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Pet Health

02/24/2020

Dog Snoring: What Does It Mean?

I was laying in bed this morning listening to the soft, rhythmic snoring of my sweet old man… Oh, no…

DOG SNORES

I was laying in bed this morning listening to the soft, rhythmic snoring of my sweet old man… Oh, no – not my husband! I’m talking about my dog! I love hearing him snore. It’s like music to my ears. I’m not alone in feeling that way… At Holiday Barn Pet Resorts, we all like to sneak into our guest’s sleeping areas to hear the sweet snoring! Why is it we find human snoring so irritating, but doggy snores so sweet?

We can’t help but laugh when we hear someone snoring… Poor ole Uncle Bob falling asleep and snoring in front of the TV is funny, right? What’s really happening though? What causes snoring? Is it a bad thing?

WHY DO DOGS SNORE?

Human’s snore when the air we breathe passes relaxed tissues in our throat, causing these tissues to vibrate.  If your airway passages are somewhat blocked (for a variety of reasons), more air is pushed through the mouth.  That extra pressure causes the throat to weaken and compress.  When it compresses, air flow is blocked so it rushes around it wherever it can, causing the characteristic snore sound.  Think of water flowing freely down a river and running into a boulder.  The water makes a new path around the boulder in an attempt to keep flowing.  That’s what air does when it is blocked in the passageways….it moves to another area so as not to stop the flow.

With dogs, it’s pretty much the same thing. Sounds innocent enough, doesn’t it? How your dog is positioned, the length of his snout, and even the shape of his neck are all factors that can lead to snoring. Most of the time it is perfectly normal, but there are times when snoring in dogs (and humans for that matter!) is the result of some type of complication.

REASONS WHY DOGS SNORE

LITTLE FACES

Some dog breeds are prone to snoring. Dogs with short (adorable!) little snoots, like bulldogs, pugs, shih tzus, pekingese, bull mastiffs and others, have more flattened faces and tend to snore. These breeds fall into a category called “brachycephalic” breeds. Brachycephalic actually means “short-headed”. I’d rather call them “little faced” …it sounds nicer. In simple terms, airflow is hampered because all respiratory-related features are… well, smushed. It makes total sense.

Snoring is not a concern in all “little faced” dogs. However, because of their unique facial anatomy, they are predisposed for a condition called “brachycephalic airway syndrome”. Brachycephalic airway syndrome may occur if the dog’s nostrils are too small for adequate airflow, the trachea is abnormally thin, or because of an extended soft palate in the roof of the mouth.

There are other – more technical – reasons, but I think this is enough to make the point. If your little faced breed has always snored but sleeps well and does not seem to struggle with breathing, then he is fine. If you notice any changes in his breathing, it would be advisable to talk to your veterinarian about what you have observed. If you would like to learn more about brachycephalic airway syndrome, click here.

OBESITY

Have you ever noticed that people who carry around extra weight tend to snore? It’s because excess fat around the neck, midriff, and chest compresses the airways and ribcage. When these areas are compressed – resulting in restricted airflow – snoring will result.

Similarly, obesity in dogs causes snoring. An overweight dog actually accumulates fat in his throat. Obviously, that fat narrows the air passageway, and he begins snoring. We all know obesity in dogs is not healthy, but perhaps the fear of our little furry friend not being able to breathe sufficiently is enough to encourage us to help them lose weight. It’s so important to keep our dog at a healthy weight.

ALLERGIES

Do you suffer from allergies? Maybe not all the time, but sometimes – during certain seasons? When your nose gets stopped up, what do you do? You breathe through your mouth. And when you’re sleeping, your nose can’t get enough air so your mouth pops open to breathe and there ya go – you’re snoring! Happens to the best of us! Happens to your dog too, making your dog sound congested when breathing. If allergies and the accompanying inflammation in the nose plague your dog, your veterinarian can help by prescribing some medication or making other suggestions that will help him breathe more freely. And it may very well stop him from snoring.

A SIMPLE COLD

Similar to our response to allergies, symptoms like a stuffy and runny nose affect the mucous membranes of dogs when they have a cold too. These membranes become inflamed and swollen, blocking airways and causing snoring. You may also notice sneezing, coughing, maybe watery eyes… all the things we have when we get a cold.

A side note: There are other illnesses that may mimic a cold in dogs that can be serious. Canine influenza and kennel cough are two. We can’t assume our dog has a simple cold. Even if your dog is vaccinated against these illnesses, have your vet check it out.

