Everyone has experienced a family member or friend that snores so loud it actually disturbs your sleep. Many pet owners have discovered that their dog can snore just as loudly as their spouse. For some dogs this is normal and they have done it all their lives. In other cases, they may abruptly begin snoring when they never used to. Both dogs and people snore because the upper airway passages become blocked during sleep.
There are many reasons for this but they all cause the same result, a blockage that makes it more difficult for air to enter and leave the body while it is asleep.
In some breeds, snoring is absolutely normal. This is particularly true of brachycephalic breeds such as the English bulldog, pug, Pekingese, and boxer. In these breeds the muzzle has been shortened through breeding over many generations for a variety of purposes. Breeds with short muzzles often have congenital issues with shortening of the larynx and other parts of the respiratory system. They may also have excessive fleshy tissue around the soft palate that can periodically block the airways, particularly when the animal is relaxed as they are in sleep. Although it is often a minor issue that can be lived with, some brachycephalic dogs develop more serious breathing difficulties that require surgery to remove excess tissue. Watch for signs that your snoring French bulldog may be having difficulties, including a blue tinge to the muzzle or gums, wheezing, and gasping. This should be discussed with your veterinarian immediately. Because these breeds are also more prone to heat stroke than other breeds, a hot room can also aggravate breathing while sleeping.
Make sure your pet has someplace cool to curl up for a nap or the night.
Additionally, brachycephalic breeds are more prone to sleep apnea than other breeds although any dog can develop it. Sleep apnea involves an actual periodic cessation of breathing while asleep. If you listen to your dog snore and he periodically stops breathing for 10 to 20 seconds and then resumes with a gasp, he may have sleep apnea. This may happen hundreds of times in a night leading to low blood oxygen levels. Left untreated, it can lead to obesity, heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes. If you suspect that your pet may have sleep apnea you should consult your veterinarian as soon as possible.
A dog that never snores and suddenly starts is cause for alarm. Very rarely there are tumors or cysts in the airways that are causing the blockage. In these cases they should be removed if possible. Your vet can ascertain the cause of a blockage through a number of different examination techniques.
If your dog is on medication, particularly muscle relaxants or tranquilizers, this may also cause snoring. The extra relaxed tissue may be partially blocking off the air passageways. If this is the case, the snoring should subside once the course of medication is finished. If it is to be an ongoing prescription, discuss the issue with your veterinarian to ensure that they are aware of any side effects, including snoring, that your pet is having.
Allergies and nasal congestion can also cause an animal to snore. Mucus and phlegm can easily irritate and block airways. Most dogs with allergies or an infection will show other symptoms such as itchiness, nasal discharge, watery or itchy eyes, sneezing, and coughing. Animals with either allergies or an infection should be under the care of a veterinarian to avoid complications.
The position your dog chooses to sleep in can also influence whether or not they snore. Everyone has seen their dog lie on his back with his feet in the air. This actually encourages snoring. Dogs that sleep curled up on their sides or stomachs snore less than those stretched out on their backs. Providing your pet with a round bed to sleep in can help discourage him from sleeping on his back.
Obese pets also snore more often than slender animals. The excess fatty tissues can act in the same way that it does in brachycephalic breeds, leading to periodic blocking of the airways when relaxed. The simple solution in this case is to reduce your pet’s calorie intake and increase the amount of exercise the get. Obesity poses many health risks and it should be addressed even if your dog’s snoring doesn’t bother you.
Although some dogs will snore all their lives, others begin suddenly for medical reasons that should be addressed by your veterinarian. Brachycephalic breeds in particular are prone to issues involving excess soft palate tissue and sleep apnea episodes. Sometimes though, it is just a matter of giving them a nudge in the night – just like your spouse.