Chihuahua Wheezing and Hacking Sounds | Reverse Sneezing

Have you noticed your Chihuahua wheezing, gasping or making similar hacking-like sounds? A lot of owners automatically assume the worst when their Chihuahua begins to experience one of these episodes, and as a result, they may hastily rush them to a nearby emergency veterinarian where they rack up bills in excess of $1,000. The fact is, however, that wheezing (AKA reverse sneezing) is an all-too-common occurrence in the Chihuahua breed.

Even if your Chihuahua hasn't experienced one of these episodes yet, it's still important to educate and familiarize yourself with this condition, as it's one of the most common health problems associated with the breed. As their owner, it's your responsibility to know how to treat any health problems that may arise in your Chihuahua, and reverse sneezing is one of these conditions. Only then can you rest assured knowing that you have the ability to keep your Chihuahua safe and comfortable when they begin wheezing.

Reverse Sneezing/Wheezing - Signs To Look For

Most owners will find it pretty easy to identify reverse sneezing/wheezing episodes in their Chihuahua. Although some Chihuahuas may exhibit slightly different behavior during an episode, most of them will stop what they're doing, tilt their down and begin to hack, gasp and wheeze like they are struggling to breathe. Thankfully, though, Chihuahuas are still able to breathe during this process, so it may appear more frightening than what it actually is. Some owners compare this to a cat trying to hack up a hair ball, only there's nothing that physically comes up once your Chihuahua is done hacking.

Watching your Chihuahua gasping for air like they are unable to breathe is a frightening experience for any owner. Some owners who have never seen these wheezing episodes may frantically try to clear their Chihuahua's airway, which only creates more discomfort in the process. Others may rush their Chihuahua to the veterinarian thinking something more severe is at hand. As a result, these owners are left with pricey veterinarian bills and no actual treatment for the problem. In all actuality, reverse sneezing/wheezing are common in the Chihuahua breed, and they sound much worse than what they are.

Causes of Reverse Sneezing/Wheezing

To understand what's causing these reverse sneezing/wheezing episodes in Chihuahuas, you must first look at the area where it's happening. Although the name suggests that it's related to sneezing, it's actually caused by an irritation of the soft palate in the roof of their mouth. If you're able to see the inside of a Chihuahua's mouth, you'll notice a hard palate that's located at the roof of their mouth, while the soft palate extends off to the side. A reverse sneezing/wheezing episode is believed to be caused by an irritated or misaligned soft palate, which is also known as a pharyngeal spasm.

Common causes of reverse sneezing/wheezing:

  • Drinking or eating too much too fast.

  • Overly excited from playing, given treats or otherwise.

  • Allergic reactions or extreme sensitivity to dust, pollen or other air pollutants.

  • Pulling on their leash when they are wearing a tight collar.

  • Using harsh cleaning chemicals in the house may cause your Chihuahua to experience an episode.

  • Polyps (blood-filled sacks) located in or around their throat and mouth.

  • Infestation of nasal mites.

  • Growth deformities, such as excessive soft palate tissue.

While some owners may be able to identify the root cause of their Chihuahua's reverse sneezing/wheezing episodes, most of the time there won't be any noticeable cause. It's recommended that you try to determine if any of the causes listed above are triggering your Chihuahua to experience an episode, and if they are, you should try to remedy the problem.

How To Treat a Reverse Sneezing/Wheezing Episode

Unfortunately, there's no known cure for reverse sneezing/wheezing episodes in Chihuahuas and other small dogs. Taking them to the veterinarian usually ends up being a waste of money, as your Chihuahua's episode will likely pass on its own, long before you even reach the vet. With that said, there are a couple things owners can do to help calm and comfort your Chihuahua when they are wheezing.

When you see your Chihuahua gasping for air during an episode, get down on the floor and gently massage their neck with your hand. Just place your hand firmly on their neck and rub it in a clockwise motion. As long as you aren't using too much force, a gentle massage should shorten the length of the spasm. Alternatively, some owners have found that pinching their Chihuahua's nostrils shut also tends to help shorten episodes. The logic behind this is that Chihuahua's are forced to breathe through their mouth when their nostrils are closed; therefore, it normalizes their breathing cycle.

Some veterinarians may also recommend giving your Chihuahua Benadryl or some other over-the-counter medication if they believe allergies are the cause of their episodes. Before giving your Chihuahua ANY medication, talk to your vet to make sure it's safe.

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