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Dogs And Snoring - Is It Cause For Concern?

Living with a snoring partner can sometimes make life almost unbearable for those who have to listen to it, and yet for some reason, snoring in pets is often considered to be cute and entertaining! Why this is may well remain a mystery for many years to come, but the fact of the matter is, a significant number of dogs snore, either from a very young age and throughout their lives, or as they get older and possibly put on weight. But why do some dogs snore, and is it perfectly normal, or is it cause for concern? Read on to find out.

What is snoring?

Snoring- that low snuffling rattling sound made alongside of breathing when asleep, is caused by a partial obstruction of the natural air movement across the soft palate and the uvula at the back of the throat. This generates a vibration that causes the inimitable snoring noise. Snoring may be very light and quiet, or may sound very loud and laboured depending on the degree of the obstruction in question, and the stage of sleep that your dog is going through.

What causes snoring?

There are a variety of potential reasons for snoring, and one or more of the reasons combined generate the noise. How these reasons themselves come about will be covered later on. The most common physical reasons for snoring in dogs are:

  • A weakness in the muscles of the throat that causes a partial closing of the throat when asleep can lead to snoring.
  • A misaligned jaw or tension in the jaw muscles is another common cause.
  • Excessive fat round the throat may lead to the obstruction causing snoring.
  • An obstruction or blockage in the nasal passages is another possible culprit.
  • The tongue dropping back into the throat may be sufficient to partially obstruct the airways and lead to snoring.
  • Sleep apnoea causes shallow breathing and may even mean that your dog stops breathing altogether for short periods of time. When your dog takes their next breath, this is done as a sudden gasp, generating the snoring noise.

Identifying the way in which your dog is snoring, especially if the snoring is a new development, is an important part of working out the root cause of the issue, and so, being able to deduce whether the snoring is indicative of a health problem that may require treatment, or is generally no cause for concern.


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Brachycephalic dogs and respiration

Firstly, it is important to note that while not all dogs that snore are brachycephalic, it is almost universally true that all brachycephalic dogs will snore. Brachycephalic dogs are those dogs with very short, squat faces, such as boxer dogs, pugs and many other breeds. Because dogs such as these have such short muzzles and so, a very short soft palate, this generally leads to snoring caused by collapsed nostrils (Stenotic nares), an elongated soft palate, or eversion of the laryngeal saccules. Often, two or even all three of these issues can be found in combination in brachycephalic dogs. Exactly how much of a problem this is, and if it is manageable or requires surgical intervention, varies from case to case. Some dogs are able to breathe sufficiently well despite their snoring, whereas for dogs whose breathing is laboured even when awake, or that suffer from extremely laboured snoring and shortness of breath when asleep, veterinary intervention may be required to correct the underlying problem and ease your dog’s breathing.

Other underlying reasons for snoring

If your dog is not of a brachycephalic breed, then identifying the cause of his snoring can be more of a mystery.

  • The most common cause of snoring in dogs (particularly if the snoring begins or worsens as your dog ages) is due to an increase in their weight and reduced levels of fitness. When your dog is overweight, this can lead to snoring caused by obstruction of the throat and airways by excessive fat. Therefore, if you find that your dog is beginning to snore or that his snoring is getting worse, establishing if he is overweight and if he is getting enough exercise should be your first priority. You may find that the snoring corrects itself naturally once your overweight dog begins to lose weight as the result of a more appropriate feeding regime or an increase in his levels of activity.
  • If your dog appears to be breath-holding while asleep or seems to go for upwards of ten seconds at a time without breathing, then suddenly takes a deep gasping breath, then you may well be looking at a case of sleep apnoea. This condition can be potentially dangerous, as well as disturbing your dog’s natural sleep patterns, so it is important to get this checked out by your vet.
  • Even the healthiest of dogs with no underlying problems may have a tendency to snore if they have a cough or a cold, due to the obstruction of the airways by mucous and enlarged capillaries. Providing that your dog is still able to breathe comfortably and the cough or cold is minor and does not progress into something more serious, the snoring will go away on its own when your dog returns to peak health and throws off the virus he has contracted.

Identifying the other causes of snoring, such as a misaligned jaw, weak throat muscles or the tongue dropping back while asleep can be more complicated, and you might need to ask your vet to perform some diagnostic tests to find out the cause and establish whether this is a problem for your dog.

Should I be concerned if my dog snores?

In some dogs, snoring is simply a minor problem caused by a very slight flaw or anatomical problem that your dog can live with quite happily without it affecting their health adversely at all. However if the snoring is very loud, particularly laboured or seems to be getting worse, it is important to get your dogs checked out by your vet to determine what, if anything, can or should be done about it. Owners of brachycephalic dogs should always have their dog examined by the vet when they first buy or adopt them, in order to identify any potentially serious breathing problems that might require intervention to correct. You may also wish to bear this in mind before buying a brachycephalic dog, or only make an offer on a pedigree dog subject to veterinary inspection.


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