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

Chihuahua Reverse Sneezing

Chihuahua Recovering After Wheezing

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.

Video of a Chihuahua Reverse Sneezing

Check out the video above for an accurate demonstration of what a reverse sneezing/wheezing episode looks like in a Chihuahua. As you can see, the Chihuahua stops in their tracks and begins to cough and hack like they are gasping for air. Unless you know otherwise, one might assume that the Chihuahua is suffocating, but thankfully this isn't the case. Most Chihuahuas will begin to breathe and act normal again after 15-30 seconds.

References:

Canine Reverse Sneezing Wikipedia

PetMD Reverse Sneezing


25 Responses to “Chihuahua Wheezing and Hacking Sounds | Reverse Sneezing”

  1. Sue says:

    Just came across this and it is exactly what my chihuahua has started doing (he is now 2). I am so relieved thats all it is. It made me panic and nearly rush off to the vets. It happened twice yesterday and once this morning.
    Does this need any medical treatment ?

  2. Daniel says:

    My Chihuahua is 11 years old and she has been coughing for about 5 months now. This is not a reverse sneeze, it is more like a dry hacking cough and then she will wheeze for several minutes (about 10 minutes on average). She sounds like she is in pain and she cannot breath properly during those spells. Her cough is especially prevalent during the night and morning. She will have coughing spells throughout the day as well (around once every two hour). Sometimes when she coughs a lot, she will cough up something and swallow it. Only once did I see that it was white foam.

    I have taken her to the veterinarian and she was prescribed an antibiotic since he thought it might be an infection. I gave her the antibiotic and it did not help or lessen her coughing. I then took her back again and he gave me a diuretic to get rid of fluid and again, this did not help her. All this medication did was make her urinate in great volume and make her thirsty. Also, she swelled up like a balloon. The vet then took chest x-rays and found that her liver was a bit enlarged and was pushing against her diaphragm. In addition, he said her heart looked normal. He then prescribed a stronger antibiotic and a medication that he described as a human equivalent to Mucinex. I decided against giving her any more antibiotics since he said it would make her sick and nauseous and because of what he said about her liver (my Chihuahua’s mother died from liver failure). Instead, I only gave her the “Mucinex”. It has not helped her any.

    In the past she has been evaluated for heartworm and the blood test turned out negative. I do not know what to do. Are there any natural remedies or anything else I can do for my Chihuahua? Is this cough beatable given her age? Is there any cure? I am scared I might lose her :(
    PLEASE HELP

    • Chihuahua Wardrobe says:

      Hey Daniel,

      It’s hard to say what exactly is causing your Chihuahua to experience these episodes; it could be from fluid in their lungs, a collapsed trachea, allergies, kennel cough, heart disease, respiratory disease or heartworms… Talk with your veterinarian to try and rule out each of these possible causes. It’s also not a bad idea to take your Chihuahua to a different veterinarian for a second opinion.

      • Nicole Saineghi says:

        Try giving your dog a small teaspoon of honey or some honey and coconut oil mixed together. It will not prevent the coughing but it will soothe your dogs irritated throat and is a natural remedy. Be careful though because honey will cause your dogs blood sugar to rise a little so if your dog has a natually high blood sugar level then I wouldnt do the honey. My little 13year old chihuahua has seizures and this tyoe of coughing but the seizures are due to low blood sugar levels so the honey works both ways :)

    • Judy says:

      A dog I rescued started hacking and coughing and couldn’t breathe right. I took her to emergency and she had laryngeal paralysis. I had never heard of it before. Did your vet ever mention that? I see that your letter was from almost a year ago, so hopefully your doggie is all better by now. Good luck.

    • Criste says:

      My Chihuahua turns 11 this month and has too started the last couple of weeks really wheezing and being out of breath. It’s not the reverse sneezing either, he did that a lot when he was younger and i know what that is. This is different it’s got kind of that whistling sound when he wheezes. I know he’s a little over weight and doesn’t get a lot of exercise and I figure that’s contributing. It definitely happens whenever he goes up the stairs or I pick him up like the pressure against his chest makes it worse. I keep worrying that he has a collapsed lung or fluid in them. He can be fine for hours but he’s doing it several times a day and it lasts for about 10 minutes and I’m getting worried because of his age. Have you found out what’s wrong with your dog Daniel?

  3. krystal says:

    My chihuahua was just diagnosed with collapse trachea and what ur describing sounds just like my lil nico symptoms unfortunately there is no cure there is very invasive surgery to try and place a stent but its 50/50 chance of success besides surgery they manage it with medications for cough and breathing also lifestyle changes on ur dog and u …dog has to be in a stress free environment and try to not get to excited hope this helps

    • Chihuahua Wardrobe says:

      Sorry to hear that your Nico suffers from a collapsed trachea. Problems such as these are fairly common in Chihuahuas, and you’re certainly right: excitement can produce wheezing episodes.

  4. krystal says:

    Also trachea collapse does not always show on xray due to the difficulties taking a xray at the precise moment a dog breaths in.

  5. val.lopez says:

    My dog was doing this for a while I gave her allergy medicine for about 2 weeks 2x a day, and warm water. She stopped doing it. When she does occasionally have an episode I give her one dosage. She’s usually fine

  6. Chihuahuass says:

    I have two chihuahuas one is 5 the other is 6 and they have been doing that a lot lately especially today like every 20 minutes is it the same thing??

