first step to treating the spasms is to identify the underlying cause. Antihistamines work well for allergic reactions, while the removal of offensive odors and chemicals will help those animals with sensitivities. If the pet has a nasal discharge or airflow through the nostrils is reduced, then other measures will need to be taken.

Rhinoscopy is the diagnostic tool of choice when examining the nasopharynx. Foreign bodies, nasal tumors or fungal infections can be diagnosed with plain film X-rays of the head.  For severe cases surgery is available.

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May 4, 2009 Posted by | Animal Rights And Awareness, Just One More Pet, Pet Health, Pets, responsible pet ownership | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments