It can be a bit disconcerting to snuggle into bed at night and find your pet has already drifted off to sleep and begun to snore. A partial obstruction of air as it flows over the soft palate and uvula in the back of the throat generates a vibration. The vibration causes the noise we call snoring. Depending on the degree of the obstruction, it may be a gentle snuffling sound or a very loud rumble.
Common Causes for Snoring
There are several common physical reasons that cause snoring in dogs. Identifying which one is causing your dog to snore is important. While there is no reason for concern for some, causes related to a health issue may require veterinary attention.
All dogs can snore but the problem is more typical in some breeds than others. Dog skulls are categorized by their shape, and the shape of a dog’s skull can be a major factor in whether or not he snores.
Brachycephalic skulls are quite wide with very short muzzles. These are seen in the Pug, English Bulldog, Boston Terrier, and Boxer. These dogs are prone to have difficulties with nasal breathing and proper occlusion of teeth. It is almost universally true that all brachycephalic dogs snore. Their very short muzzle and very soft palate tend to cause collapsed nostrils and other anatomical features that lead to snoring.
Dolichocephalic skulls are long and narrow, which are found in the Greyhound, Borzoi, and Collie.
Mesaticephalic skulls are intermediate in length and width. Mesaticephalic skulls are typical of breeds like the German Shepherd, Irish Wolfhound, Beagle, and Irish Setter.
Dolichocephalic and mesaticephalic dogs may snore for reasons quite different than those of brachycephalic breeds. For example, a very common cause of snoring in these dogs is too much weight and too little activity. Weight gain and waning fitness levels are particularly seen in aging dogs. Too much fat around the throat causes obstruction.
If excess weight is the cause of your dog’s snoring, check with your vet to establish an appropriate feeding regime to encourage weight loss. Also increase your pup’s activity level a little at a time to get him fit. Consider adding a nutritional supplement, like NuVet Plus, to your pet’s diet to help improve digestion and energy. The snoring may correct itself once your dog reaches and maintains an appropriate weight.
Identifying The Reason
Weak throat muscles, a misaligned jaw, or a tongue that drops back into the throat can all cause partial obstruction of the airways and be the source of snoring. Some dogs have a blockage in their nasal passages that is responsible for the snuffling snore. Dogs that are sensitive to pollen, dust, and mold can experience congestion, which is just one more potential reason for a night-time serenade.
Identifying these reasons is more complicated. Your veterinarian may need to perform diagnostic tests to determine if one of these problems is the cause of snoring and if intervention is required.
Like some people, some dogs experience sleep apnea, which causes shallow breathing or a brief, complete pause in breathing. The next breath is a gasp that generates a snoring noise. This condition is potentially dangerous and should be checked out by your veterinarian.
No matter the cause of snoring, it is sometimes helpful to change your pet’s body position during sleep. Put his head on a pillow. Elevating his head may open his air passages. At least, it may make him feel very special. A round bed encourages your pet to sleep in a curled position that discourages snoring by allowing airways to expand more easily.
The Next Step
If your pet snores, track down the cause and determine if it requires veterinary intervention. You may get peace and quiet by helping an overweight dog slim down. Brachycephalic dogs and others that snore due to peculiarities in their anatomy simply need love, understanding, patience, and perhaps a set of ear plugs. The earplugs would be for you, not the dog.
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C. Sue Furman, Ph.D. spent 40 years at several major universities including the University of Maryland, School of Medicine and Colorado State University, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biological Sciences teaching future physicians and veterinarians and conducting research involving nerve and muscle. Learn more about Dr. C. Sue Furman here.