GROWTHS

Oral masses and polyps of the mouth and throat can block the airways and cause our dog to snore. There are many causes of oral growths, and although it’s frightening, remember that it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is cancerous. If your dog is developing an oral growth, you will probably notice other signs such as drooling, reluctance to eat and chew, or really bad breath. Oral masses or tumors can become malignant and even fatal if not treated early. Take your dog to the veterinarian at the first sign of any type of mouth abnormality.

BAD TEETH

Dental issues are another cause of dog snoring. Bad teeth can lead to abscesses. Abscesses can grow inside the nasal passage and/or cause swelling which blocks the airflow causing snoring. Our dog’s dental health is important for so many reasons other than just clean teeth.

HYPOTHYROIDISM

Dogs with hypothyroidism may snore. The reasons are unclear to me, however, my guess is that it has something to do with the thyroid gland location – which is directly behind the trachea. If your snoring dog has hypothyroidism, you will see other serious symptoms such as loss or thinning hair, dull coat, excessive scaling of the skin, weight gain, and more. Your veterinary can prescribe medication to manage a dysfunctional thyroid.

SECONDHAND SMOKE

Inflammation of the airways is a real snore-maker. That inflammation can result from several things, as we’ve learned here. Smoke, perfumes, air fresheners and secondhand smoke are all irritants to a dog’s respiratory system, which in turn, causes inflammation of the airways. Are you having trouble trying to quit smoking? Now you have some incentive to help you do so!

SOMETHING IS STUCK IN THERE

It’s pretty obvious at this point that anything obstructing airflow can cause snoring. There is always the chance that our dog could inhale or swallow a piece of his chew toy – or something like that – and its blocking the natural flow of air.  Get to the vet if you think something like this has happened. The snoring is nothing compared to what could happen: the obstruction could come loose, relodge itself nearby, and block the airway completely.

FUNGAL DISEASE

This was a new one to me… There is a type of mold found in grass, hay and the like, that when breathed can cause a nasal infection. It’s called aspergillus mold, or fungi. It’s most likely to affect outdoor dogs, or dogs who spend much of their time outdoors, but there’s no reason an indoor dog can’t come upon it when out for a potty walk. Interestingly enough, Virginia has one of the highest incidences of “aspergillosis”. If your dog spends a lot of time outdoors, lives on a farm, and/or perhaps has a weakened immune system due to another condition, it’s important to find out more. Here is a link with some very helpful information: Regardless, it is totally understandable how snoring could occur when a nasal infection is present.

MEDICATIONS

If your dog is temporarily on muscle relaxers for an injury, he may begin to snore as the muscles relax and press on the airways. Sometimes a dog will begin snoring when on simple pain killers. Tranquilizers may also cause snoring, much for the same reason as when on muscle relaxers. This type of snoring is generally of no real concern.

AGE

Rex didn’t start snoring until he got up in age, and I have read that it’s pretty common for a dog to begin snoring as he ages. But no one really says why that happens. Apparently, it’s not something to worry about. My guess is that as our dog ages, they sleep deeper and relax more. Maybe it’s a sign of contentment… I hope so. And I love it when I hear a little whispered “woof” now and then. So sweet.

AND LASTLY, YOUR DOG’S SLEEPING POSITION

… It could be as simple as your dog is snoring because he is sleeping in a weird position that is blocking the airways, like on his back… tongue lolling to the side… Quick, grab the camera!

CAN DOGS HAVE SLEEP APNEA?

Yes, dogs can have sleep apnea, but it’s very rare. If you notice that your dog’s breathing suddenly stops during the night, he could have sleep apnea. They may jolt themselves awake and sit up to try to get oxygen. At the risk of sounding like an alarmist, sleep apnea can result in the sudden death of your sweet pet. Visit your vet at the very first indication that apnea is possible.

All said, snoring can be innocent enough, and if it is a normal occurrence for your dog, it’s not a real concern. However, keep an eye out for the following red flags and see your veterinarian as soon as possible:

• A sudden change in your dog’s snoring. If he used to be a quiet sleeper and has started snoring, or if his snoring has escalated as of late, talk to your vet about it.
• If it seems your dog is having trouble swallowing or is choking on his food.
• Lethargy or excessive panting is accompanying his snoring.
• If your dog begins coughing or sneezing, in addition to snoring.
• Sudden nasal discharge. If the discharge is bloody or very thick, your dog needs to see a vet sooner, rather than later.
• Your dog gasps or chokes while snoring while sleeping.

WOW!

Who knew that there was so much to know about dog snoring, right? We hope you have enjoyed reading and have gained some helpful information that will keep your pup breathing freely and snoring peacefully. Sweet dreams!

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If you ever need a holiday and want to give your pup one as well, be sure to reach out to Holiday Barn at either our Glen Allen or Midlothian location to check out our pet resorts perfect for your fur baby!

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