My Bichon Meesha is three years old and sometimes she has these attacks, where she sounds like she is choking, it kind of sounds like a loud snort, it scares me because it looks like she can’t get her breath. It will last for about 30 – 40 seconds and she will cough and it will stop. These fits happen about 3 times a week.
It sounds like Meesha is reverse sneezing. Reverse sneezing in dogs usually occurs in episodes lasting 20 – 60 seconds. Reverse sneezing sounds like a combination of gagging, snorting, coughing and sneezing all at once. It’s a very unique phenomenon, and I never tire of watching clients imitate the noise when they try to describe it.
Anything that can cause sneezing in dogs also can cause reverse sneezing. Foreign objects such as blades of grass or foxtails lodged in the nose or throat commonly cause reverse sneezing. Respiratory infections and sinus infections may cause reverse sneezing. Masses or cysts in the sinuses or nose may cause reverse sneezing. Exposure to dust, irritants, or allergens can lead to reverse sneezing. Chronic irritation of the tissues in the nose or throat can trigger episodes of reverse sneezing.
Dogs that suddenly begin suffering from severe sneezing or reverse sneezing should be seen by a veterinarian. In some instances, it is necessary to sedate or anesthetize the dog to thoroughly evaluate the nose and oral cavity and search for foreign objects.
On the other hand, dogs like Meesha with chronic intermittent reverse sneezing rarely have a problem that requires medical attention. In cases where non-progressive reverse sneezing has been going on for months or years, transient mild sinus irritation most often is to blame.
If you have any doubts, the safest thing will be a trip to the vet. But I’ll bet Meesha’s fine.