Have you ever noticed your dog extend his/her neck and gasp in a loud grunting sound that made you wonder, “what the hell is going on?”
Well, my friend that is the exact moment when you witnessed what is normally referred to as a reverse sneeze.
What causes a reverse sneeze?
Reverse sneezing usually occurs when foreign particles irritate the area behind the nasal cavities and above the soft palate commonly referred to as the nasopharynx.
Unlike in normal sneezing where the air is forced out of the lungs to get rid of the particles, the muscle spasms that occur during the reverse sneeze rapidly pulls air back into the lungs.
Think of it as getting a hiccup, but through your nose.
The biggest culprits that cause reverse sneezing are allergies and infections.
However, there could be other causes too, including;
• Infestation of the sinuses and nasal passages by nasal mites
• Anatomical abnormalities of the nasopharynx
• Formation of masses of the nasopharynx
• Straining at the leash causing pressure on the throat
• Intolerance to exercise
• Getting overexcited
• Eating and drinking too fast and
• Presence of foreign material in the nasopharynx
Although it can occur on any dog breed, it is much more common in short-nosed breeds, such as pugs, boxers and bulldogs. It can occur in cats too, from time to time.
What are the symptoms?
Reverse sneezing episodes are quite normal, usually lasting for a short period, normally around 10 to 15 seconds. Sometimes though, the symptoms may take up to 2 minutes to completely clear.
During this time, your dog may tend to:
• Extend his/her neck
• Gasp and have difficulty drawing air
Can I prevent reverse sneezing?
As they say, prevention is better than cure.
Though completely preventing reverse sneezing might be a long stretch, there are some measures that you can take to at least reduce its occurrence. These include:
• Regular trips to the vet for early diagnosis and treatment of allergies and infections
• Reducing the level of dust or other allergy-causing chemicals in the house
• Purchasing bowls specially designed to reduce your dog’s eating speed
• An alternative to buying a new bowl would be placing a soup can in the food bowl to slow down the eating process
• Opting to use a harness on walks instead of a collar to reduce the pressure on your dog’s neck
• Creating a calm environment for your dog by reducing the chaos and excitement levels
Is reverse sneezing treatable?
The answer is yes. In most cases, reverse sneezing passes and doesn’t even require treatment.
If your dog starts experiencing it, the best option is letting it play out by itself.
However, if you’re feeling concerned or it lasts too long and want to help your dog out, you could try;
• Massaging your dog’s throat gently to stop the spasms
• Softly blowing your dog’s face
• Holding his/her nostrils closed for a few seconds for the throat to clear out.
In chronic cases, though, a trip to the vet should be a no-brainer.
Treatment of the condition will entirely depend on the results of the diagnosis. Some commons ones are;
• Prescription of ivermectin, milbemycin or selamectin to get rid of the nasal mites in the nasopharynx
• Prescription of antibiotics and other medications to deal with infections
• Prescription of allergy medicine to reduce the occurrence of allergic symptoms
• Removing foreign materials in the nasopharynx through a rhinoscopy
• Surgery to either correct abnormalities in the nasopharynx or removing any masses present
All in all, reverse sneezing is a very common thing that shouldn’t get you worried. Although it may be frightening at first, you get used to it with time.