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Should I worry if my dog snores?

White and brown dog sleeping under the covers advice

Dogs with short muzzles are more prone to snoring.

© Shutterstock

Whether your dog's snoring is a problem will depend on when and why they're snoring – and sometimes it can be life-threatening.

By Dr. Liz Barton MA, VetMB, MRCVS

Updated on the 11/08/2020, 14:25

It is quite common for dogs to snore in their sleep, just as people do. They may also make snoring-type sounds as they stretch, roll, play, scratch or are petted when these actions seem to be associated with pleasure. But It is not normal for dogs to snore when they are exercising or excited. If this is occurring, it is due to some blockage of the airway reducing airflow. The reduced airflow prevents heat loss through panting, and reduces the oxygen reaching the lungs, so can be harmful and even dangerous for your dog. If you hear loud sounds as they breathe in (stridor) or out (stertor) during activity, it is important to speak to a vet.

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Why does my dog snore?

Dogs snore due to partial blockage of the airway. It is quite common for this to occur for most dogs when they are in deep sleep, as the tissues of the upper airway are relaxed and vibrate as they breathe. The following can all contribute to disrupted airflow and snoring noises:

  • Narrow nostrils
  • Short muzzle
  • Long, soft palate
  • Large tonsils
  • Paralysis of the larynx
  • Narrow trachea (windpipe)
  • Discharge from respiratory tract infections
  • Congested or inflamed tissues of the airways.
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Why does my dog snore when I pet him?

When petted your dog may vocalise in pleasure, which can sound like a snore. This is usually a brief noise that ends after you stop petting the dog. Some dogs become excited when petted, and as their breathing rate increases if there is increased resistance to airflow, this may result in snoring that continues after you have stopped petting them.

Why do some dogs snore so much?

Dogs that have been bred to have a short muzzle – known as brachycephalic breeds – will have increased resistance to airflow compared to dogs with long muzzles, which allow smooth (laminar) airflow. These breeds are much more prone to snoring, both in their sleep and during play or exercise.

Some long-nosed breeds can also be prone to snoring, especially as they get older, due to laryngeal paralysis. The nerves supplying the larynx are among the longest in the body, and can be prone to damage and deterioration in old age. The larynx then becomes floppy and blocks airflow.

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Which dog breeds snore the most?

Short muzzle breeds are most prone to snoring. These tend to be smaller breeds and include Boston terriers, pugs, French bulldogs, British bulldogs, and related cross-breeds. But it is often larger breeds who are affected by laryngeal paralysis, including Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers and English setters.

Why do brachycephalic breeds snore more?

Brachycephalic breeds are bred with short muzzles and have a short-nose or squashed-face appearance. They are predisposed to suffering from Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS) due to the changes in anatomy of their airway from having a short face. The soft tissues of the airways and throat are packed into a shorter space, and as a consequence cause narrowing and reduced space for air to flow streamlined into the lungs. As panting is the main way dogs lose heat, they are prone to overheating as well as fainting due to reduced oxygenation.

Several corrective surgeries exist for these dogs to help increase the size of the airway. Snoring surgery for these breeds includes widening the nostrils, removing the tonsils and shortening the soft palate.

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Is it normal for dogs to snore as they get older?

It is common for dogs to snore increasingly in their old age. This is usually due to partial or complete laryngeal paralysis, which may have an underlying cause or may simply be due to ageing of the nerves. The floppy larynx then blocks airflow. This is most noticeable when your dog is sleeping. But if it occurs when they are excited or exercising, your dog may be at risk of collapse or overheating. Snoring surgery can be done to tie the larynx open to reduce this risk.

When should I talk to a vet?

It is quite common for dogs to snore during sleep, especially if they are older or a breed predisposed to airflow obstruction. Snoring during sleep can be annoying for you as the owner, and may disrupt sleep for you and your pet. Yet it is unlikely to cause them harm.

Snoring when they are awake, especially during play or exercise, is a sign your dog may have dynamic airflow obstruction, which can reduce their ability to get sufficient oxygen or lose heat through panting. Both of these can be life-threatening, so you should speak to a vet and have your dog assessed to see if surgery may be appropriate.

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