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




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

  1. Susan says:

    When my Chihuahua reserve sneezes I hold her nose down to her chest for a minute and it stops it.

  2. Tony says:

    I have a 14 year old Chihuahua. Could someone tell me a good dog food for Chihuahua. She is a very picky eater. My ex has always feed her special kitty cat food.

    • jen says:

      my fussy eater eats natures menu – steamed raw dog food topped with boiled chicken or fillet roasted (plain) and top it onto above or a quality kibble

  3. Sabrina Helton says:

    Thank you for this information. My dog freaks me out when she does this. It’s good to know it’s not serious. We are having a bad time with the allergies here lately and I think it’s made it a little worse. Thank you!

  4. Laura says:

    My 2 year old Chi has a episode of this on occasion, but since the new dog next door moved in and he had been barking big time…. the last 3 days he has had episodes off and on of reverse sneezing! Thankfully i found this information, I think its triggered by his barking at the new dog neighbor? It freaks me out when he does this, it’s good to know it’s common. My 7 year old chi has never done this so I was freaked out the first time my youngest one did this.

  5. Brenda says:

    Thank you for the advice about rubbing the neck! This has been an ongoing occurrence since I adopted my chihuahua. The wheezing sounds like pig grunts..the scary part is seeing her abdomen constricting, as if she’s suffocating. I looked it up but never saw a way to help her through the episode, so thank you! The wheezing usually lasts anywhere from 15-30 secs. I just hold her to calm her…now I’ll be doing the neck rub too.

    • LM says:

      Hope your 🐢 is doing better.
      My little one macey is doing a lot better.
      The hacking is now occasional.
      However the stamoch spasms are only at night. I keep a eye on her until she falls asleep. We will have some X-rays in a few days just make sure her trachea there is no severe damage.
      Per her vet only soft foods will be best, and shorter walks to reduce rapid breathing.
      Best wishes and please hang in there with you little bud of joy😊

  6. Rosa De Luca-Tao says:

    Hi there,

    My Chi has a collapsed Trachea. It’s so frightening now because she always coughs. Vet told us to lift her water bowl and this actually helps. Has anyone else having this problem? I am looking into having an operation to have a stent put in.

  7. Amanda says:

    Thank you so much my Chihuahua is almost 13 and she started doing this at 6 am this morning. I held her and cried not knowing how to comfort her, it comes and goes at least now I know it’s a Chihuahua thing.

    • LM says:

      Hello Amanda,
      My dog 🐢 macey 6 years old, started late April periodically with white foam. (Mucous buildup) she would hacked and cough up.
      I had her vet checkup and they said it’s usually triggered by something..,pollen in my case, also excitement or when Defending against other 🐢
      I have learnt to manage what trips it and i’ve thought her how to take a breath this teaches her to slow down and breathe at a normal rate. Additionally, after her walk and taking the stairs She starts up the sneezing or hacking sounds, and I will use a warm washcloth held on her throat with a little pressure. She’s very appreciate and the spasms to sneeze will cease.
      I also put coconut oil in her food this seems to help to soothe her throats when hacking, I’ve made sure she stays on a fresh base diet to eliminate any build mucous which is the white foamy stuff backup up due to reverse sneezing.
      Also my vet says to try Benadryl, this also works well to previous excessive sneezes to allergens around.
      My dog is doing great and now on occasion the sneezing is normal vs. reverse which is here and there.
      Breathing Patterns especially when resting are free of spasms.
      With basic care it all seems manageable. Best wishes for your furry friends.

  8. Tina says:

    Thank you so much for this advice. I rescued my chi-chi 2 years ago. He has always grunted when excited but over the past two weeks he’s had 2 episodes of what I thankfully discovered from here is reverse sneezing. Even my other 3 dogs were conscerned with him. It scared me so much. I tried water, fresh air but did the rubbing on neck which calmed him down. I’m really greatful for everybodies knowledge on here too since prince is the first chi-chi I’ve ever owned was scared he was dying. Xxxx 🐢🐾🐾🐾🐾

    • Charles Dunaway says:

      Thank you for The advice it Really bothers me and even hurts me to know my Dog is suffering! Good to know next time I’ll rub her neck.

