Beagle Reverse Sneezing. Is It Typical?
I remember when my beagle, Skyler, experienced his first reverse sneeze. Having just gotten over a case of the flu myself and been having my own sneezing fits, I erroneously thought that I had passed him something contagious. Imagine my panic!
I got a few snickers from a friend of mine who dropped by later that day, and was able to clarify what happened. He has a boxer and labrador that do the exact same thing that he described.
“Wait, you mean it’s common?”
Nevertheless, it made me want to delve more deeply into its cause. I wanted to know what is it, what causes it, how will I know when it’s happening, and how can I treat it? Luckily, I learned this over time. This is what I’ve learned.
What Is Reverse Sneezing?
Reverse sneezing (or pharyngeal gag reflex) is a condition that can affect beagles. It tends to occur in smaller breeds and brachycephalic (shortened snout) breeds. It is a respiratory spasmodic episode that can I could best describe as a combination of a hiccup, snort and hiss.
Fortunately, these sneezing episodes are usually only seconds in duration and are generally harmless.
Symptoms of Reverse Sneezing In Beagles
- Flaring nostrils and chest cavity
- Hissing sound
- Hyper-extended neck
- Squinting of eyes
- Subtle honking sound
Usually, a beagle will hyper-extend their neck and begin making gasping sounds. They may snort all the while acting like they can’t catch their breath (but they can). It sounds and acts much worse than it actually is.
Below is an example of what happens during one of these episodes. I can’t ever seem to catch Skyler on video, as his episodes tend to be rather short. However, this video below will provide an accurate representation, if you’re questioning if you’ve seen it happen before.
What is Happening When A Reverse Sneeze Episode Occurs?
A reverse sneezing episode is brought on by an irritant that has affected their soft palate and throat, creating a spasm. The irritation affects their trachea which then narrows, making it more difficult for your beagle to breathe as efficiently. In this scenario, your beagle is rapidly pulling air through their nose, whereas in a regular sneeze, the air is rapidly being pushed out of the nose.
I’m sure you’re questioning why an irritant would create a rapid inhalation, not an exhalation. Well, your beagle’s respiratory system is trying to remove the irritant. How? When the irritant reaches the trachea, mucus encapsulates it. Small hairs located nearby (cilia), transport the mucus up and out of the respiratory tract. Ideally, the irritant is released either via the nose or the throat, and the irritant should no longer pose an issue.
Side note: most beagles will have repeat episodes throughout their lives.
Triggers Of A Beagle Reverse Sneezing Episodes
A direct cause of a reverse sneezing episode is unknown.
However, anything that may irritate or inflame nasal, pharyngeal, or sinus passages can potentially be a catalyst.
Some environmental catalysts are grasses and pollen, allergies, odors, dust, viruses or smoke. Some physical catalysts are eating or drinking too fast, over-excitement, or even if your beagle tugs too hard on their leash.
Veterinary Diagnosis/Treatment Of Reverse Sneezing
Most of the time, a beagle reverse sneezing is self-limiting and the cause is temporary and inconsequential.
However, if their sneezing becomes more frequent or longer in duration, or if your beagle exhibits signs that may be indicative of something more serious like: Lack of appetite and/or energy, nasal discharge or a bloody nose, or any difficulty breathing otherwise; you should absolutely bring them in for a checkup.
Your veterinarian diagnosis will be based on your beagle’s clinical signs and medical history.
During their exam, your veterinarian will put extensive focus on your beagle’s nasal, pharyngeal, and sinus passages. They will take into account other potential triggers of abnormal breathing, which could include respiratory tract infections, collapsing trachea, nasal polyps/tumors, or other foreign bodies in the mouth or nasal passages.
The veterinarian has an arsenal of tools to rule out these aforementioned issues which may include allergy testing, blood testing, radiographs (x-rays), rhinoscopy (fiberoptic imaging) among others. Your veterinarian may even choose to prescribe medication or other options if the case seems warranted.
What Can I Do To Help Minimize Occurrences?
Here are a few tips that I have found to be very effective at minimizing or interrupting the event.
If Your Beagle Is Reverse Sneezing
- A yummy, yet effective way is to have them lick a small amount of peanut butter from a spoon. The swallowing action may halt the reverse sneezing.
- Massaging your beagle’s throat gently can help relieve a spasm.
- Lightly blowing in their face, and speak to them in a calming voice.
- Briefly covering their nasal passages for a second will also force your beagle to swallow.
Pro tip: A reverse sneezing episode is not a seizure. That being said, your beagle will not bite off their tongue. Therefore, do not — I repeat: do not place your fingers into your dog’s mouth to move their tongue out of the way. You don’t want to run the risk of needlessly getting bit for nothing, do you?
During All Other Times
Fortunately, we beagle parents are not without tools to our own avail to help mitigate or eliminate these occurrences. Some that can be very helpful are:
- Using dog bowls that are designed to slow down food consumption
- Avoid the use of cleaning products that are particularly aromatic. In addition, the greater frequency of cleaning is great for keeping levels of dust and dander at bay.
- Instead of using a collar during walks, use a halter lead or harness
- Reducing over-stimulation in your dog’s environment
- Curb smoking indoors (if you or others smoke), and be mindful of any other particulate matter that can be potentially irritating; such as air fresheners, candles, etc.
- Consider keeping your windows closed in your home. Yes, it is beneficial for everyone to get fresh air, but with fresh air comes potential environmental pollutants. By keeping your windows closed, you have control over the air quality. Just be sure to keep properly your heating, cooling, and ventilation sources well maintained.
- We’ve attached a list of recommended products. In that list, we use very effective allergy/immunity boosting treats to help alleviate the symptoms of one of our beagle’s allergies. The list is compiled here.
Watching your beagle reverse sneezing for the first time can be very distressing. Fortunately, it is harmless in and of itself. Soothing your dog and remaining calm, realizing that the event will shortly be over will be comforting to both human and beagle alike.
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