Q: My Chihuahua (9 months old), has been reverse sneezing since he was a puppy. Is there any cure for this? What are the side effects of reverse sneezing? Lastly, what is the difference between collapsing trachea & reverse sneezing?

A: Reverse sneezing is very common in small breed dogs like your Chihuahua. Petite dogs have a smaller bone frame with narrower nasal passages. This is especially prominent in Chihuahuas as they have a dome-shaped head and a very short muzzle. This makes your furkid’s nasal passage more sensitive to air movement, air moisture and air temperature changes. Reverse sneezing is literally sucking air into the nose (as compared to normal sneezing where there is an outward spray of nasal vapor). When this occurs, your pet will make continuous respiratory noises that can sound like he is grunting, snorting or choking. This occurs mostly when your pet is excited, drinks too quickly or has detected some allergen or dust that irritates his nasal passage. Reverse sneezing is not life threatening and when it happens, simply pick your pup up and gently comfort him by patting his chest. You can also offer him some water to drink to sooth his throat and ease the sneezing. 

While there is no sure cure for this problem it’s not considered a disease either. It is commonly related to the structural conformation of the nasal passage and the skull. However, some puppies will have a lower incidence of reverse sneezing when they mature as their bone size may increase and nasal passage widens. You can also slow down the rate your pup drinks water by using a shallow water dish (but please make sure it is always refilled with fresh water) and do not allow him to run or exercise too strenuously. 

Collapsed trachea is condition where the wind pipe is flattened as the muscles around it gets weak. Dogs can be born with this condition or develop it as they grow older. Affected canines typically present with a dry honking cough and will almost always cough when its throat is being pressed. This will worsen if your dog exercises too vigorously as the exchange of air becomes more rapid as he breathes faster. If you suspect your pet has a collapsed trachea please visit your vet for a head, neck and chest x-ray to confirm the condition.

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