Pet MD: Sneezing refers to the normal behavior of expelling air to remove matter through the nasal cavity. Reverse sneezing, on the other hand, refers to the reflex of bringing air into the body to remove irritants in the upper area that lies behind the nose. Dogs may gag to remove irritants from the larynx; this is commonly misinterpreted as vomiting.
Symptoms and Types
Sneezing is often accompanied by a sudden movement of the head downwards, with a closed mouth, and may cause the dog’s nose to hit the ground. Reverse sneezing is often characterized by a backwards head motion, a closed mouth and lips sucking in. Gagging usually causes the dog to swallow after extending its neck and opening its mouth.
Any breed of dog can be affected by these medical behaviors. The most common causes for younger dogs include infections, the existence of a cleft palate, or bronchial infections. Another primary cause is the involuntary movement of the hairlike cilia that line the respiratory tract and act to remove foreign matter from the air before it reaches the lungs. This involuntary movement of the hair is medically termed ciliary dyskinesis. The most common causes for older dogs include nasal tumors and dental diseases. Other causes can be mucus irritation, inflammation, excess nasal dripping or secretion, pneumonia, chronic vomiting, and gastrointestinal disease. Under vaccinated or unvaccinated dogs are at a higher risk of developing infections, which may lead to consistent sneezing. Chronic dental disease can lead to both chronic sneezing and reverse sneezing. Mites found in the nasal cavities can also be a cause for any of these physical reflexes.
The first method of diagnosis is to distinguish between sneezing and reverse sneezing in the dog. Next, if the condition is serious, more in depth testing may be performed to see if there is a more serious underlying medical condition.
In most cases, if the mucus or foreign matter in the nasal passages is removed, these reflexes will stop. There are no particular drugs that will stop these reflexes. However, if these reflexes are the result of another medical condition, that particular medical condition can be treated. In many cases an antihistamine or a decongestant will effectively reduce the dog’s involuntary reflexes.
Living and Management
Close contact with other animals should be avoided while your dog is being treated. For best results it is important to follow the entire course of treatment prescribed by your veterinarian.