There is nothing greater than the relationship with man and dog. That’s why for decades dogs have been called “man’s best friend.” When a dog gets sick, it’s just like caring for a child. You worry, fret and wonder if and when a trip to the veterinarian is warranted. For the most part, a dog can get the same conditions that a human does. The goal is to closely monitor your dog to ensure that he is not in immediate danger. If you have a good relationship with your four-footed friend, you will know when he is not feeling well and something is out of the ordinary, like sneezing and wheezing episodes or other type of canine cough.
Chihuahuas are one of the best dogs a person can have. Their short stature and spunky personality makes them great for apartment living or for houses that do not have room for larger dog breeds. They are beautiful and very personable dogs. In general, Chihuahuas tend to live long, healthy lives with proper medical care and a home where they are loved. It is not uncommon for them to live up to 15 years.
One of the most reported problems that owners have about their Chihuahuas is their propensity to wheeze and do what sounds like a backwards sneeze. They can also have sudden fits of coughing. The first time you hear you dog do these things, you may become alarmed and fear that he is either choking to death or has the flu. There are several causes for this condition. Some may be normal while others may require a visit to the vet. Here is an example of reverse sneezing:
Why Is My Chihuahua Wheezing And Sneezing?
Years ago, conventional wisdom said that if parents would get their asthmatic child a Chihuahua, the dog would take the symptoms and the child would be asthma-free. Of course, we now know that this is an urban myth. When Chihuahuas are suffering from wheezing and sneezing, they have not magically assumed it from a human. They are dealing with problems from their own body.
If your Chihuahua is wheezing and gasping for breath, it can be the cause of what is called a reverse sneeze. It’s very common in this breed. Even if you have not seen one of these episodes yet, you probably will. Sneezing and wheezing is typically caused from asthma, and this can be the case. However, reverse sneezing happens all the time. Your dog may stop, go into a fit of sneezes, then go about whatever he was doing.
When you think of a sneeze, you think of something that originates in the nose area. Actually, this type of sneeze is caused from an irritation in the soft palate in the roof of the mouth. By looking into the dog’s mouth, the hard palate in the roof of the mouth is easy to see. This sneeze is believed to occur when a spasm occurs and the palate is misaligned. This pharyngeal spasm can be caused from many reasons. This snorting and wheezing sound is alarming, but it is completely harmless. It is a poorly understood phenomenon– but it doesn’t require an emergency vet trip.
What Causes Wheezing and Sneezing?
We’ve established that a reverse sneeze occurs when the pharyngeal spasm occurs. There are many things that can cause this spasm to happen. If a dog eats or drinks too fast, the palate can become misaligned and they will sneeze. If you examine your Chihuahua’s teeth, you may notice dental problems that can make breathing, eating, or swallowing difficult–which can in turn cause the wheezing and sneezing. If your dog often has fits of sneezing while eating or drinking, he may get choked often. Your vet may have to preform dental surgery to correct you dog’s bite. Improper chewing and swallowing can cause food particles or water to be accidently ingested into the lungs (aspiration). This can lead to aspirational pneumonia, which is a life-threatening condition. Sever coughing is often involved in this condition.
Wheezing and sneezing can also occur when your Chihuahua gets overly excited from playing. Even something as small as giving him a treat can cause him to overexert himself and go into a spasm. If a dog has allergy problems, he can have a reaction to dust and or other air pollutants. Though it may start out as what appears to be a normal sneeze, the palate can have a misalignment and it can turn into a reverse sneeze. Other problems to be aware of are harmful chemicals used in the home. Smaller dogs usually have more sensitive respiratory systems, so be careful with scented candles and other air fresheners.
It is also important to pay attention to how tight your dog’s collar is. Even though you want it tight enough that dog cannot get out of it, you still should have room enough to slip a finger between the collar and your dog’s neck. If you cannot get your dog’s collar adjusted correctly, you may want to consider a different type of collar. A lot of smaller dogs like Chihuahuas do better on harness type collars. A lot of dog owners notice that their dogs have fits of sneezing and wheezing when walking their dogs. This is often a problem in your dog is running ahead of you and is pulling tightly on his collar. The only way to remedy this problem is to work on walking and obedience training.
You should always make a habit of periodically checking inside your dog’s mouth. Do pay special attention for any blood-filled sacks called polyps located in the mouth or throat. If the problem is repetitive, look for nasal mites or growth deformities in the palate. An excess of soft palate tissues can cause reverse sneezing to happen often.
You may notice that your dog is a loud snorer. Just like with humans, the soft palate in the back of the throat relaxes and vibrates with each breath. There can even be cases of sleep apnea with your Chihuahua, when he may quit breathing for a second or two while he sleeps. His throat and mouth may dry out during sleep and cause a raspy wheeze or sneeze.
