Dog Snoring: Causes Risks And Remedies

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snoring sleeping labrador

In a dog, snoring can by a symptom of a whole range of different health issues, just as it can be in people. Dog snoring is also common in healthy dogs.

In fact, my dog snores!

I own a ten year old Labrador that has snored regularly her entire life, for no reason that any veterinary expert has ever been able to determine.

But some dogs that snore have a health problem that needs attending to. We’ll be looking at some of the different causes of snoring as we go.

You may think it is cute or funny to hear your Labrador snoring.

You may find it annoying.Especially if your dog shares your bedroom

But what does it actually mean? And why do some dogs snore whilst others never do?  Let’s take a look.

Why do dogs snore

Snoring is a noise caused by vibration of the soft tissues of a dog’s mouth and throat.

The vibration arises when there is a disruption of the normal flow of air along the dogs airway.

Here are some reasons why the flow of air might be disrupted in your dog’s nose or throat

  • Narrowing of the airways
  • Blocked nose
  • Infections
  • Allergies
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Medication

We’ll look at each of these in turn. Let’s start with narrowing of the airways. This is not a problem likely to affect Labs, but it is very common in some other breeds of dog

Dog snoring due to narrowed airways

The interior of a healthy dogs throat is cleverly designed to keep him oxygenated and cool.

Too much tissue, or tissue that is too floppy may cause a narrowing of the throat.

Snoring is much more common in breeds with very short muzzles (like pugs, and bulldogs)

It’s because there is not enough room in the dog’s mouth for all the soft tissue that lives there!

Many brachycephalic (short nosed) dogs also have nostrils that are fully or partially blocked so that viewed from the front, the opening is a ‘crescent’ instead of a nice open ‘tunnel’.

So why does my Labrador snore?

Labradors don’t have shortened muzzles. They are well constructed dogs and most have efficient and healthy airways.

But the other causes of snoring can certainly apply to our Lab friends.  One thing we should clear up before we go any further, is that for the purposes of snoring in this article, we are talking about dogs who are asleep

Sometimes people ask about a dog snoring while awake.  This isn’t really snoring at all, it is noisy breathing and it is not a good sign. Any dog that is making snoring sounds while awake needs to be thoroughly checked over by a qualified vet.

Okay, let’s have a look at what happens when a dog’s nostrils get ‘blocked’

Dog snoring caused by an obstruction

While most healthy Labradors have wide clear nasal openings, these can become blocked temporarily. An obstruction may be a symptom of a nasty infection or more serious type of blockage.

It is unusual for a dog to get a foreign body wedged up a it’s nose but it can happen and is something that your vet may wish to consider

In most cases, a blocked nose is the result of a build up of mucous as a result of a respiratory infection, together with inflammation of the airway.

Dog snoring caused by infections

Like people, dogs are susceptible to upper respiratory infections. Infections like Kennel Cough – a kind of canine flu – may cause airways to become blocked and inflammed and trigger temporary snoring.

If that is the case, the snoring should clear up once the dog recovers.

However, it’s important not to ignore nasal discharges in a dog.

Your vet will need to examine your dog if he has any kind of discharge from his nose, don’t just put it down to the common cold. Dogs don’t normally catch colds and the discharge could be a sign of a serious problem.

Snoring and allergies

Just like people,  some dogs suffer from allergies.  An allergy affecting your dog’s airways may cause snoring due to the swelling of the tissues in the mouth and throat, and is often accompanied by a clear watery nasal discharge.

A dog that is showing signs of an allergic reaction for the first time, should always be checked over by a vet to make sure that there is nothing more serious going on. There are also medications that will relieve his symptoms and may in turn reduce the snoring.

If your Lab has never snored and is snoring now, get him along to the vet within the next day or so, to have him checked over. And if he seems unwell or his breathing is labored, take him in right away.

Cigarette smoke and snoring

Just like people, dogs that live with cigarette smokers may be more prone to snoring. And at greater risk of allergic conditions and respiratory infections.

That’s because your dog’s lungs and airways are very similar to ours, and can be affected by chemicals and irritants in the same way

Medications that cause dog snoring

Check with your vet whether or not your dog’s medication is the possible cause of his snoring.

Pain relievers, and some other medicines, may cause the throat to relax more than usual,  which can trigger a bout of snoring.

If your dog needs the medication,  then you will probably have to live with the snoring.   But for some dogs there are ways to improve the situation

Dog snoring cause by obesity

Probably the most common reason for snoring in Labradors and many other breeds is a weight problem.

Your dog does not have to be grossly obese for this to happen. Just being overweight may be enough of a trigger to start a dog snoring

In a very overweight dog, pads of fat may be deposited around the throat which interfere with the airflow.

Basically, if your Labrador snores and you can’t feel his ribs,  his weight may be the cause.

And if your slightly overweight, snoring dog, seems otherwise perfectly well, then reducing his weight a little is a good starting point in the battle against snoring

Dogs that snore for no reason

For many snoring dogs, like my Labrador Tess who is slim and healthy, no cause can be found for the snoring. It’s just something that many dogs do and we don’t know why.