  9. Ruth says:

    I never had a dog always cats.but someone gave me a chihuahua name Mia I love her so much but the first time I heard her doing that it scared me but I notice she only do it when I get home from work on when she’s very happy I guess I was doing the right thing byju’s trying to comfort her and talking to her and tell her it’s okay. Thank God for internet.and you guys.🐢🐾🐾

  10. Jennifer Morgan says:

    Our boy has only done this 2x as of 430 this am. He’s almost 12yo and medically healthy other than has bladder stones 2x. He is so quiet 100% of the time. We rescued him from someone who raised him with cats, probably why he’s do quiet. Anytime we have people over or serice techs they have no clue he’s on my love seat and in his blankets. But this scared me. Thank you for sharing this post and the video. Last time my husband had heard him doing this.

  11. Lizzy says:

    Mine is not doing that is it more like a with whimper than whezzing but is is like it can’t breath.

  12. jerry says:

    I have a Shih Tzu named Abigail. She is ten years old. When she starts back sneezing, I blow through her nose. It seems to help very quick. I love my dog. Jerry Hayes.

    • Karen says:

      My Chiwawa stops the reverse sneeze when I put one finger over one nostril. It works every time. She barley has any episodes anymore. She is one year old.

    • Kimberly says:

      I actually thought about doing that. I’ll have to try it. Since it worked for you!!

  13. Janet Strong says:

    Thank you so much for your post. I have rescued a four year old tiny Chihuahua. And recently she’s been hacking and coughing. I was scared sick. This post helped me a lot.

  14. Elia Canales says:

    Thank you for this article this happens to my Penelope every time after she eats or when she’s super excited after I come home. She’s only 10 lbs i feel really bad because i fell like there is nothing that I can do for her.

  15. DAE says:

    My mom’s pup always coughs. I’ve just noticed with my puppy (his son) he has started to cough too. Of course it worried me to no end! That’s my baby!!:( but with Boomer (the dad) when he starts coughing I just shh him & scratch his little chest to calm him with Hades (my puppy) it’s so new to him im so scared. I’m glad this is recurring with other chiuahuas. It’s scary but almost natural. Don’t get stressed just calm your pup it will pass it’s just reoccurring which is terrifying but they are fine just something to get used too….

  16. Judi says:

    My chi takes the cherry flavored liquid benadryl for children for this because it is allergies. There is another condition that can be more serious than this and an untrained ear might not be able to tell the difference. In this video you can hear that this is more of a nasal sound. A collapsed trachea can sound almost similar. Get your dog to lick you. A gentle stroaking down the front of the neck to get them to swallow can also help. I find the licking helps best. Make sure to ask your vet which problem your chi has. One of my dogs had to be on a liquid bronchodialator several times a day because her trachea collapsed so frequently.

  17. Cheryl says:

    My female chihuahua started doing this noise when she was excited but now she does the reversed sneezing at night as she sleeps under my duvet. At first I though she was hot but it’s a normal thing this type of dog does. It’s a very scary noise to hear but just let them know your there and it will pass.

  18. Steve says:

    I have two Chihuahua’s. When this situation occurs. I put butter on my finger and have them eat it. Seems to solve the problem immediately. Don’t know why. But, It Works !! Every time !!

