Is your Maltese making a strange, snorting sound and seems to be struggling to breathe?
If so, you may have witnessed what’s known as reverse sneezing. While it may seem unusual, this is actually a common and harmless condition in Maltese dogs and many other small breeds.
So before you rush off to the vet in panic mode, let’s take a closer look at what Maltese reverse sneezing is, understand why it happens, and how you can help your dog in this situation.
What is reverse sneezing?
A reverse sneeze, also known as inspiratory paroxysmal respiration, is a brief and sudden episode where a dog makes a loud snorting or honking sound.
Contrary to regular sneezing, which expels air to clear the nasal passages, reverse sneezing pulls air inward. This tends to happen when something irritates the soft palate or throat of the dog, resulting in a spasm that leads to this unusual respiratory pattern.
Although it can be quite startling if you’ve never witnessed it before, this is usually temporary (ranging from just a few seconds up to a minute) and shouldn’t cause any pain or harm to the dog.
Signs and symptoms
The signs and symptoms of reverse sneezing in Maltese dogs may include bouts of rapid breathing, choking-like noises (snorting or honking), stiffening of the body, expansion of the chest, and extending of the neck.
It’s important to note that these symptoms may vary from dog to dog. Some Maltese dogs may only exhibit mild reverse sneezing episodes, while others may have more frequent and intense ones.
Causes of Maltese Reverse Sneezing
One common cause of this unusual respiratory behavior is nasal irritation or inflammation due to allergens, such as pollen or dust.
In addition, nasal mites or other foreign objects (like grass seeds) can become lodged in a Maltese’s nasal passages, leading to the reflexive response of reverse sneezing as their body attempts to clear the obstruction.
Another potential cause of Maltese reverse sneezing is excitement or overexertion.
Just like humans sometimes gasp for air after intense physical activity or experiencing strong emotions, Maltese dogs may reverse sneeze when they’re particularly excited or have been engaging in vigorous play.
RELATED: Why Do Dogs Sneeze When They Play?
Anatomy also plays a role in reverse sneezing. For example, dogs with long snouts or brachycephalic breeds with elongated soft palates, such as pugs and bulldogs, are more prone to developing reverse sneezing due to their anatomical structure.
Still, this can occur in any dog regardless of their breed or size.
Treatment and prevention
When it comes to conventional treatment, there’s no specific medication or cure for reverse sneezing in dogs.
That said, if your Maltese experiences frequent episodes, your veterinarian may suggest anti-inflammatory or antihistamine medications to help reduce inflammation and irritation in the nasal passages.
Calming techniques such as lightly massaging your dog’s throat or covering their nose can also help stop reverse sneezing. Similarly, offering your dog a small treat can sometimes interrupt the episode and calm their breathing.
In terms of prevention, avoiding known triggers like allergens or irritants may reduce the frequency of reverse sneezing. This can be done by keeping your home environment clean and free from potential triggers such as dust, pollen, or strong scents.
Furthermore, maintaining a healthy weight through regular exercise and a balanced diet is essential for preventing respiratory and other health issues in dogs.
Reverse sneezing vs. Tracheal collapse
Reverse sneezing and tracheal collapse are two separate conditions with different causes and treatments.
While a reverse sneeze is typically a harmless and temporary reflex, tracheal collapse is a more serious and chronic condition that may require medical intervention.
A collapsed trachea occurs when the cartilage rings that support the dog’s trachea begin to weaken and collapse, causing difficulty breathing.
The symptoms may include a honking or wheezing cough and may worsen when the dog is excited, exercising, or pulling on a leash.
Since small dogs have smaller and weaker trachea, they’re more prone to developing a collapsing trachea, although it can also occur in larger breeds.
If your dog is constantly coughing or struggling to catch their breath, you should seek veterinary attention. A veterinarian will be able to diagnose whether the issue is due to tracheal collapse or something else.
The treatment for tracheal collapse may vary depending on the severity of the condition. Mild cases can often be managed with lifestyle modifications and medication, while more severe cases may require surgical intervention.
Reverse sneezing is a common condition characterized by sudden and rapid inhalations. It’s usually triggered by allergies, dust, or even excitement and is generally harmless.
However, if your dog is experiencing chronic coughing and difficulty breathing, it may indicate a more serious underlying issue such as tracheal collapse.
In this case, make sure to consult with a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.