Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, former veterinarian assistant, and author of Brain Training for Dogs.
Why Does My Dog Snore So Much?
If your dog's snoring is keeping you awake and you are tired of wearing ear plugs at night, you are likely looking for ways to stop it. Well, here's the doggone truth. Stopping a dog from snoring is just as complicated as it is in humans. But if you are determined to help your pooch, there are several options for you.
First and foremost, it's important to understand why dogs snore in the first place. Only by finding the underlying cause can you address it properly!
An important question to ask yourself is whether your dog has snored all his life or whether snoring is a new behavior? This can really make a difference. Some dogs snore because of their conformation—but in some cases, especially where snoring is a new behavior, it can be indicative of health problems.
This is why it's important to seek assistance from your vet to determine what's causing the snoring in the first place, especially if this is a new behavior.
In this article, we'll discuss:
- General factors that may trigger snoring
- Genetic causes of snoring
- Health problems that cause snoring
- Tips to reduce your dog's snoring (so you can finally get some sleep!)
Snoring Due to General Factors
If your dog snores only when sleeping and doesn't seem to have any problems breathing during the day, and is happy, hungry and active, most likely the snoring isn't really a problem per se. Many dogs snore and many dog owners report it and many are bothered by it. Some dog owners, though, find it endearing and have come to accept it and even miss it when their dogs are gone. Here are a few factors that trigger snoring.
Increased weight can cause several problems such as increased chances for joint problems and heart disease, but on top of that, extra weight can also cause a dog to snore more.
If your dog has put on some weight, more snoring is expected because swollen tissues in the pharynx or soft palate tend to become more prominent and therefore noisier, explains veterinarian Dr. Kara.
Snoring tends to become more common as dogs age because the structures in the back of the dog's throat tend to weaken as the years go by. You will therefore hear dogs snore more when they age, but it is also true that as dogs age, they also become more prone to gain weight and develop health problems, hence the importance of reporting snoring to the vet.
The position in which your dog's sleeps may have an impact on his snoring. Perhaps your dog's head and neck are just positioned in such a way that airway noise is produced while breathing, explains veterinarian Dr. Drew. As in people, a dog sleeping on his back, may be more likely to snore than a dog sleeping on his side.
In this case, your dog's snoring may stop the moment he changes his position. Don't feel tempted though to poke your dog just to make him stop, some dogs can instinctively react aggressively when woken up!
Snoring Due to Genetic Causes
If your dog has always been snoring, you are likely dealing with a dog whose conformation makes snoring more likely. The "poster child" for snoring dogs are dog breeds known for being brachycephalic.
The term brachycephalic simply means dogs who are equipped with distinctive facial features such as a short head with a wide skull that gives these dogs a distinctive smudged-in face. Boxers, pugs, English bulldogs, French bulldogs, Cavalier King Charles spaniels, Pekingese, Boston terriers, Pomeranians and shih-tzu are some dog breeds that fit the description of brachycephalic.
Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome
Most of these dog breeds were selectively bred for their brachycephlic traits that many dog owners find endearing but that come with a cost: problems breathing, snoring and exercise and heat intolerance. Veterinarians use the umbrella term "brachycephalic airway snydrome" to depict these respiratory problems, but what causes these problems in the first place?
Well, first let's take a look at the nostrils in these dogs. At a closer look, we may notice that the nostrils in several of these breeds are very small, so much so that some have just tiny slits for nostrils. These small nostrils are known as "stenotic nares" and are certainly a problem for these dogs as one can imagine. First off, they are not very effective in pushing air, and on top of that, in some cases they may collapse inwards when the dog inhales.
Then, one must consider that many brachycephalic dogs breeds tend to have what are called "elongated soft palates." Basically, the long, soft palates in these dogs tend to protrude into the dog's airway interfering with proper passage of air. These elongated soft palates are what are blamed for causing brachycephalic dogs to snort, gag and snore more than other dog breeds.
Last but not least, some brachycephalic dogs breeds may also have narrow windpipes (hypoplastic tracheas) and soft tissue protrusions in the larynx area that can be pulled into the dog's windpipe (everted laryngeal saccules).
