What Causes a Dog to Snore? It All Comes Down to Breathing
Just like with humans, snoring in dogs generally occurs when air movement is restricted in the nasal passageways or throat.
Some of what can cause dogs to snore may simply be that they like to sleep on their back, so their tongue ends up partially blocking some of the air movement in their passageways. Or your dog might be allergic to dust or second-hand smoke, each of which can lead to snoring.
There are also serious health issues to consider, like an abscessed tooth that makes its way into the nasal sinus passages, or even sleep apnea. Both conditions can, of course, require surgery.
That said, a sleep apnea diagnosis for a dog is extremely rare, says Dr. Carol Osborne, who owns the Chagrin Falls Veterinary Center & Pet Clinic in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. Dr. Osborne adds that snoring is quite often an indicator that a dog has hypothyroidism, which is when the thyroid gland doesnt make enough of the hormone that controls metabolism. Its a fairly inexpensive health fix, although it does require keeping your dog on medication for the rest of its life.
Diagnosing hypothyroidism “involves the vet taking a little blood sample and sending it to the lab, and if the thyroid levels are low, then we simply give your dog some medication—a little tablet—and the problem goes away almost immediately,” Dr. Osborne says.
Some Dog Breeds Are Predisposed to Snoring
Do you have an English bulldog, Shih Tzu, or Pug? These breeds are brachycephalic, which means that your dog has a broad, short skull with a short snout; i.e., a short breathing passage. It also means youre probably the pet parent of a snorer.
“As we breed dogs to have shorter snouts, the soft palette in the back of their throat doesnt change, and that can be a problem,” says Dr. Jeff Werber, a veterinarian who has a private clinic in Los Angeles and has become known for taking care of the pets of some of Hollywoods biggest stars, including Eva Longoria, Magic Johnson, and two of the Jonas brothers (Kevin and Nick).
Dr. Werber says that a lot of factors can go into your dog’s snoring, especially when theyre a breed with a smaller snout. How your dogs body is positioned when sleeping, the shape of the dogs neck, and the length of its nose are all factors that can influence a dog’s breathing. “It can all contribute to the snoring,” Dr. Werber says.
None of this means that if you have, say, a Boston terrier, that you automatically need to take your dog in to the vet to have his snoring checked out, and it doesnt mean that if you have a different type of breed, like a collie or greyhound, youre off the hook. Still, with the smaller breeds, you do want to be on the lookout for potential issues.
DR. Werber has five dogs (and six cats), and two of those dogs are French bulldogs. He says that he knew from the moment he got them that he was doomed to listen to some interesting sounds. When they get too loud, Dr. Werber says that hell often change his dogs positions in order to get the snoring to stop. Some pet experts even suggest getting a humidifier, which increases the moisture in the air and can help dogs (and humans) to sleep better.
There’s usually no need to be concerned about snoring, if your dog:
Breeds with flat or short faces are pretty much fated for the #snoringstruggle. They’re called “brachycephalic” which basically means they have a shorter snout than average, and they’re prone to breathing complications. Breeds such as Pugs, Chihuahuas, Shih Tzus, and Chow Chows all fall into this category and could potentially snore for their whole life without any serious health consequences. However, Dr. Hohenhaus warns these dogs can often face breathing issues that could prevent them from getting enough oxygen, which is usually corrected with surgery. If you have a brachycephalic pup, your vet will be able to tell you if there are larger problems at hand or if everything is running smoothly.
Does your pup only snore in the summer? They’re probably suffering from seasonal allergies—just like us. The allergy can cause him to produce extra mucus, which could be the culprit. If your pup is allergic to dust, pollen, or other physical allergens, Dr. Hohenhaus recommends generally keeping your pup inside with AC, and when they do go out, washing their face and paws whenever they come inside. If your pup has been sneezing, congested, and has watery eyes, he might have a cold which similarly could be causing the snoring. If your dog is still acting generally normal (eating, drinking, playing) then it doesn’t necessarily call for a trip to the vet, but if their symptoms persist or get worse it’s best to have him checked out.
Just like us humans, the way your dog sleeps could be restricting his airways and causing the snoring. An easy fix for this is physically moving your pup, laying him down on his side instead of his back. You could also try buying a small pillow for your pup to prop his head on when he sleeps or a bed with one built in, making it less likely he’ll roll over to his back