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10 Reasons Why Dogs Snore While Sleeping

Life can be as miserable with a snoring dog as it may be living with a snoring partner, especially when Rover is given the privilege to share the bedroom or even the same bed. However, it appears that when the snoring partner is a four-legged companion, dog owners are more forgiving and willing to turn a blind eye, or shall we say, a deaf ear! Many dog owners actually confess to finding their dog's snoring quite adorable, however, putting the cutesy factor aside, snoring in dogs can sometimes be a sign of problems that need to be addressed. So let's better understand why dogs snore and how to recognize potential signs of trouble.


First an Insight into Dog Snoring..

Why do dogs snore? In order to understand dog snoring, we will first have to take a little lesson in dog anatomy. When dogs sleep, they are constantly moving air in and out through their nose, the soft palate and trachea.

Generally speaking, snoring happens when there is some sort of blockage anywhere along the dog's upper respiratory tract. As the air moves unevenly past the blockage, it creates that vibrating noise that we commonly refer to as snoring.

In most cases, the noise occurs when the dog breaths in air and it can occur during any sleep stage. There are several reasons why dogs snore, following are 10 reasons why dogs snore.

"Snoring is rarely a sign of serious problems unless dogs are also having trouble breathing when awake. But it may suggest that your dog's health- or eating habits -could use some improvements" ~Dr. Matthew Hoffman

1) A Matter of Conformation

dog brachycephalic breed

Some dogs are more predisposed to snoring because of their facial features. Brachycephalic dogs  (those canines with pushed-in faces) such as bulldogs, pugs, Pekingese and boxers, are often the poster child for snoring.

While these facial structures are much cherished in the doggy world, courtesy of neotony, they are also to blame for the noises they produce.

The main problem is that these dogs have shortened muzzles which cause them to be prone to breathing problems, remarks veterinarian Matthew Hoffman in the book "Symptoms and Solutions: The Ultimate Home Health Guide--what to Watch For."

Facial features to blame are these dogs' elongated soft palates which get sucked into the dog's airways, their narrow, slit-like nostrils and their small trachea.

Some of these conformation abnormalities can be corrected surgically if they interfere with a dog's overall ability to breath.

Did you know? A study conducted in a sleep laboratory involving Bulldogs found that the majority of them were suffering from from some degree of sleep apnea. Sleep apnea causes them to wake up hundreds of times in the course of one night, explains veterinarian Dr. Asaf Dagan.

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2) A Matter of Soft Palate

While brachycephalic dogs are more prone to snoring compared to other dogs due to their elongated soft palates, not all dogs who have problems with their soft palates are brachycephalic. A dog's soft palate is basically the fleshy area found behind the dog's 'hard palate which consists of those ridges on the roof of the dog's mouth. This area may sometimes enlarge and cause some vibration when a dog is asleep, explains veterinarian Andrea Roberts. 

Foxtail extracted from dog's nose

Foxtail extracted from dog's nose

3) A Matter of Foreign Bodies

While dogs airways are sometimes blocked due to conformation issues, sometimes the culprits may be foreign bodies, basically stuff that shouldn't be there and that are inhaled or swallowed from the environment.

If your dog never snored or snored very little in his life, and now he is snoring like a chainsaw, suspect a foreign body, especially if he shows signs of trouble breathing, repeated sneezing, coughing and gagging, even while awake.

What foreign bodies are to blame? One insidious foreign body that can make its way into the dog's respiratory tract is the foxtail, a spikelet with barbs produced by several herbaceous plants (see picture). Because foxtail tend to travel in one direction only, removal must be done by a veterinarian. Other possible foreign bodies include grass awns and pieces of stick if dogs like to chew on them.

"(Foxtails) They are sharp enough to enter tissue and have barbs that cause them to migrate in one direction if they enter the body."~Dr. Zwingenberge, veterinary radiologist at the University of California-Davis.

 4) A Matter of Growths

Sometimes, the culprit of the snoring may be something growing inside the dog's airway rather than a foreign body that was swallowed or inhaled. Presence of polyps in the nasopharyngeal area, benign tumors, cancers or cysts are growths that may grow and may play a role in obstructing a dog's airways.

