Fezeg Amazon Review

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Why does my dog reverse sneeze?


If you have ever seen a dog reverse sneezing, you’ll know that it’s quite a strange sight to see! It can be quite concerning when it happens, as it may appear that your dog is struggling to breathe, but fortunately this is not the case. Most of the time, it isn’t anything to worry about.

Read on to find out not only why dogs reverse sneeze but also how to identify if that strange behaviour really is a reverse sneeze or something else.

What is reverse sneezing?

Reverse sneezing is a normal reflex that occurs to remove irritation from the throat. When the tissues in the throat are irritated, muscles in the area contract to push the irritation forward, and prevent it from ‘going down the wrong way’. This means that it is a good thing!

What does reverse sneezing look like?

Reverse sneezing is an inspiratory action, meaning that air is taken in rather than out. Some of the key features of reverse sneezing are:

  • Sharp intake of breath
  • Quite sudden in onset
  • Short duration, normally less than one minute
  • Noisy!
  • Closed mouth
  • Lips sucked in

There are many videos of reverse sneezing available on the internet so it is worth watching some of these to familiarise yourself with how it looks and to help you to identify it in your dog.

Why does it happen?

More often than not, reverse sneezing is idiopathic. Idiopathic is a fancy word meaning that there is no known cause! It is just one of those things that happens and no one really knows why.

Reverse sneezing tends to occur more in breeds with shorter noses and flattened faces e.g. French bulldogs or pugs, due to their narrowed airways. It can be brought on by excitement or environmental factors, such as dust or cold air.

Sometimes it is caused by irritation in the throat, which may be due to foreign bodies, like grass seeds, inflammation as a result of infection or allergies, or even masses in the throat. With these causes, there are often additional signs, like sneezing, nasal discharge, lethargy.

What can you do to help? 

Reverse sneezing can be associated with excitement so keeping your dog calm will help. It is important that you as the owner remain calm which will in turn help to keep your dog calm. Sometimes this is easier said than done!

Making your dog swallow by either rubbing their throat or offering water will help to stop the reflex.

It is very important that reverse sneezing is differentiated from other clinical signs that can suggest more serious illness e.g. sneezing and/or coughing. Although not always easy in these stressful situations, it is worth trying to film an episode of the behaviour so that you can show your vet who will then be able to confirm whether it is reverse sneezing or not.

When should you be worried?

The occasional episode of reverse sneezing is generally not a concern. It’s always best to contact your vet and have your dog checked over to make sure the signs you are seeing are only reverse sneezing and nothing more. A video of an episode will really help your vet in making a diagnosis.

If the reverse sneezing is very persistent, or is accompanied by other signs such as a runny nose, sneezing, coughing, shortness of breath or lethargy, there is more likely to be an underlying cause. In these cases, further investigations from your vet may be required. These may include:

  • Using a scope/camera to look up the nose/back of the throat
  • Imaging – x-rays or CT scans
  • Flushing of nasal passages and throat looking for foreign bodies
  • Taking biopsies of any irregular tissues in the nose or throat to identify cancerous or inflammatory changes

In conclusion

Most of the time, occasional short episodes of reverse sneezing are nothing to worry about. It is a normal reflex so there may be no obvious underlying cause and no further action will be required. However, if your dog experiences other signs or seems unwell, it would be a good idea to contact your vet for further advice. Filming an episode in your pet will be helpful for your Vet.

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