Corrective Surgery Can Help
Some owners of brachycephalic dogs may elect to have their dogs undergo corrective surgery so to reduce the gagging, snoring and snorting especially when these physical traits negatively impact these dogs' quality of life. Small nostrils may therefore be enlarged and elongated palates or everted laryngeal saccules can be reduced by surgically removing the excess tissue. Fortunately, more and more breeders are starting to stay away from breeding exaggerated brachycephalic features.
Snoring Due to Health Problems
In some cases, snoring may be indicative of a health problem, especially when it starts out of the blue in a dog with a history of not snoring. There are several medical conditions that can trigger snoring or exacerbate a snoring problem in dogs. Snoring is often seen in dogs with nasal, pharyngeal or soft palate disease.
Exposure to Irritants
Exposure to respiratory irritants can trigger louder snoring especially in allergic dogs, explains veterinarian Dr. Kara. Examples of irritants include dust, smoke, pollen and mold spores. At times, the irritant may be inside the dog's nose as seen when grass awns or blades of grass get stuck in the dog's nasal passages. In these latter cases though, dogs are often snorting and sneezing a whole lot to get rid of the foreign object.
It may seem odd, but dogs at times may be snoring more because of an underlying tooth problem. Not many dog owners know, but dogs have teeth that have very long roots that reach the dog's nasal area. An infected tooth can therefore lead to inflammation of the dog's nose and snoring occurs secondary to this problem. A tooth infection can also cause inflammation in the back of the dog's throat and therefore trigger snoring.
A Nose Problem
Sometimes dogs may develop upper respiratory infections that can cause them to become stuffy and snore more as a result. A nasal fungal infection may also trigger inflammation and therefore snoring, but in these cases, the snoring would likely be accompanied by sneezing and nasal discharge. Your vet can likely find the underlying cause by doing a nasal scope or taking x-rays of the dog's nose and sinuses if necessary.
Paralysis of the Larynx
A medical condition known as laryngeal paralysis can result in loud breathing and snoring because of obstruction caused by incompletely retracted vocal cords, explains veterinarian Dr. Gene.
What happens here is that the laryngeal folds that are meant to open when the dog inhales and close when the dog swallows, end up becoming weak and paralyzed. This results in loud breathing, gagging, stridor and changes in a dog's barking.
This condition requires prompt veterinary attention because affected dogs can develop aspiration pneumonia when eating from the inhaled food in the lungs causing a serious infection.
Dilated Food Pipe
In some cases, the dog's esophagus (food pipe) may become enlarged, a condition that is known as megaesophagus. Affected dogs tend to regurgitate their food shortly after eating and also risk aspirating the food into the lungs, once again causing aspiration pneumonia as described above. It's important that these dogs are fed food that is mixed into a slurry and are fed in an elevated position using a Bailey Chair. Always consult with your vet if you notice snoring accompanied by other symptoms such as coughing, voice changes, sneezing and regurgitation.
Presence of Tumor
Tumors can grow virtually almost anywhere and sometimes they may grow also in some areas of the dog's airway, causing trouble breathing and snoring due to the excess tissue. Tumors may be benign such as polyps but in some cases can be malignant. If your dog has started snoring, it's therefore important seeing your vet to determine whether there may be an underlying medical cause that may need addressed.
Seven Tips to Reduce Dog Snoring
If you are looking for ways to stop your dog's snoring, consider that there are some strategies to reduce the snoring sounds. Here are a few tips:
- See your vet to determine whether there are any underlying problems. If your dog is suffering from a health ailment that causes the snoring, it will need to be properly addressed.
- Some dogs with elongated soft palates may benefit from surgical correction. Consult with your vet if your dog is candidate for this. Because this is a delicate surgery, you may need to consult with a board-certified surgeon.
- Reduce your dog's weight by feeding less and exercising more. The more weight your dog puts on, the more he's likely to snore.
- Ask your vet what medications you can give your dog if he's suffering from allergies.
- Investing in a humidifier can be helpful if your dog's snoring is attributed to dry air.
- Keep your home cool in the summer so that your dog feel more like sleeping on his side rather than on his back.
- Provide your dog with a round bed so that he's more likely to sleep curled up.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2017 Adrienne Farricelli
T. Brooks on May 15, 2018:
Very informative article. Thank you
Larry W. Fish on September 07, 2017:
A great article. I learned so much from this. Thanks for sharing.