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5) A Matter of Congestion 

dog sneezing foxtail

Any medical condition that causes inflammation, swelling or the production of mucus, can cause snoring in dogs. For example, an upper respiratory infection or an allergy may be a culprit.

While most dog allergies result in skin problems, about 15 percent may have the same symptoms humans experience, such as sneezing, nasal discharge and teary eyes.

Allergies can be due to anything in the environment but common culprits are dust, pollen, molds, dander and smoke. When the nasal passages get plugged up with mucus or swell, dogs may start breathing through their mouths which may yield noisy snoring, further explains Dr. Ackerman. Sometimes, a nasal fungal infection may be the cause of snoring.

old dog

6) A Matter of Aging

Old age can cause a multitude of problems and this may include a predisposition to snoring. What happens in this case is that. tissues of the dog's vocal cords and larynx tend to relax as the years go by and lose muscle tone, which may result in these tissues vibrating when air flows though them.

7)A Matter of Dental Problems

Sometimes, even a bad tooth may be an underlying cause of snoring in dogs. According to veterinarian Dr. Kara, an infected tooth root may cause inflammation of the nose and louder snoring. When we look at teeth, we only see the tip of the iceberg. Under that tooth we see, there are long roots which extend and reach areas of the dog's face and nose. When a tooth is allowed to go bad, those roots therefore reach these areas causing further complications such as increased sneezing and snoring.

8) A Matter of Extra Pounds 

dog blanket sleep sick

Just as overweight people are known for "sawing logs," when Rover packs on some extra pounds the snoring can be equally noisy. Why do chubby dogs seem to snore more though? In this case, it seems to be a matter of where their fat is stored.

That extra layer of fat found by the dog's chest may, in certain sleeping positions, press against the dog's airways causing the noise, explains veterinarian Lowell Ackerman.

Fortunately, a weight loss program can eventually lessen the snoring along with providing several other healthy perks associated with shedding a few pounds.

how dogs sleep

9) A Matter of Sleeping Position

Yes, dog sleeping positions matter! Just like people tend to snore more when they are sleeping on their backs, dogs may also snore more when they are sleeping on their stomachs or backs--move over Rover!

In this case, the problem stems from the pressure on the respiratory tract, which may lead to noisy breathing. A dog sleeping on his side is less likely to snore and gets to catch a more restorative sleep.

10)A Matter of Problems with Larynx 

One of the most serious medical problems associated with trouble breathing and snoring is a condition known as laryngeal paralysis. In this condition, the dog's larynx does not open properly which leads to breathing issues and snoring, that sadly progressively get worse over time. While there is a surgery to fix this, it's quite expensive and comes with some risks, explains veterinarian Dr. Marie. 

Tips to Reduce of Stop Snoring in Dogs:

dog sleeping
  • Feed your dog less. Slimmer dogs tend to snore less as the amount of fat in their chests starts melting away.
  • Provide more exercise. Along with feeding less, increasing exercise may further help shed those extra pounds.
  • Treat or at least manage the dog's allergies if these are found to be a culprit.
  • Check your dog's nose and mouth for any for any foreign bodies.
  • A humidifier may help if your dog's snoring is triggered by dry air. A dry nose can be an indicator that your air is too dry.
  • In the summer keep your room cool so to encourage your dog to sleep on his side instead of on his back. In the winter provide a cozy round dog bed so to encourage him to sleep curled up.
  • See your vet to determine whether there is a medical condition triggering the snoring. Recording your dog's snoring on camera can help your vet's diagnostics.

The Bottom Line

As seen, there are several causes for dog snoring. Generally, snoring isn't a major problem unless the dog shows interrupted sleep due to it or shows signs of trouble breathing also during the day. If your dog is snoring and you are concerned about it, please play it safe and see your vet.

"If your dog has never snored but all of a sudden is snoring, that should be investigated.... But if your dog has always snored, and he's otherwise happy and playful and active, and the snoring is only at night, then don't worry about it." Dr. Weber


Symptoms and Solutions: The Ultimate Home Health Guide-- What to Watch For, What to Do (Dog Care Companions) by Matthew Hoffman, Rodale Books (January 15, 2000)

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