We get a lot of our clients calling up in distress that their cat or dog is choking. Most of the time choking is not actually whats going on but a reverse sneeze. Here is a video on spotting a reverse sneeze and article for more information. A reverse sneeze is nothing to panic about and lose one of your nine lives.
Reverse Sneezing, Whats That?
Reverse Sneezing in Dogs and Cats
Dogs or cats may on occasion appear to be choking—their eyes will bulge, they will extend their necks, their chests will expand and they will make a forceful snorting sound. At this point, some pet parents will grab their pet and head to the nearest animal hospital, fearing their pet is choking and will soon die without medical help. What may really be happening is your pet may be experiencing a case of reverse sneezing. The pet appears completely normal one moment, then seems in dire distress the next.
Causes of Reverse Sneezing
Reverse sneezing (also known as pharyngeal gag reflex spasm) can be caused by all types of nasal or throat irritants or by pet allergies. Anything that irritates the throat can cause this spasm or reverse sneezing. This includes eating and drinking quickly, exercise intolerance, leash pulling, dust, mites, perfumes, and household cleaning chemicals or allergens. These irritants reach the soft palate and throat resulting in a spasm. When this spasm occurs, you will see the animal extend their neck, their eyes bulge and the chest attempt to expand. At this stage, you may also see the animals’ elbows turn outwards.
Dogs are much more prone to reverse sneezing than cats. If a cat experiences episodes of what appears to be reverse sneezing, the cat should be checked by the vet to assure that they are truly experiencing episodes of reverse sneezing instead of feline asthma. If the cat does have feline asthma, they will require ongoing medical treatment, whereas reverse sneezing does not require this kind of action.
Although any breed of dog may experience episodes of reverse sneezing, it is much more common to see in small, short faced breeds of dogs. Some breeds to be on guard against reverse sneezing are Bulldogs, Boxers, Boston Terriers, Shih Tzus and Pugs. These dogs are likely more prone to reverse sneezing than longer faced breed due to the elongated short palate these short faced breeds have. On occasion, these breeds will suck the elongated soft palate into their throat while inhaling causing the pharyngeal spasm or reverse sneezing event. Small dogs are prone to episodes of reverse sneezing more than larger dogs. While some dogs may experience this condition all their lives, some dogs will develop episodes of reverse sneezing only as they age.
Treatment of Reverse Sneezing
While it is frightening for the pet parent to have their pet appear fine one minute and in danger of choking the next minute, reverse sneezing appears to be harmless to the pet in the long term. Most episodes of reverse sneezing will clear by themselves within a few minutes and rarely require any medical intervention. Once the sneezing stops, the spasm and episode is over and the dog appears perfectly normal again. If the spasm does not resolve itself quickly, you can try to help your pet by massaging the dog’s throat to ease the muscle spasm or by covering the dog’s nostrils, which makes the dog swallow which can help eliminate the irritants in the throat or sinuses. If the dog is still experiencing difficulty, you may try depressing the dog’s tongue, which will help open the mouth and move air through the nasal passages into the lungs. If the irritant is inside (such as household cleaning chemicals), take the dog outside to get away from irritants. By the same token, if the dog has problems outside the home, bringing them inside may help alleviate their discomfort and stop the sneezing.
While medical intervention is not normally necessary for reverse sneezing, if your dog is experiencing more frequent episodes of reverse sneezing, your vet should be notified. The best treatment for reverse sneezing is to treat any underlying causes. If your pet has allergies and is experiencing episodes of reverse sneezing as a result, treating the pet’s allergies may end or greatly reduce the frequency of incidents.