    • Loutrishia says:

      I have 2 chihuahua and the small one just started that snorting more frequent. I notice this when I put the flea medicine on her. Could that trigger her to doing that?

      • Shelby says:

        Be careful with topical flea medicine and chihuahuas. My dogs both started having seizures after I started them on topical flea medication.

        They are too small & the same poison that kills fleas is killing them.

        Just bathe them in Dawn dish soap when needed.

  7. Silvia Gracia says:

    We have two chihuahuas and so far only one does that noise. My mother in law has a chihuahua and I noticed him doing it sometime back, then before I realized our dog was soon doing it, so I thought maybe it was contagious , I am very muvh relieved to know that it wasnt catchy at all. I thank God because when I knew not what to do, , I just began to massage his neck area gentley which did seem to help quite a bit. We havenr the money to take them to the vet, I want to thank you for posting ur info it was an enlightment to finally know the cause of these episodes. Thank you.

  8. jd24 says:

    My 4 mo old Chihuahua started doing this reverse sneezing a day after her nasal bordatella vaccination…I have no idea what to do?! My vet said it shouldn’t be related but after much reading I see that it has happened to MANY more than me. I hate it for her and it makes me angry that I did this to her! :(

  9. Calianne says:

    My little papillon was given that nasal bordatella vaccination when she was 8 wks old and suffered they 12 yrs of ‘reverse sneezing’ as the vet called it. I was traumatized with the distress it put on her. She also had a collapse trachea from the regular collar she wore. She ran and then came to a screetching halt which jolted her. She was black from her chin to the bottom of her tummy. Scared me to death. I no longer put a regular collar on my dogs. They wear soft harnesses an I get full control over her. My Pap passed away a yr ago and a few months later I stopped into PetSmart for one of their adoption days hoping to find a Yorkie but instead I found this beautiful –? Maybe long hair chihuahua , burnt orange in colar with the same color eyes. She just turned 1 yr old and has the best personality and well mannered. Understands commands pretty quickly and I am training her to be a therapy dog. She is magnificent . My sweet little Cassie

  10. Lorena Espinoza says:

    My dogs do the same it’s scary… I need help with another matter someone please help me… two days in a row now my chihuahua Lola she’s 6 years old she started yelling and crying and could not move after about a minute she was ok then today she did the same thing and was sitting down she would lift her right paw then she would lift her left paw she was shaking and crying she looked like she was in pain..she has not hurt herself she does not hang out where mosquitoes can bite her plese hel me anyone..thank you

    • Cuca's & Lola's Dad says:

      I have a 6year old Lola and she jumped down off the couch and pinched a nerve in her neck and shoulders.
      We were prescribed tramydal and in about 2 weeks she was back to normal.
      She would lye on her side and shiver in pain but did not move. I could feel the swelling in her neck and shoulders when this would happen so i would message the area till it relaxed. Good luck

      My other chi had a red blood cell issue and almost passed away but we used Bio-preparation 3 and she is back to normal from a low blood count of below 11%

    • Criste says:

      Poor baby. My dog started crying a lot and one time he had a pretty good thorn in his paw and another time he’d been stung by a bee. Plus there’s always a chance they jumped or twisted just right and gave themselves a luxating patella which is where they kind of pull their knee out of socket and it floats in and out and will cause them pain. They have surgery for that but it’s expensive and not guaranteed to last. My dog has had both his back legs with luxating patellas and if he does something that hurts them or aggravates it he will limp around for a couple of weeks but usually it gets better and they can live with it though in a perfect world you’d try and get it operated on because I believe it does cause them discomfort they just get use to it plus it will cause a problem with arthritis as they get older. I hope she’s okay.

  11. diane says:

    sounds like she might have the begining stages of patella luxation. Or where her knee pops out of place.Take her to your vet and have her checked out. Hope it will all be positive for you both. I just lost my little papillion to the crushed tracha and had to have him put to sleep. It was the most tramatic thing I have ever had to do. So I do understand how everyone feels about it being scary and we do feel so guilty when our little fur babys are in pain.

  12. sl says:

    How much benedryl was the chihauhau given?

  13. Victor Sartoresi says:

    Thank you very much for great advice. did the suggestions, we be monitoring her eating habits and checking out her resting and sleeping spots any abnormalities. it been very hat this week in the triple digits.

  14. Ladybugs Mother says:

    I have a very old Chi and can’t afford to go to the vet so I thought I would try giving her some antihistamine and it worked wonders. She looks to be doing much better. She still has episodes but they don’t last as long and aren’t as harsh. I hope this info. might help someone!!!

  15. Mariha says:

    My 6 yo apple head chihuahua has started kind of wheezing at night. Usually it happens in his sleep but tonight it was while he was awake. Judging by what I see as I watch his stomach, it looks like the sound is happening on the inhale, then he kind of exhales rapidly. He does not seem to be bothered by this at all as he fell asleep while it was happening. I was unable to watch the above video, it says the video is “private”. So I’m not sure if this is reverse sneezing or not. Any thoughts would be much appreciate.

  16. Britaneya says:

    added to last comment: I also watched videos of the reverse sneezing and it dont seem like that bc she doesnt have that snort noise its more of a hacking noise i think im gana call the vet tomorrow any suggestions on what i can do b4 i get to the vet wld be great thanks

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