Dog snoring is something that can be funny or annoying. Often, it is perfectly normal, even in healthy dogs. However dog snoring can be a symptom of a range of health issues and is worth keeping an eye on, especially if a dog makes snoring sounds when awake.
This article will show you why dogs snore, especially breeds of dogs with short muzzles. It will point out that obesity, passive smoking, and allergies can contribute. Because snoring can be a symptom of deeper problems, we’ll give advice on how to stop it through helping dogs lose weight, smoking outdoors, or making lifestyle changes. We will also provide advice about visiting a vet for medication or surgery to open up blocked airways to help your dog breathe.
If you are in a rush, here are some quick links to the answers you need.
A Quick Dog Snore Anecdote
Let’s start with a Labrador anecdote, although snoring is common in many dog breeds. My dog snores, often very loudly! She sits in the corner of the room, her feet twitching in a deep sleep as she snores, perfectly content with the world.
This ten year old Labrador has snored regularly for her entire life, but no vet has been able to determine why. It can be annoying if we are trying to watch TV, but it’s just one of those minor things dog owners have to put up. In fact, we are lucky because her snoring is healthy and normal. For some dogs, snoring might be a symptom of a health problem that needs action. As we go, we’ll look at some of the different causes of snoring.
Is it Normal for Dogs to Snore
The simple answer is that, in many cases, snoring is perfectly normal and harmless. Sometimes, you may think it is cute or funny to hear your dog snoring. Other times, you may find it annoying, especially if your dog shares your bedroom! But what does it actually mean? is it always normal for dogs to snore? And, why do some dogs snore whilst others never do? Let’s start by looking at why do dogs snore? We will see that it is something they share in common with humans.
My Dog Snores! Why do Dogs Snore?
Just as with people, snoring in dogs is a noise caused by vibration of the soft tissues in the mouth and throat. The vibration arises when something disrupts the normal flow of air along the dogs airway . Sometimes, this has a perfectly simple explanation. If your dog is one of those that likes to sleep on his back, his tongue might be blocking his airway and this can make him snore.
There are a number of other reasons for snoring. If we look at these, we can perhaps tackle the causes and understand how to stop a dog from snoring. For example, if your dog is overweight, maybe you can change her feeding pattern.
Reasons for Restricted Airflow
- Narrowing of the airways
- Brachycephalic dogs
- Blocked nose
We’ll look at each of these in turn. Let’s start with narrowing of the airways. This doesn’t usually affect Labs, but it is very common in some other breeds of dog, like Pugs, Bulldogs, and Boxers, for example.
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 because there is not enough room in the dog’s mouth for all the soft tissue that lives there! At this point, I should mention brachycephalic dogs, because snoring can be a particular problem for these.
Brachycephalic Dog Snoring
Some breeds are particularly prone to snoring and, for these, it can be a sign of deeper health issues. Let’s look at brachycephaly, the breeds most prone, and what we can do to help.
Over the years, humans bred dogs for different traits to suit different jobs. For many dog breeds, including English Bulldogs, Pugs, Shi-Tzus, King Charles Cavaliers, Chihuahuas, or Boxers, breeders selected short, broad skulls and short snouts. This inevitably means that these short-nosed breeds have shorter breathing passages. We call these breeds of dog brachycephalic and they are much more likely to snore.
We’ll give you an explanation here, but if you own a flat-faced dog breed, we have plenty more information in the links at the end of this guide.
What is Brachycephaly?
Brachycephalic dogs have shorter snouts, but the soft palate at the back of their throat remained exactly the same through the generations and can appear enlarged. Owners of these breeds should be particularly aware of dog snoring and what it can mean.
Brachycephalic dogs often have something that vets call ‘everted laryngeal saccules,’ where soft tissue is pulled into the airway and blocks it. This leads to loud snoring, sometimes even when awake, which we will talk about later. Many brachycephalic dogs also have fully or partially blocked nostrils so that the opening is a ‘crescent’ instead of a nice open ‘tunnel’. The condition is called nasal stenosis, a congenital condition that can obstruct nasal passages and restrict breathing.
Stenosis can further restrict airflow, as can something we call ‘turbinates’ What is a turbinate? It’s a fancy name for something we all have. Let’s get technical and throw in some veterinary science!