Is There A Proper Treatment For Wheezing and Sneezing Episodes?
For those dogs that have an episode of reverse sneezing on occasion, there is no real way to prevent it. However, if it is becoming a constant problematic, then it warrants a trip to a veterinarian to find out the source of the issue. If the sneezing is caused by too much skin in the palate area, your vet may recommend a simple surgery to take off excess skin for the palate and the problem can be remedied. If your Chihuahua has allergies, then he may need an allergy medication that reduces the irritations in the airways. Some vets suggest an over-the-counter script like Benadryl to take care of allergies, or an herbal remedy. Remember to never give your pet any over-the-counter medications or herbs without the directions of your veterinarian.
If you suspect that your Chihuahua may be suffering air-born allergies, there are measures that you can take to help him. Most people find that hardwood flooring and tile do not harbor the dust and allergens that carpet does. While it probably is not an option to rip up all your carpet, you can make sure that you have a deep-cleaning sweeper with a HEPA filter. You may notice less sneezing from your pet. You should also make sure that his bedding is thoroughly vacuumed and laundered, as needed. If you have several pets in your home (especially cats), your Chihuahua may be allergic their hair and dander. Running an air filter in you home with a HEPA filter will benefit you as well as your dog. Also remember that Chihuahuas are insatiably curious and may try to swallow little objects left on the floor. If you notice your dog heaving while he is have a coughing attack, do make sure that he is not choking on something.
Not all allergic reactions are due to air-born problems. It is quite possible for Chihuahuas to react to allergies to food and bathing supplies. Your dogs can have respiratory problems in reaction to these allergies, too. Your veterinarian may have to run a battery of tests to pinpoint if your dog’s wheezing, sneezing, and coughing is related to allergies.
There are some methods that can be done that do not require doctor intervention. During an attack when the dog is gasping for air, use your hand and massage their neck area. Using a clockwise motion and a firm touch, it can shorten the length and severity of a spasm. Do not use too much force, as it can hurt the dog. Talk to him with a soothing voice for comfort. Also, pinching the dog’s nostrils closed can cause the episode to end quicker. When the Chihuahua is breathing through his mouth instead of his nostrils, it causes the breathing cycle to be normalized. These techniques may not work for all dogs; but if they do, they can reduce the severity and duration of the cough. It can make the experience less of a problem for the dog.
Are There More Serious Cough Conditions and Treatments?
While some coughing spells in a dog are benign, some are more of a cause for alarm. If a dog makes a honking type sound like a goose when they cough, it could be kennel cough. It is known to be a dry cough that does not produce any mucus. It is usually transferred from dog to dog and is caused by an upper respiratory infection. It received the name of “kennel cough” because it is often transferred when dogs are kenneled. It is highly contagious and that is why there is a vaccination to keep an animal from getting it. It can easily be treated with antibiotics and will clear up within 7-10 days. If your Chihuahua is having this type of cough, you should make an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as you can.
Another type of cough that Chihuahuas often get is caused from congestive heart failure. Just like the condition in humans, canine congestive heart failure means that the heart is enlarged (cardio myopathy) and fluid is building up around it. You dog will usually have a dry nagging cough– but they usually cough so forcefully that they bring up mucus. If the heart problems are serious, the coughing will be constant.
Heartworms can also cause such problems. This type of cough is annoying and seems to never end. While it does not sound like the reverse sneeze or the allergy type cough, it is one that is serious and needs medical attention. Heartworms can be treated and the annoying cough the Chihuahua is experiencing will end. Often times when the more severe cough and symptoms are present, it can be to late to save the animal. Chihuahuas should have a heartworm medication regimen in place to prevent the disease. If you suspect your dog may have heartworms, the sooner you get to the vet, the better.
A sinus infection is not out of the question either. Dogs get sinus infections just like humans. They also can suffer allergic reactions that interfere with their breathing. Chihuahuas are one of the smaller breeds that seem to be plagued by the problem. When the pollen count is high in the air, and the irritants are bothering the nasal cavities, it can turn into an infection. Thankfully, this can also be treated by antibiotics and the dog can recover quickly. Your vet may also recommend a regular allergy treatment for your pet. Dr. Becker wrote a very informative article about canine coughs.
The more you know about your Chihuahua’s health, the better you can deal with any health problems. While it is common for them to have fits of coughing, wheezing, and backward sneezing, you need to know if there is an underlying problem. With loving care, good nutrition, and a good relationship with your veterinarian, you can look forward to a long, lovely life with your canine friend.