Whether you find the sound of your dog’s snoring adorable or irritating, you may have wondered what is causing it. And whether you need to be concerned. Here we explain the many reasons for these musical efforts. Some are completely normal and some more worrying, with some simple tips for when you need to seek veterinary advice.
What exactly IS snoring?
Snoring is noise caused when the normal movement of air is disrupted in the airways. This unusual movement of air causes vibrations and resistance. This can make grunting and harsh noises emerge from your dog’s nose and mouth.
What causes snoring?
There are many causes of snoring in dog. Here are some of the most common:
Some breeds are more pre-disposed to snoring than others. Flat-faced dogs such as pugs, pekineses and bulldogs are known as ‘brachycephalic’. This means means they have short noses and flattened faces. Although their faces are shorter, the amount of soft palate (the fleshy area between the nose and the throat) remains the same. These bits of palate can vibrate back and forth when air is drawn in, making a lot of noise. Flat-faced dogs also tend to have smaller nostril openings (nares) so that the air faces more resistance as they breathe in. Snoring in these breeds is more common than not! (However, snoring can also indicate significant breathing difficulties especially in these breeds. These do need veterinary attention – so don’t just assume it’s normal! – Editor)
2. Sleeping position
If your dog is one of those chilled out souls who love to lie sprawled on their backs. Then they may also regale you with frequent snoring sessions. Sleeping position can make a huge difference in the airflow into your dog’s throat. Back sleepers commonly have their throat partially blocked by their tongue which can cause loud snoring. The shape and position of the neck can also contribute.
Obesity is linked to many health problems, but it most definitely has strong links to snoring in dogs. Any excess weight carried by your dog will put more pressure on their breathing. Both through internal fat adding to the weight of tissue in the airway and palate making noise as they breathe in, to fat around the ribcage making their breathing systems work harder every time they take a breath.
4. Allergies and infections
Dogs can suffer from allergies just like people do. They can be very sensitive to airway irritants such as dust, pollen and smoke. Particles like these can cause the airway to become inflamed, and the body to produce mucus to try and fight the problem. This inflammation and mucus can then cause snoring noises as they increase congestion in the airways. Your dog may sneeze and have a runny nose or eyes alongside their snoring. Infections in the airways or the mouth (including dental problems) can be a similar cause of sudden snoring.
5. Obstruction in the airways
This is probably the most concerning of the causes of snoring, and one that will most likely need veterinary intervention. A dog which suddenly starts snoring when they haven’t before may have something causing a blockage in their airway, causing turbulent airflow which makes for noisy breathing and snoring. These obstructions can be anything from something like a grass seed lodged up the nose, through polyps (benign lumps) and abscesses to the most serious: tumours of the nose, palate and throat.
Older dogs can also suffer from a condition where the vocal cords don’t open as well as they did (laryngeal paralysis). This causing a snoring noise to be heard when they breathe. Obstructions in the nasal passages or palate often cause discharge (blood, mucus or pus) to come out of one or both nostrils, although not always.
When do I need to worry?
If you own or know a dog who has always snored at night, but is happy, active and well otherwise, there is likely no need for concern. Likewise, if you own a flat-faced breed such as a bulldog or a boxer, snoring is incredibly common and likely due to anatomy rather than any other medical issue.
If you notice the snoring is worse at certain times of year, and that your dog is also prone to itchy skin, runny eyes or nose, sore eyes and sneezing, an allergy may be playing a role in your dog’s snoring and it may be worth a chat with your vet to see if the symptoms can be improved.
You should definitely arrange an appointment with a vet if your dog suddenly starts snoring when they didn’t before, or their snore suddenly gets worse. Equally, if your dog snores and seems unable to be active or playful when awake then advice should be sought immediately.
How can I help my dog snore less?
If your dog lies on their back, it may help to encourage them to lie on their side. Elevating their heads with a pillow can also reduce night-time noise.
Dogs who are sensitive to breathing allergies will benefit from being in a smoke-free household, and air fresheners and scented candles can also cause reactions so are best avoided around sensitive dogs. It can also help to wash them down after walks to remove pollen, walk at times of day when pollen counts are low (such as early mornings or evenings) and to wash their bedding daily. A regular thorough hoover of the house can also reduce dust and spores which can irritate the airway. Humidifiers can have a positive effect on air quality.
Keeping your dog on a good diet and a regular exercise regime appropriate for their size and energy needs will be hugely beneficial in many ways. However having a slim dog will certainly reduce the chance of snoring, which may be a useful incentive for all you sleep-deprived dog-parents out there!
Some brachycephalic (short faced) dogs who are particularly badly affected may require airway surgery to trim away some of that excess palate and to open up the nose. This is a discussion to have with a veterinary surgeon. Although not to be undertaken lightly, could have many beneficial effects on your dog’s quality of life as well as reducing snoring.
Snoring in dogs is very common, and often completely normal. There are some general rules to watch out for if your pet may require veterinary treatment. Some simple changes to be made that can reduce snoring. A good night’s sleep is appreciated by people and pets alike. Try some of the tips above and see if any of them help. For some dog owners, however, resorting to ear plugs may be your only way to get a decent forty winks!