Turbinates and Breathing: A Quick Science Lesson!
Dogs, like all mammals, have tiny bone ‘shelves’ in the nasal cavity. These are called turbinates (or sometimes a naval concha) and create a large surface area. Turbinates have lots of interesting functions:
- Add warmth and humidity to the air we breathe in and protect the lungs from cold, dry air
- Provide a filter to remove pathogens including bacteria, viruses, and dust
- Give a larger surface area for smell sensors
As you can imagine, in dogs, these turbinates are extensive to give a great sense of smell. The spongy bone plates also provide a great heat exchange mechanism for the body, helping dogs and other canids conserve water. Turbinates let them chase for a long time and live in dry deserts or the cold arctic.
However, for brachycephalic dogs with shortened skulls, the turbinates don’t have enough room and can grow backwards into their nasopharynx, This can create the blockage that causes them to snore. Because there isn’t a lot of room back there, swollen tissues due to infection or injury can make things much worse. Bad breathing difficulties can be distressing for the dog and you might think about visiting a vet.
Should I Take My Brachycephalic Dog To The Vet?
If your dog is brachycephalic, be vigilant because snoring can lead to other problems such as lower airflow. In turn, this leads to lower oxygen levels, lethargy, unwillingness to exercise, and distress. Please take your dog to a vet if it snores when awake or appears to have difficulty breathing. They may be able to suggest medication, surgery, or lifestyle changes that can help to relieve the problems.
Now, while brachycephalic dogs are more likely to snore, other breeds snore too. There can be a number of reasons for this.
So, Why Does My Labrador Snore?
If you own a Labrador, she isn’t brachycephalic, so why does she snore? Labradors don’t have shortened muzzles, so they rarely have problems with an enlarged soft palate or turbinates. Quite simply, all of the other causes of snoring can certainly apply to our Lab friends. With Labradors, as with any other breed, snoring when awake is always something you should investigate.
Dog Snoring When Awake
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 why do dogs snore while awake. This isn’t really snoring at all, it is noisy breathing and it is not a good sign. It could be because you have a brachycephalic dog, as described above. However, there are many other reasons why dogs can make snoring sounds when awake. Again, most of these are due to restricted air flow.
Any dog that is making snoring sounds while awake needs to be thoroughly checked over by a qualified 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. 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. Let’s start by looking at nasal obstructions.
Sometimes, your dog may have a foreign body wedged up its nose. These could be grass seeds or other plant materials he picked up on his walk. These will block his nose and make him snore. If your dog is sneezing a lot or rubbing his nose with discomfort, he could have something stuck up there. A blockage may also be accompanied by nasal discharge. Take a look and, if there is something is stuck up his nose, maybe it is time to see the vet to have it removed.
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 airways.
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 inflamed, and can 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. Most of the time, nasal discharge is usually the sign of an infection somewhere that may need attention. A runny nose can be caused by an infection in the nose or an eye condition like conjunctivitis. It can be a sign that your dog has an allergy, which we will discuss later.
Check With a Vet
If the nasal discharge doesn’t go away, or your dog has nausea, runny eyes, or bouts of sneezing, don’t be afraid to consult with an expert. Don’t just put nasal discharge down to the common cold. Dogs don’t normally catch colds and the discharge could be a sign of a serious problem. Your vet will need to examine your dog just to be on the safe side. Discharge can also be a sign of allergies, which can be very uncomfortable for your pet.
Snoring and Dog Allergies
Just like people, some dogs suffer from allergies. An allergy can affect your dog’s airways and cause snoring due to the swelling of the tissues in the mouth and throat. This is often accompanied by a clear and watery nasal discharge. If your dog shows signs of an allergic reaction for the first time, take her to the vet for a check up to make sure that it’s nothing more serious. If it is an allergy, your vet can prescribe medications to relieve her symptoms and, in turn, reduce the snoring.
Cigarette Smoke and Snoring
Just like people, dogs living with cigarette smokers may be more prone to snoring. They are also at greater risk of developing allergies 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. If you are a smoker, we’ll show you how to stop cigarettes from causing dog snoring later on.
Another prime cause of snoring in dogs is medication. Some of these have side effects that bring on the condition.
