Dogs see the world from their own unique perspective and do things based on instinct. To canines, it’s perfectly natural to search the trash for an interesting tidbit, or chase the neighborhood cat that dares to enter their domain. Dogs instinctively know it’s wise to circle before lying down even though their bed is inside away from biting insects. Some of the things dogs do seem odd to us, though. Here are five strange behaviors of dogs and why they do them.
Kicks Leg When Scratched
Your dog is relaxing on his back and you scratch what you think is a “sweet spot” on his belly. He immediately responds by kicking his leg in the air. Some dogs react when their lower chest or upper area of the back leg is scratched. You didn’t really find a sweet spot, but you did hit a nerve and his rapid kicks are involuntary. It’s the same reaction we have when the doctor taps our knee with a rubber mallet to check our reflex. In fact, a vet may check a dog’s scratch reflex to determine if the dog is dealing with a neurological concern.
You can tell if your dog enjoys being scratched by watching his body language. If he’s relaxed and lying on his back with his tongue dangling from his opened mouth, he’s probably OK with it. But if his legs are stiff, his mouth is closed, his ears are flattened and he shows signs of wanting to move – he is likely saying “stop doing that.” Think about it this way – if your doctor kept hitting your knee over and over with his hammer to activate your reflex, would you enjoy it?
Reverse sneezing in dogs and cats isn’t really a sneeze. If you’ve ever noticed your pet snorting, honking or gasping for breath, you’ve just witnessed a reverse sneeze. It is something we need to be aware of as pet owners because frequent reverse sneezing can be a symptom of other conditions that would require a vet’s attention.
A reverse sneeze, in more medical terms, is called pharyngeal gag reflex or paroxysmal respiration. This is a condition where a dog or cat will extend their neck and begin making gasping noises that sound like the pet is on their last legs. They may snort or even make honking noises all the while acting like they can’t catch their breath. Many people have done exactly what any responsible pet owner would do if they witness their dog or cat acting like they can’t breathe, and have rushed them to the vet. As life threatening as it sounds, however, a reverse sneeze is not a serious condition, and the pet will recover on its own without medical treatment.
The most common reason for a dog or cat experiencing a reverse sneezing episode is a result of something that irritated their soft palate (the soft, fleshy tissue extension off the roof of their mouth) and throat which in turn causes a spasm. In most cases, it’s nothing to worry about, but it can be upsetting when you see your dog or cat gasping for air. The irritation affects the trachea which then narrows, making it harder for the pet to get air.
To help your pet get through one of these spasms, you can gently massage their throat or cover their nose to make them swallow which should clear out whatever was irritating their throat. If that doesn’t work, you can offer them food or water, or take them outside. Holding down their tongue will help force more air into their nasal passage and can help. Just be careful the dog or cat doesn’t grab your finger in the process. The spasm is over when they stop sneezing. The pet will recover on their own even if they have an episode while no one is home. However, if your dog or cat is having attacks of reverse sneezing on a regular basis, this can indicate something else is going on, and a trip to the vet is advised.
A variety of things can cause your pet to have a spasm which results in a reverse sneeze, but a specific cause cannot always be diagnosed by a vet even for a dog or cat with a chronic problem. A dog who pulls on a leash, becomes overly excited, has been running around while playing, or eats and drinks too fast can be thrown into a reverse sneeze. Other causes include possible allergies, a dog not used to exercise, household cleaners, perfumes, air spray, dust or pollen not related to an allergy, viruses, post nasal drip, nasal cancer, nasal mites or something caught in their throat.
Signs to watch for that could indicate something more serious is causing the reverse sneezing include a discharge from the nose or a bloody nose, any kind of deformity around the nose area that doesn’t look right, a lack of appetite and energy, or any difficulty in breathing.
Boxers, Shih Tzus and dogs with flat faces have a soft palate that is stretched out more, and they can have bouts of reverse sneezing more than other breeds because they can actually suck the palate into their throat when they inhale. Smaller breeds are also more apt to be affected because they have a smaller throat. Cats don’t usually experience reverse sneezing like dogs, and if you have a cat who has bouts, it’s a good idea to have your vet check him out to make sure he doesn’t have asthma which does require treatment.
For most dogs, an attack of reverse sneezing is over in a matter of a minute or two and they will be just fine with no adverse affects at all. It looks and sounds worse than it is. It is important, however, to understand what a reverse sneeze is so you can be aware of other possible conditions that could be causing your dog or cat’s irritation if it becomes chronic. When you know what’s going on and how to deal with it, you can remain calm and help your pet instead of panicking over what appears to be a breathing problem and rushing to the vet’s office. Your vet will appreciate it, and so will your pet.
The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.
The personal opinions and/or use of trade, firm, corporation or brand names, in this blog is for the information and convenience of the reader. Such use does not constitute an official endorsement or approval by CANIDAE® Natural Pet Food Company of any product or service to the exclusion of others that may be suitable. All opinions in this blog are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® Natural Pet Food Company.