  19. george kraus says:

    I had a Pekinese/Chihuahua mix that did this on occasion,however, one day I noticed something wasn’t right.I told my wife that Dolly wasn’t right and I couldn’t explain.She was only about 6 yrs old in good health and brought to the vet on a regular basis. I had a weird feeling that she was going to die. I had no reason to think that but several hours later she started honking and and dropped down as if she was dead. I am an EMT and proceeded to give her CPR. Thank God,she came back to life.I took her to the vet and spent well over a thousand dollars on tests. I was told not to be concerned and if it happens again to let her be, it was only reverse sneezing and she would snap out of it. How many of you would be able to wait for your loved one to snap out of it?I brought her to another vet and was given phenobarbital for seizures. I gave them to her as directed but for the next eight years of her life it happened 3 more times. I gave her CPR each time and she was okay. She passed away at 14 from cancer and kidney disease.She gave me happiness throughout her years and is now and always will be in my heart. Love em as much as you can as they do you. Thanks for listening.

    • Bridget says:

      Dear George
      I could feel the love you had for your Dolly. So very sorry for your loss. Dolly will always be with you she lives in your heart.
      Bridget

    • Jes says:

      Out baby girl does this daily she is now 5months we notice it as soon as she has a drink, it doesn’t look comfortable at all. Thanks for sharing your story. πŸ™

    • Corinne says:

      Reverse sneezing is actually curable. It is caused from an elongated soft pallet, usually seen in small breed dogs and brachycephalic breeds (short-snouted dogs). To say it is not curable is wrong.

      Airway surgery will cure it and will also stop the dog from having irreversible damage and everted saccules. Not only that the dog will be able to breathe properly, which is conducive with life.

      People, if your dog is reverse sneezing.. Go and see your vet. It CAN be cured! I know this as I’m a vet nurse and have seen the procedure done hundreds of times with success. My Brussels griffon has his done….No more reverse sneezing!

    • Roslyn says:

      George, what you had to say was very informative. You put my mind to rest. I have many sleepless nights over this condition!

    • victoria says:

      Don’t worry. You’ll see your little dog in Heaven one day.

    • Jennifer Morgan says:

      I’m so sorry to hear of your pups passing. Ours has only made this sound 2x in the 9 years we’ve owned him. I just woke up and came out to where he sleeps and heard him. He came running to me and it stopped. As soon as I put him down it started again. It scares me because he’s the quietest chihuahua you’d ever meet. When we have people come over or service techs for something they have no clue he’s on his blanket on our loveseat. They are the best dogs. We rescued him from someone who raised him with cats, hence why he’s so quiet.
      Again, I am so so sorry for your loss of your fur baby.

    • Shannon says:

      Wow .. so amazing to read. She’s lucky she had you for her owner. πŸ™πŸΌ

  20. Olga says:

    Both of my 13 year old Chihuahuas do this also. They just started doing this about 8 months ago. I too got very worried and after paying our vet $543.00 they could not figure out what was going on. I wish I would of known about this earlier I would of asked my vet about and possible save my little guys from going through all those tests. Lesson learn. So really…Why don’t vets tell us this things? Even after testing why don’t they say something. They already have my money. Anyway, glad to know this.

  21. Robin says:

    Omg I thank you so much for this info.

  22. Laura Nelson says:

    Wow! My instincts were right on. When my chihuahuas do this I would rub and massage their neck or hold their nostril closed for a couple of seconds and it always works. It’s good to know I was doing the right thing. I love my Skipper and Pinky and would do anything to help them. Thanks for this article!

  23. Ben says:

    When have had our Chihuahua for 10+ years, she never did the hacking noise until she was 9. For several years, she’s hacked daily. Now it’s intensified to several times an hour! There’s been no discernible cause the vet identified, but do know that your dog is fine and will not die! There’s no emergency visit needed. Tink is doing it right now as I write this. It’s true she does rest more and doesn’t exercise much. And she doesn’t hack as much when sleeping or resting.

  24. Sonnia says:

    I cannot thank you enough. This has happened to my chichi a lot and I’ve rushed her to the vet and of course, by the time we get there she is alright. A friend told me to look you up and what a relief, the vet never explained this is something that happens to chihuahuas and I would panick but, thanks to you, I’m able to get her breathing normally. Once again, thank you so very much!

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