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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

Is Your Short-Muzzled Dog Having Breathing Problems?

Story at-a-glance
  • A recent study conducted in the UK revealed owners of brachycephalic breeds (dogs with short muzzles) often don’t realize their pet is struggling to breathe.
  • A problem common in these dogs is brachycephalic airway syndrome, which includes a number of upper respiratory problems affecting the nose, mouth and/or throat of pets with “pushed in” faces.
  • “Brachys” have constricted upper jaws, which causes the soft tissue to be crammed within the skull. Symptoms of brachycephalic airway syndrome include noisy or labored breathing, gagging, choking, problems breathing during physical exertion, and overheating.
  • Breathing problems can prevent your dog from enjoying the simplest things in life, like eating, sleeping, play and exercise. In dogs with severe airway obstruction, the struggle to breathe can be continuous. Left untreated, the situation gets progressively worse, as do the symptoms.
  • It’s important for owners of brachycephalic breeds to understand the difference between normal and abnormal breathing sounds in their dog, and to see the vet if they notice any unusual breathing or other signs of respiratory distress.

By Dr. Becker

A recent study points to the possibility that owners of brachycephalic breeds (dogs with “pushed in” faces) mistake significant breathing difficulties in their pets for normal respiratory sounds.

The Royal Veterinary College at the University of London conducted a survey of the owners of 285 dogs who brought their pets to the Queen Mother Hospital for Animals for various reasons during a five-month period.

Thirty-one of the 285 dogs, including Boston terriers, bulldogs, Cavalier King Charles spaniels, French bulldogs, Pekingese and pugs, had been diagnosed with brachycephalic airway syndrome.

Brachycephalic airway syndrome describes a number of upper respiratory problems affecting the nose, mouth and throat of dogs (and some cats) as a result of abnormal skull structure.

What surprised the Royal Veterinary College researchers was the fact that despite the dogs’ owners reporting significant respiratory symptoms, they did not believe their pets had breathing problems.

Breathing Difficulties Assumed to Be Normal

Short-muzzled dogs, or “brachys,” have constricted upper jaws, which causes the soft tissue to be compressed within the skull. Many of these dogs develop brachycephalic airway syndrome. Signs of the condition include noisy or labored breathing, gagging, choking, problems breathing with even minor physical exertion, and a tendency to overheat.

Every owner of a brachy said their dog snored – some even while awake – compared with fewer than two percent of non-brachycephalic dogs. But well over half the owners did not believe their pet had breathing difficulties, even though the majority of dogs had problems during exercise.

According to researchers, this indicates many owners of pets with brachycephalic airway syndrome don’t realize a problem exists and don’t seek help from a veterinarian. According to Rowena Packer of the Royal Veterinary College and one of the study researchers:

"Our study clearly shows that owners of brachycephalic dogs often dismiss the signs of this potentially severe breathing disorder as normal and are prepared to tolerate a high degree of respiratory compromise in their pets before seeking help. It may require a particularly acute attack, such as the dog losing consciousness, for owners to perceive a problem."

Many owners who were surveyed seemed to believe breathing difficulties aren’t really a problem if the dog is short-muzzled. One owner’s comment: “No to breathing problem – other than being a Bulldog.”

Dr. Charlotte Burn, lead researcher, warns that while short muzzles may be appealing-looking, owners of brachy breeds need to be aware the cute appearance often comes at a serious price to the dog. “Just because a problem is common, that doesn’t make it less of a problem for the individuals who suffer it,” says Burn.

Helping Your Brachy Breathe Better

Breathing difficulties can prevent your pet from being able to enjoy the very simplest things dogs naturally love to do, like eating, sleeping, play and exercise.

Dogs with severe brachycephalic airway syndrome can have almost continuous difficulty getting enough air. It’s not unusual for these dogs to collapse from lack of oxygen.

Left untreated, the problems tend to progress over time, with worsening symptoms.

The Royal Veterinary College researchers encourage parents of brachycephalic breeds to learn the difference between normal and abnormal breathing sounds in their dogs, and to make an appointment with a vet if they notice any unusual breathing or other signs of respiratory distress.

Unfortunately, surgery is often the only option to resolve significant breathing difficulties resulting from brachycephalic airway syndrome. The treatment goal is to surgically remove the tissues or structures causing airway obstruction.

Things you can do as the owner of a brachy include keeping your dog fit and trim. Overweight and obese dogs have much more serious respiratory difficulties than pets who are kept at an ideal weight.

Keeping your dog out of hot, humid environments is also important to support normal respiration and prevent overheating.

And since stress exacerbates virtually every health problem, especially breathing difficulties, keeping your dog’s life as stress-free as possible is also recommended to support your pet’s health and quality of life.

Related:

Reverse Sneezing, Chihuahua Honks or Mechanosensitive Aspiration Reflex

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See: Temperatures Are Rising: Be a Dog Defender: Help Save Animals This Summer! Cool Ideas for Hot Dogs – Please be proactive and vocal… you could be saving a life and definitely saving animals of a lot of suffering!!

August 24, 2012 Posted by | Animal or Pet Related Stories, Chiweenie, Dogs, Dogs, If Animlas Could Talk..., Just One More Pet, Pet Friendship and Love, Pet Health, responsible pet ownership | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment