Why does your dog snore at times?
Since most dogs sleep between 12-14 hours each day, chances are you’ve grown familiar with your dog’s sleeping patterns and behavior.
Some of it, like when they dream of running or even just looking peaceful, is super cute, but what about less appealing behaviors like snoring?
Written by Laryn Carter.
Laryn is a Clemson University alumna, with undergraduate studies focused on Animal and Veterinary Sciences.
As a life long animal lover raised on a family hobby farm, she has special interest in both pets and farm animals.
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Because many people snore, pet owners often overlook what snoring might mean for their dogs.
Although snoring isn’t necessarily bad, it can be caused by many things, some of which can be concerning for your pet’s health.
The best way to protect your dog and optimize its health is to know why dogs snore and what symptoms to be on the lookout for.
Remember that when in doubt, the best option is to voice your concerns to your dog’s veterinarian.
What is snoring?
Snoring is described as a rattling, vibrating, noisy sound made when breathing is hindered or obstructed during sleep.
When the lungs force air through an obstructed area, the soft tissues surrounding the nose, mouth, and throat vibrate, creating snoring.
Snoring is a very common condition, and is typically only concerning when it becomes atypical, very heavy, or is related to other health conditions.
Serious snoring can cause a lack of sleep, and in humans, is often related to sleep apnea, a disorder in which one stops breathing during sleep.
Thankfully, sleep apnea in dogs is very rare.
Their snoring is usually more annoying than medically concerning.
Dog breeds with flat faces, short snouts, and small nostrils are considered brachycephalic.
Some of the most common brachycephalic breeds are:
- Boston Terriers
- and last but not least, Boxers.
Despite having a smaller skull and pushed-in facial features, the size of their soft palate is the same as a well-proportioned dog.
This can cause a lot of vibration (and noise) when the dog is breathing.
Additionally, brachycephalic breeds tend to have small nostrils which further inhibit the flow of air in and out of their body.
These breeds are already known to have serious breathing issues and it’s more common for them to snore than not.
While there isn’t any reason for immediate concern, you should be aware of your dog’s breathing, and make note of any changes.
Unfortunately, there is little to do for brachycephalic dogs who snore as their anatomy is the source of the issue.
Some things which may help them breathe better are using a harness rather than a collar, living in low-humidity areas, and maintaining a healthy weight for their breed.
In the same way that overweight people are more prone to snoring, dogs who are overweight often snore. Any excess weight on your dog puts more pressure and stress on their body.
Extra fat around the neck and throat can weigh down the tissue of the soft palate and airways, creating the noise we know as snoring.
Additionally, the fat surrounding their ribcage and internal organs can make it harder for their lungs to properly fill with air.
Not only can this type of extra weight cause your dog inefficient, noisy breathing and snoring but can also lead to many other health conditions and lower quality of life.
If your veterinarian believes your dog is overweight, follow their recommendations to slowly and safely help your pet lose some weight.
The bare truth and reality of snoring is that it is caused by improper flow of air while breathing.
If the pathways are somehow blocked or obstructed, your dog’s breathing will be inefficient and you’ll likely notice snoring that is worse than normal or even atypical for your dog.
While some of these obstructions are minor and not likely to affect your pet’s breathing long-term, others can be much more serious, potentially requiring surgery and/or medication.
One of the simplest and most common obstructions is simply caused by your dog’s sleeping position.
When your dog sleeps in atypical positions, such as on their back (as Rottweilers often do), their muscles will relax and their tongue can fall backward towards their throat and block their airway.
An obstruction can also occur if your dog is laying down in any position in which there is pressure on its throat.
Caused by a large variety of factors, inflammation can be tricky to treat, especially when it is internal and cannot be seen.
Many anatomical factors, health conditions, and obstructions that already affect your dog’s breathing and cause their snoring can be further worsened by inflammation.
Inflammation in the airways is commonly caused by allergies, infection, trauma, and irritants such as smoke, perfumes.
Thanks to being physically closer to the ground and without opposable thumbs to help remove them, it’s not uncommon for foreign objects to become lodged in a dog’s airway.
Running, playing, carrying sticks, sniffing, and digging all make it easy for something to get stuck in your dog’s throat or nasal passages.
Additionally, almost any foreign material caught in your dog’s body will cause inflammation, which will further obstruct your pet’s breathing.
Another form of obstructed breathing can be seen as internal blockages in the airways.
Tumors, polyps, and other masses can form in the nasal passages, palate, or throat and inhibit your dog’s breathing.
Less commonly, an infected tooth or irritation along the breathing pathways can cause abscesses to form, making breathing even more difficult and noisy.
A Symptom of Another Health Condition
Although we may think of it as an independent health condition, snoring is typically caused by something else.
In the case of health conditions, there are many which can affect your pet’s breathing and may cause snoring as a result.
Being familiar with such health issues, their frequency, and treatments is important for your dog’s overall health as well as how well they breathe.
Allergies are a common cause of snoring due to the body’s immune system response effect on breathing.
If your dog has allergies, either seasonal or chronic, they may experience increased sneezing, a runny nose, and congestion which can cause them to snore.
It can be especially bad if your dog is sensitive to airway irritants such as pollen, dust, and smoke since the irritation can cause inflammation along your dog’s airways.
One health condition which is indicated when a dog begins snoring suddenly is hypothyroidism.
This condition is characterized by the thyroid gland failing to make enough of the hormone that controls the dog’s metabolism.
The medication to treat hypothyroidism is fairly simple and inexpensive, but your dog will need to take it for the rest of its life.
After diagnosing hypothyroidism, and beginning medication, the snoring usually goes away immediately.
Issues related to the mouth and teeth can also cause your dog to snore.
Missing teeth, a crowded mouth, or abscessed teeth are all causes of inflammation that can obstruct airways and cause snoring.
More rarely, having a misaligned jaw or enlarged muscles surrounding the mouth, jaw, and throat can also cause problems by narrowing the space air travels through.
Other Red Flags
- If your dog only recently started snoring, after previously being a quiet sleeper, it may be the result of a developing health condition.
- If your dog’s snoring increases or worsens during seasonal changes and is accompanied by other symptoms, such as itchy skin, sneezing, runny eyes, or nose, their snoring is likely related to allergies.
- Dogs who begin to pant excessively or struggle to keep up their usual pace on walks may be having difficulty breathing.
- Signs of trouble swallowing, and regularly choking on or dropping their food can be indicators that something is blocking your dog’s throat.
- Increased coughing, sneezing, or drooping on one side of the face can also be signs of irritation or health conditions related to your dog’s soft palate and pathways to their lungs.
These ‘red flags’ may be an ordinary, one-off occurrence, or an indicator that something serious is wrong with your dog.
If you notice one or more of these symptoms, you should reach out to your veterinarian for advice, just to be sure your pet is in tip-top shape.