Creature Comforts

Ask Walter: The nose knows

Dear Walter,

I didn’t feel like eating today and I’m kinda tired, but otherwise, I feel OK. My owner keeps waking me up to feel my nose — and freaking out because she says it’s warm and dry. What is the deal with that?

— Warm and Dry and Sleep-Deprived

Dear W. D. & S. D.,

The warm/dry nose thing isn’t really a thing. While it is true that some dogs or cats running fevers may have a warm/dry nose, this is not a given. Don’t know about you, but when I’m sleeping, I don’t lick my nose, and it gets warm and dry. When I wake up, my normal nose licking resumes, and it’s back to cold, wet nose. To test for a fever, the only tried and true method is to take a rectal temperature, which should be somewhere between 99 and 102 degrees. Fevers should be reported to your veterinarian, as should not eating for more than a day and any other symptoms of illness. Hope you can catch up on some ZZs and feel better soon.

Dear Walter,

I can’t stop sneezing, my nose is dripping clear stuff, and my eyes are watery. It all started a few days ago. My owners think it’s allergies and are looking stuff up on the internet that they can give me. What’s your advice?

— Sneezy, Drippy, Watery Mess

Dear Mess,

Well, that sounds terrible. Being tech-savvy myself, I wouldn’t discourage some information gathering about your symptoms from trusted sources (try veterinarypartner.com or any veteri nary college .org sites.) That said, never take anything without first consulting your veterinarian. Non-prescription medications or supplements may be dangerous for you or may interfere with treatments your veterinarian may wish to prescribe. Better to ask before using.

Hay-fever-like symptoms (allergic sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes) are much less common in animals as compared to people. Allergic dogs and cats tend to be itchy — they rub their faces, causing redness and even sores to develop around the nose, eyelids and lips. They also tend to lick or chew their feet, bellies and armpits. Some have anal gland problems and itchy ears, too.

Sneezing with a nasal discharge and watery eyes is more likely to be the beginning of an upper respiratory infection, and it may become worse before it gets better. If you do have an infection, you could pass it on to other animals and even people, so it’s best to keep your distance and stay indoors until you are better. This is something you should see your veterinarian for if it keeps up for more than a few days.

Dear Walter,

I was running around in the yard, barking at squirrels, when all of a sudden, this wasp comes out of NOWHERE and STINGS me RIGHT ON THE NOSE! Now, it’s sore and swollen and I have to open my mouth to breathe. What the heck is happening to me?!

— Pooch with a Painful, Protuberant Proboscis

Dear PPPP,

Hornets, wasps and bees are nothing to mess with, man. It sounds like you were attacked for no reason — pretty unusual. It’s more common to hear of dogs or cats getting stung while playing with or biting at flying insects. Either way, the area stung usually gets swollen, hot and really ouchy really fast. Having your owner put ice on the stung area may help to lessen the swelling and numb the pain some.

Animals can have allergic reactions to insect stings, which can make bad things happen very fast. A prompt call to your veterinarian can alert them to the situation and help them determine whether you’ll need an emergency visit, or if first aid care at home is OK.

Dear Walter,

Every now and then, I’ll be sniffing something in the yard, barking at something or greeting people at the door, when suddenly, I have to stop and breathe weirdly for a few seconds. I stop what I’m doing, stand stiff like a sawhorse with my neck extended, eyes kind of staring forward and inhale loudly and sharply through my nose, and exhale through my mouth. It makes kind of a sorting or honking noise. It makes my owners super upset, and they are worried I’m having some sort of seizure. It’s over a few seconds later, and then I feel fine. Do you know what that is and do other dogs do it? I feel fine otherwise, and it doesn’t happen often. My owners worry I may be dying. Am I dying?

— Snortin’ Spells

Dear Snortin’,

It sounds to me like you’re a victim of the dreaded reverse sneeze. A reverse sneeze is a sharp inhaling through the nose in a repetitive pattern as an episode like you described. These events usually last a few seconds to a minute and never cause the tongue to turn blue/purple from a lack of oxygen. Reverse sneeze is believed to be a spasm, and some doctors feel it involves a tickle in the back of the throat.

Actual sneezing involves a sharp exhaling of breath through the nose. Sneezing is gross. Reverse sneeze usually doesn’t have anything to do with actual sneezing, coughing or other respiratory ailments.

If I’m right, your doctor will confirm you are healthy at your next exam, and will talk to your owners about the reverse sneeze. If they can record you doing the thing they’re worried about, and show the veterinarian, it may help a lot. If it is reverse sneeze, join the club, I do it sometimes, too (lots of dogs do) and you can rest easy — it won’t kill you. If you can settle down and remove yourself from the excitement for a minute or two, it will stop and you’ll be fine. If it seems to be getting more frequent or the episodes are lasting longer, however, get it checked out, just to be sure. Happy sniffing!

Daverio is a veterinarian at Williamsport West Veterinary Hospital. Her column is published every other Sunday in the Lifestyle section. She can be reached at the Lifestyle Department email at life@sun­ gazette.com

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