What is reverse sneezing? It’s a loud snort (a noisy inhalation of air up the nose) followed by a violent sneeze. It can either be a once off event , or repeated in rapid succession multiple times–which can be disconcerting to owners.
Many dog and cat owner come into the clinic specifically for reverse sneezing. They may not know exactly why Fluffy is having these little “fits”, but after I explain what it is, usually owners relax (and have a good laugh at my interpretation of their dog reverse sneezing.)
What are the causes for reverse sneezing?
1) Air rushing into the nose too quickly, or dust entering the nasal passages–A reverse sneeze is your pet’s way of trying to get it out.
2) An allergen or something irritating to your pet’s senses in the environment. Pets can develop allergies just like humans. Sometimes when I put a pet on a course of allergy medication (or anti-histamines like Piriton or Benadryl), the reverse sneezing stops. Viruses and colds can also cause your pet to sneeze a bit; just like us!
***Number 1 and 2 are the cause for most cases of reverse sneezing, but the following are also possible AND less likely:
3) Cats and dogs can get larger objects like grass awnings lodged in their nasal passages leading to repeated reverse sneezing, head-shaking, and distress. If I suspect something is caught in an animal’s nose, sedation or general anesthesia plus a tiny scope that is used to examine the nasal passages may be recquired to remove the offending foreign object. (This isn’t that common, but occasionally it happens.)
4) Dental disease can cause reverse sneezing and nasal discharge. The hard palate of the upper jaw is all that separates the mouth from the nasal passages–a severe tooth infection can track upwards and even penetrate into the nasal cavity. General anesthetic, dental X-rays, and surgery might be needed to address this issue.
5) Rarely, fungal infections and growths/tumors within the nose. This issue is usually accompanied by strange nasal discharge and/or blood from one or both nostrils. General anesthetic, a scope, and biopsy are good ways to rule this out.
6) Another RARE but possible cause are nose mites. YES…mites in your pet’s nose! A good anti-parasitic medication should address any microscopic creepy-crawlies in your pet’s sniffer.