Can Dogs Have Sleep Apnea?

When you go to bed at night, you can hear it from your room: the sound of your dog snoring loudly. While you love your pup, the loud snoring is disruptive and causing you to miss that restorative REM sleep you need so badly.

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You're also worried about your pup. You know that some snoring is normal, but this kind seems dangerous. What if this condition is stopping his breathing in the night? Could that lead to other health issues?

From what you know, you think your dog may have sleep apnea. Learning about this condition and how to treat it could ultimately save your dog's life.

What is sleep apnea in dogs?

Like humans, dogs can also have sleep apnea, a condition in which they stop breathing during the night. They may wake up from this choking and gasping for air as they struggle to breath, which is very disruptive to their sleep and scary for them. It can lead to sudden death if not treated properly. The signs of sleep apnea include stopping breathing during sleep, snoring loudly, having trouble staying asleep, and grumpiness.

Some dog breeds are more likely to have sleep apnea

The breeds that are more inclined to having sleep apnea include those with allergies and those with short noses like mastiffs, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, shih tzus, pugs, Boston Terriers, boxers, or Rottweilers. Dogs prone to obesity, including English bulldogs, are also more likely to have it. Your dog is obese if he weighs 10-20% over the normal body weight for his breed.

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How is sleep apnea treated in dogs?

If obesity is the issue, your dog may have to go on a prescription diet with special food and/or reduce his food intake. The veterinarian may recommend more exercise as well.

Your dog might also have to go on prescription drugs or, in extreme cases, undergo surgery if there are obstructions in his nose, like deformed airways or nostrils.

If allergies are the problem, your veterinarian may do an allergy test by injecting your dog with different types of allergens to see how he reacts, and then recommending the necessary treatment like anti-inflammatory drugs or fatty acid supplementation. You may also need to clean your house often and wash your dogs' bedding frequently in order to avoid dust, if that's what the issue is.

Is snoring always a sign of sleep apnea?

You should note that not all snoring points to sleep apnea. For example, your dog may like different sleeping positions, and sometimes choose ones that trigger snoring. Also, if your dog has nasal discharge or is sneezing and coughing in addition to snoring, then he may just have a respiratory infection or a cold. He'll likely just need some antibiotics to get better. Sleep apnea, on the other hand, is loud, consistent snoring that wakes your dog up.

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Should you sleep with your dog?

If your dog has sleep apnea and he's snoring loudly, it could disrupt your sleep. Without a good night's rest where you have REM sleep, you're not going to be as attentive to your pup throughout the day or have the energy to take him out on long walks. If you're a light sleeper or already have some health issues, then you may want to reconsider sleeping with your snoring dog.

On the other hand, if he provides comfort and helps relieve your anxiety, sleeping with him may be a good idea. It's up to you to weigh the pros and cons. All that matters is that both you and your pup get good sleep.

Conclusion

Dogs can have sleep apnea. If your dog has sleep apnea, he may wake up throughout the night struggling to breath, and he won't get that precious sleep he needs. In order to treat his sleep apnea, your vet may recommend a diet, an allergy test, or a surgery depending on the cause of the problem. Since dogs can't wear CPAP machines—yet—you'll have to go to your vet to figure out the best solution for your pup.