Does your dog often choke while making pig noises?

What can I do to help him?

Here are 3 tricks you can try:

  • Rub his throat to make him swallow;
  • Make him drink water;
  • Cover his muzzle and mouth a few seconds.

Those tricks can help stop the crisis or at least decrease its intensity.

What is happening to my dog?

There is a condition called "reverse sneezing" that often affects dogs. It is a kind of crisis where the dog suddenly begins to make great efforts to inspire. This causes a noise that is very similar to the grunt of a pig. During the episode, the dog's neck is stretched, his mouth is closed and his lips are sucked in.

"Reverse sneezing" is a normal reflex that occurs during inspiration to try to remove irritants present in the nasopharynx (the backmost part of the mouth) and prevent them from reaching the lungs.

Once you have witnessed a dog “reverse sneeze”, it is usually easy to recognize the condition afterwards. However, if you have never seen this, then it can be difficult to tell the difference between this condition and coughing, choking, sneezing or gagging, especially when there are more than one symptom showing at the same time.

Why does my dog « reverse sneezes »?

Anything in the nasopharynx that is irritating can cause “reverse sneezing” :

  • A great amount of secretions in the nose that flows into the nasopharynx (eg bacterial infection);
  • A foreign body. Dogs that hunt often get things into their nose while sniffing everywhere.
  • Parasites (eg nasal mites);
  • Tumor;
  • Etc.

Secretions in the lungs (eg pneumonia), in the stomach (vomiting, especially chronic) or in the mouth (tooth abscess with discharge of pus) that are propelled into the nasopharynx can also irritate it. Sometimes just excitement can trigger a crisis. 

Small breed dogs in particular tend to have “idiopathic reverse sneezing”. This means that no cause is identified. These dogs usually have no other symptoms besides the “reverse sneezing”.

There are tests that can be done to try to find out what is irritating the nasopharynx:

  • A skull X-ray or CT Scan (CT scan). To identify a foreign body or a tumor, for example;
  • A dental X-ray and examination of the teeth. To identify a dental abscess;
  • A rhinoscopy (video of the inside of the nose) with biopsy. Biopsy allows tissue analysis at the microscopic level.

What is the cure?

In order for the dog to stop doing reverse sneezing and the typical pig noise that goes with it, the cause of irritation in the nasopharynx must be removed. Depending on what that cause is, we can prescribe:

  • Antibiotics for a bacterial infection;
  • A dewormer for mites and other parasites. In this case, all the animals in the house must be treated;
  • Anti-inflammatories as needed.

If the problem is a dental abscess, the diseased tooth will need to be removed, in addition to giving antibiotics. If it is a tumor, it will need to either be removed or treated with chemotherapy or radiation, depending on the type of tumor. If there is a foreign body, it will have to be removed as well.

We recommend that the dog be kept away from other animals for the duration of the treatment if he has an infection or parasites. If he has been biopsied then he will have to be kept at rest for a while to avoid bleeding.

In summary, “reverse sneezing” is a normal reflex that occurs when there is irritation in the nasopharynx. Even if the dog makes an impressive pig noise and seems to choke, the condition itself does not put his life in danger. Nonetheless, it is still important to try to find and remove the cause behind the problem to make it disappear.

Your dog makes a scary pig noise and seems to choke? Make an appointment at one of our establishments  to confirm that he is indeed suffering from “reverse sneezing”, to find out why he does this, and to give him the appropriate treatment.

Texte créé en janvier 2019