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My Chihuahua sometimes has fits of reverse sneezing – at least that’s what a friend says it is. What causes this and how do I stop it happening?

Wolfgang Dohne advises…

The sudden and forceful intake of air, rather than the expulsion of air, is a very common condition, especially in small dogs or in dogs with short noses.

Reverse sneezing can be triggered by an irritation in the nose or by excitement, but can sometimes occur without a specific trigger. The peculiar sound is caused by the, at times, violent vibration of a membrane at the back of the nose and is completely harmless. Occasional reverse sneezing doesn’t require any investigation, but longer or recurring episodes might be of concern. A short video clip of these events is always helpful when examining these patients at a veterinary practice.

The stopping of reverse sneezing is dependent on the initial cause. In the majority of cases, just calming a dog down is all it takes, but in more continuous cases a thorough examination of the mouth, as well as of the nasal cavity, will have to be performed, which might require a sedation of the affected dog. During the examination, both the roof of the mouth with the hard as well as the soft palate will have to be investigated and your vet might consider performing a rhinoscopy to visualise the nasal cavity. During this procedure, foreign bodies including grass seeds or polyps can be identified and sometimes an overlong soft palate might be found to interfere with the opening of the windpipe. If this is the case, the shortening of the soft palate is performed with usually excellent results.

Some of our patients appear to show this unusual behaviour only when they are six months or younger, so that it is often advisable to wait a few months, as some of these dogs appear to grow out of it.

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