Medications That Cause Dog Snoring
Sometimes, you might notice that your dog only developed snoring when he started a course of medication. Could the medicine be to blame? It could, because some medicines have side effects including restricted airways. Pain relievers, and some other medicines, may cause the throat to relax more than usual, which can trigger a bout of the snores.
If you think that medicines may be the cause, check with your vet whether medication is the possible cause of doggy snoring. If your dog needs the medication, then you will probably have to live with the snoring, although your vet might be able to treat the symptoms.
Another very common cause of snoring in dogs is obesity. Just as with humans, being overweight can trigger the condition.
Dog Snoring Caused 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 a little 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, and these can 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.
In fact, although we are all tempted to give a bit of extra food when faced with pleading dog eyes, it’s good to resist. Losing weight can also prevent a range of other health problems, and is usually worth doing.
Nasal Polyps and Tumors
Just like humans, dogs can get nasal polyps, small pink growths in the nose. They can grow large enough to obstruct air flow and cause snoring. Quite often, they can cause distressing nose bleeds. It is definitely worth getting them checked by a vet. Apart from causing snoring, even when your dog is awake, they can be a sign of tumors. Removing them can stop snoring and, if they were a sign of tumors, might allow your vet to catch the condition early.
Nasal tumors commonly affect older dogs and some specific breeds such as German Shepherds. Treating them can involve surgery or radiotherapy, ideally before they become large and malignant. What happens if you can’t work out why your dog is snoring? What do you do then?
Dogs that Snore for No Reason
For many snoring dogs, like my Labrador, Tess, who is slim and healthy, there is often no apparent cause. It’s just something that many dogs do and we don’t know why. A bit like humans, really! So,what if your dog is fit and able to run and play normally without breathing noisily. You look and see no no signs of any obstruction in his airway, and no discharge or other symptoms of infection. In this case, there may be no cause for the canine snoring.
Despite that, it is still worth mentioning that your dog snores to your vet next time you take your dog for a check up. 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!
We’ve talked a little bit about how snoring can be a symptom of health problems. That gives us an interesting question: can dog snoring actually cause health problems?
Does Dog Snoring Cause Health Problems?
You may have heard that in people, snoring can lead to more serious health problems. This may be true for some other 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 be harmed by a bout of snoring. Conditions like sleep apnea are rare in dogs, and Labs generally have a healthy respiratory system. Of course, this could be different for other breeds of dog, especially those with brachycephaly.
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 or making him distressed.
How to Stop a Dog From Snoring
If you want to stop a dog snoring, there are no guarantees of success, but a few things could make a difference. These include
- Reducing your dog’s weight
- Smoking outdoors
- Altering your dog’s sleeping position
Help your Dog Lose Weight
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, and will be more active and in better general health. And she’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.
Cigarette smoke is definitely an irritant to your dog’s lungs, and may be a catalyst for dog snoring. 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 to 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. It’s easy to do and there is no harm in trying. One of the best solutions for mild snorers is to make sure that your dog is encouraged to curl up rather than sprawl on her back. A round or oval bed is ideal for this, and you can tuck her in and make her feel special.
Some people find that a bed with a raised padded edge helps, because it encourages the dog to rest his head in a raised position.
Allergy Relief for Dogs
There are a few other tricks you can use to stop dog snores. For example, if you think that allergies are to blame, clean their bedding often. Take them for walks when pollen levels are low and when there is less traffic. If nothing can be done to put an end to your nighttime ‘serenade’, then you’ll need to make sure your Labrador does not sleep too near to your bed. Or, you’ll have to invest in a good pair of ear plugs!
So far, we have talked about adult dogs, but you should take extra care if a puppy snores. They are more fragile and prone to picking up infections.
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 because it could be serious – get her 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 well.
Dog Snoring Summary
There are a number of different causes of dog snoring. If you are asking ‘why my dogs snores,’ look for 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 dog drops a few pounds if he is a little overweight.
Is Your Dog a Snorer?
Does your dog snore? Have you found any remedies that help? Share your experiences in the comments box below. We constantly update articles when our readers share great information. We already updated this in May 2019 as part of keeping all of our content fresh and relevant!
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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
- Prendregrass, JoAnna, Exploration of a Working Dog’s Nose, American Veterinarian, April 2018.
- ‘Nasal Concha‘, Britannica
The Labrador Site Founder
Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.
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