A snoring dog is often adorable – after all, what is sweeter than a pooch making snorting noises while lost in dreamland?
But if the snoring is new or the sounds you’re hearing appear to indicate congestion, it may be cause for concern and a vet visit might be in order.
So when is snoring normal and when do you need to worry?
Some Dogs Naturally Snore A Lot
Certain breeds snore and sound congested when sleeping due to their conformation. This sound is more often heard in brachycephalic (short-nosed) breeds like bulldogs, pugs, shih tzus, and Pekingese, explains Dr. Carly Fox, senior veterinarian at Schwarzman Animal Medical Center in NYC.
“The snoring sound that you hear is due to tissue vibrations as air passes through the nose, mouth, or nasopharynx,” Dr. Fox says. “These dogs also tend to have stenotic nares, or small nasal openings, and a smaller trachea, or wind pipe, which also contribute to the snoring.”
In these breeds, snoring is not necessarily an indication of illness, as long as the snoring remains mild and unchanged throughout their lives. However, if the sound progresses, results in sleep apnea, occurs during exercise/walks, or results in episodes of respiratory distress, Dr. Fox points out it might be time to reach out to a vet.
“In more severely affected dogs, this noise is typically louder and lasts for longer periods of time,” Dr. Fox says. “These dogs have trouble exercising or even walking outside for long and might experience chronic regurgitation and vomiting. This can lead to aspiration pneumonia, which can be a life threatening complication.”
For other breeds, snoring can be a sign of deep relaxation but can also indicate a health problem.
Common Reasons Your Dog May Be Snoring More Than Usual
1. Undiagnosed Dental Issues: When airways become inflamed or swollen, air cannot move freely in and out and you will hear some snoring as a result.
According to Dr. Fox, severe dental disease can lead to abscessation (pocketing infection at the tooth root), and this in turn can cause severe facial, oral, and nasal swelling which will result in noise.
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2. Respiratory Problems: Animals with allergies are more likely to experience itchy skin/paws and gastrointestinal signs rather than upper respiratory signs (like people do), so snoring is not necessarily the most common sign of allergies in dogs, according to Dr. Fox. But this doesn’t mean it can’t happen.
Upper respiratory infections (URIs) are a more likely cause of snoring than allergies, though she points they are more common in cats than dogs. “Typically, dogs with upper respiratory infections have a honking cough, have watery eyes/nose, sneeze and can cough up white foam, which can be mistaken for vomiting,” Dr. Fox explains. “URI’s are more common in younger dogs and dogs who visit parks/daycare centers due to the highly infectious nature of the disease.”
And while mild respiratory infections are easy to treat (sometimes with antibiotics) and tend to resolve quickly, it’s possible for them to turn into lower respiratory infections, like pneumonia, on some occasions. If you notice symptoms like lethargy, thick nasal discharge, or a fever in addition to the snoring, Dr. Fox recommends making a vet appointment as soon as possible.
3. Aging: Getting older can make your dog more likely to experience a number of issues that contribute to snoring. This can include something as simple as being overweight or as serious as cancer developing in the airways and obstructing air movement, Dr. Fox says.
As dogs get older they’re also more likely to experience laryngeal paralysis and collapse. According to Davies Veterinary Specialists, nerve function diminishes as dogs age, and as a result the vocal folds can’t open and close as they’re supposed to.
This can lead to a number of problems, including coughing, gagging, and snoring. The only way to truly resolve this issue is with surgery, but it’s a delicate procedure that should only be performed by a vet very familiar with the technique.
Although it can happen to dogs of any age, older dogs are also more likely to experience certain issues that can lead to snoring. “Inflammatory rhinitis, nasal foreign bodies, tumors, and fungal infection can all also cause snoring, decreased nasal airflow, and nasal discharge in dogs,” says Dr. Fox.
Dealing with a Dog Snoring Problem at Home
If your dog’s snoring is a recent issue and you don’t see any other signs of illness or distress, there are some things you can try at home.
Dogs with environmental allergies, bronchitis, or sensitivities to house molds and airborne allergens could benefit from an air filter, according to Dr. Fox. “Air filters cannot hurt in any case, but likely will not make a significant difference in any animal with more serious issues like dental disease or cancer,” she adds.
Some basic lifestyle changes can also make a difference. For example, Dr. Fox says that dogs that are prone to snoring or airway noise should always be walked with a harness and never a collar. “Keeping your pet cool and having access to air conditioning is also recommended as warm temperatures/humidity can lead to overheating,” Dr. Fox adds.
She also suggests keeping the environment clean and free of inhaled irritants (aerosols, incense, essential oils) if you live with a dog that tends to snore. “Unfortunately, there are no natural supplements that have been proven to be effective for the many disease processes that can lead to snoring and noisy breathing in dogs,” according to Dr. Fox.
When Is It Time to Visit the Vet for Your Dog’s Snoring?
If your dog snores but is otherwise well, mentioning this to your general practitioner during routine check-ups is a great idea. But if your dog’s snoring worsens over time or is accompanied by nasal discharge or chronic vomiting/regurgitation, Dr. Fox recommends booking an appointment with your vet.
In some cases, snoring can be a sign of respiratory distress and requires immediately help. “If your pet has sleep apnea, collapses, has severe lethargy, is in respiratory distress or episodes of cyanosis [blue/purple mucus membranes] your pet needs emergency care,” she explains.
So while snoring can be completely normal for many dogs, it is always important to keep an eye on your pup’s health. And when in doubt, call the vet.
This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.