So, if your dog is slim and fit, and is able to run and play normally without breathing noisily. And if your dog has no signs of any obstruction in his airway, or any kind of discharge or other symptoms of infection, the chances are that no cause will be found for your dog’s snoring either.

Despite that, it is still worth mentioning to your vet next time you take your dog for a check up, that he or she snores.

Your vet is trained to spot signs that you might not have noticed, and will be able to confirm that your dog is in great shape. Despite your noisy nights together!

Does dog snoring cause health problems?

You may have heard that in people, snoring is associated with health problems. This may be true for some animals too.

For example, one study showed that sleep apnea in dogs (associated with snoring) was associated with high blood pressure

And a study on rabbits showed that snoring induced by the researchers was associated with increase energy within the carotid artery.

So does that mean your dog is at risk from snoring? Could snoring bring on a health problem in your dog?

Well there isn’t much in the way of research to answer this question, but most vets would confirm that it’s unlikely your Lab will come to harm from snoring. Conditions like sleep apnea are rare in dogs, and Labs generally have a healthy respiratory system

Remember, if the snoring is unusual for him, or is getting worse,  it is a good idea to get your dog checked over by the vet sooner rather than later.

In the meantime, there are some steps you can take to try to reduce your dog’s snoring, if it is getting you down.

How to stop a dog from snoring

There are no guarantees of success, but there are a few things you can try. These include

  • Reducing your dog’s weight
  • Smoking outdoors
  • Altering your dog’s sleeping position

Unless your dog is lean and slim, you might want to consider taking a few pounds off him. In some cases this will resolve the snoring without any further input from you.

As a bonus, your dog will also feel better, be more active and in better general health.

And he’ll live longer too – so it’s a win-win situation all round

You can  find out more about tackling a weight problem in Labradors in this article:  Fat Labrador

Smoking outdoors

Cigarette smoke is definitely an irritant to your dog’s lungs and may be a factor in dogs that snore within families who smoke.

If you are a smoker one solution, if you don’t plan on giving up any time soon, is to smoke outdoors.

It’s worth trying for a week or two, so that you can see if it makes any difference to your dog.

If you make it a permanent change you’ll also bring down your dog’s risk of getting cancer from passive smoking – a study published in 1998 showed that increased cancer risk is a problem for dogs who live with smokers.

Changing your dog’s sleeping position

You might find it helpful to adjust the position your dog sleeps in.

One of the best solutions for mild snorers, is to make sure that your Labrador is encouraged to curl up, rather than sprawl on his back.  A round or oval bed is ideal for this.

Some people find that a bed with a raised padded edge helps,  as it encourages the dog to rest his head in a raised position.

If nothing can be done to put an end to your night time ‘serenade’,  then you’ll need to make sure your Labrador does not sleep too near to your bed.  Or invest in a good pair of ear plugs!

What about puppy snoring?

Puppies snore for the same reasons that older dogs snore.  When you take your puppy to the vet for his shots, mention the fact that he snores so that your vet can put your mind at rest and make sure there is nothing wrong.

Never ignore nasal discharge in a puppy, it could be serious – get him checked out without delay.

Like older dogs, puppies should not be allowed to get fat, and even if your puppy is a short nosed breed, don’t write off snoring as normal. Get a medical professional to check that all is as it should be.

Dog snoring summary

There are a number of different causes of dog snoring. Including, infections, airway obstructions, medications, smoking, and most common of all, carrying too much weight.

Snoring itself is probably not going to harm your Lab but it can be a symptom of something more serious so do get it checked out by your vet. And make sure your Lab drops a few pounds if he is a little overweight.

If you have never heard a Labrador snore, here’s what it sounds like

Is your dog a snorer?

Does your dog snore?

Have you found any remedies that help?

Share your experiences in the comments box below

More information on Labradors

labrador-jacket-800You can find out more about how to keep your Labrador as fit and healthy as possible in the Health section of our website.

If you’d like all of our best Labrador information together in one place, then get your copy of The Labrador Handbook today.

The Labrador Handbook looks at all aspects owning a Labrador, through daily care, to health and training at each stage of their life.

The Labrador Handbook is available worldwide.

 

References and further reading

  • LaFrentz et al. Evaluation of Palatal Snoring Surgery in an Animal Model. American Academy of Otolaryngology
  • Brooks et al. Obstructive sleep apnea as a cause of systemic hypertension. Evidence from a canine model. J Clin Invest 1997
  • Amatoury et al. Snoring-related energy transmission to the carotid artery in rabbits. J Applied Physiology 2006
  • Upper airways resistance and snoring in anaesthetized dogs. European Respiratory Journal
  • Reif et al. Cancer of the Nasal Cavity and Paranasal Sinuses and Exposure to Environmental Tobacco Smoke in Pet Dogs. American Journal of Epidemiology 1998
  • Laurendet et al. Snoring and halitosis in a dog. Australian Veterinary Journal 1998
  • Stafford Johnson M, and Martin M Investigation of dyspnoea in dogs Companion Animal Practice 2013
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Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of several books on dogs. She is the founder of the Labrador Site and a regular contributor. She is passionate about helping people enjoy their Labradors and lives in Hampshire with her husband and four dogs.

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