Have you heard of reverse sneezing? As dog owners, we often fear for the worst when we hear strange noises from our pets – and Chihuahua parents are no exception. If anything, we can tend to overreact when it comes to the safety of our furry little friends!
Among the many interesting noise phenomena that our canines are capable of, reverse sneezing is one that’s often a cause for extreme alarm among lovers of these pint-sized pups. For the most part, though, this behavior is often short-lived and harmless for your friend on four paws, even though it can look and sound like an emergency for your Chi.
It’s a good idea, too, to know the difference between this harmless reflex and more serious respiratory issues like collapsing trachea, another common health problem for Chihuahuas or Kennel Cough, which is common among all dogs.
First, what is reverse sneezing? Well, when your dog sneezes in their regular manner, air is pushed out through their nose. A reverse sneeze is exactly as described – air is pulled in though your pup’s nose instead (essentially a backwards sneeze), usually making a very distinct sound that is head-turning for a pet parent, to say the least!
During an episode of reverse sneezing, dogs will usually breathe in rapidly and stand still with their heads stretched out and their legs apart, making a loud snorting or honking noise that might sound like he’s choking on something. Some owners even describe it as looking and sounding very similar to a cat trying to bring up a hairball!
Generally, reverse sneezing episodes in dogs last no more than a minute or two though, with dogs acting normally in between episodes.
Here’s a video that shows a pug doing the reverse sneezing thing and what a Vet has to say about it.
In comparison, tracheal collapse is a condition in which your pup’s trachea partially collapses or flattens out as your Chi is trying to breath. This particular problem causes irritation to your dog’s airway, and results in gagging, coughing or wheezing symptoms, all of which are quite distinctive and different from reverse sneezing.
When in doubt as to what might be causing your pup to produce odd breathing sounds, take advantage of modern technology and try to record video of your dog’s behavior for your vet, since this can give them a much clearer picture of the symptoms your canine companion might be experiencing.
The jury is still out on determining the exact cause for reverse sneezing in our pups, though it seems to serve the purpose of getting rid of irritating nasal intruders like dust, dirt and pollens. In Chihuahuas, who seem to have a higher incidence of reverse sneezing than many breeds, things like drinking too fast, over-excitement, and use of a collar instead of a harness while walking are all potential triggers.
It’s also thought that canine allergies or inflammation of a dog’s nasal passages can also contribute to the incidence of these episodes, too, and the behavior isn’t just limited to our small Chi sidekicks – any breed, age or sex of dog can experience reverse sneezing incidents.
I love this video of how Dr. Karen Becker explains reverse sneezing and what to do about it.
Although it can be impossible to predict episodes of reverse sneezing, there are a few things that you can do to help your pup at the time. Massaging your Chihuahua’s throat, gently opening their mouth or pulling on their tongue can help to stop the sneezing reflex, as can offering them a small amount of food or water. If these things don’t help, then briefly and gently pinching your pup’s nostrils closed may help stop the sneezing spasm, too (no more than 3-4 seconds, for example).
Most reverse sneezing episodes are completely harmless and your Chihuahua will probably recover problem free, but there are some occasions that should be cause for concern. Constant episodes of reverse sneezing throughout the day, or an increasing frequency of them are good reasons to get in touch with your Chihuahua’s veterinarian.
Keep an eye on your pup for other serious signs like: discharge from their nostrils, nosebleeds, difficulty breathing, odd facial appearance or change in appetite – these could potentially signal that there’s something more serious going on with your furry family member, like a viral infection, polyps, nasal mites or even a cancerous growth.
If you suspect your pup is sneezing because of allergies, your vet may be able to discuss giving your dog an antihistamine at certain times of year to decrease your dog’s reactivity to annoying airborne particles, too.
In the end, even if your Chihuahua has never experienced an episode of reverse sneezing, it’s never a bad idea to educate yourself about this condition, as these cute little canines do tend to be more prone to a reverse sneezing reflex. Knowing what to expect and being prepared in advance of an episode allows you to keep calm and help your dog effectively to recover and continue their day happy and stress-free!
It is possible that your dog can have a more serious condition called tracheal collapse. If you’d like to learn more check out this article about tracheal collapse.
And just to make you feel a little more at ease about this condition, I had a wonderful poodle mix (who was a therapy dog for nursing homes and hospitals) who dealt with reverse sneezing through out his whole life and he lived to be one month shy of his 19th birthday.