Does My Dog Have Sleep Apnea?

Sleep Apnea in Pets

You may be surprised to learn that dogs, like humans, can suffer from sleep disorders, including sleep apnea.  While snoring is sometimes just innocuous nighttime noise, it can also be a warning sign for an underlying problem. Sleep apnea can be pretty serious for your pooch. The most severe cases can result in death, but even a mild instance can disrupt your dog’s sleep.

Symptoms include:

  • Loud and frequent snoring
  • Gasping or choking while sleeping
  • Sleeping during the day
  • Tiredness
  • Irritability

Common causes of sleep apnea in dogs include allergies, being overweight, and obstructions in the dog’s airway and nasal passages.

Achoo! Allergies and Apneas

If your dog suffers from allergies, whether seasonal, caused by foods, or due to toxins in his environment, his allergies could inflame his airways to the point of blocking them off. A visit to his veterinarian is important because your vet can diagnose his problem and either prescribe a hypoallergenic diet or give him a prescription that will help his condition.

Pudgy Pooches

Like humans, dogs suffering from sleep apnea are often overweight or obese (read more about how to find out if your dog is overweight).  During obstructive sleep apnea–the most common form of sleep apnea–tissue in the back of the throat collapses into the airway, blocking the breath. This soft tissue includes the tongue, soft palate, tonsils, and adenoids. When you fall asleep, your throat muscles relax, which can cause the tissue to sag into your throat. When the airway is entirely blocked, an apnea occurs. Excess fat and tissue in the throat and neck can increase the obstruction.

Losing weight can significantly reduce or eliminate sleep apnea. Your veterinarian can assess your dog’s weight and recommend diet changes if your dog is overweight or obese.

Short Snouted Dogs Suffer

Some dog breeds with short noses (the fancy term is brachycephalic), like bulldogs and pugs, can suffer from complications due to obstructed airways.

Like with humans, it can be difficult to diagnose obstructive airways. A company called PetPace has developed a smart collar very similar to the home sleep apnea test (HST) devices used by many sleep centers to monitor dogs’ activity and sleep. The collar records data such as activity, respiration and sleeping positions to aid vets in diagnosing their patients (learn more about the smart collar device here).

In the case of diagnosed obstruction, your veterinarian may need to perform surgery to allow your dog to sleep better.

Learn More About Sleep Disorders

In addition to sleep apnea, dogs can also suffer from insomnia and restless leg syndrome. We have resources on these disorders in humans. To learn more about how they may be affecting your dog, check out our sources below.

Worried that you or a loved one (human) may have sleep apnea? Find out more about testing for sleep apnea.

Request a sleep study.

Sources: 

https://www.petcarerx.com/article/common-dog-sleep-disorders/896
https://www.vetinfo.com/sleep-apnea-in-dogs.html
http://www.vetmed.wsu.edu/outreach/Pet-Health-Topics/categories/diseases/cushing’s-disease

Other posts you may find interesting:

 
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in January 2015 and has been edited and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
Comments previously posted on the Sleep Better blog:

Martha Walsh

4/16/2016, 4:30:06 PM

So annoying to see websites taking over ever topic in the world even when they are not qualified! Every website should do what they know best, you are a sleep specialist for humans, why in the world need you write about sleep apnea in dogs? I would trust this from a pet website or a vet, which you are not. Leave animals off your website and write what you know best about. I came here to look for sleep apnea things for my husband and so stupid to see an article about sleep apnea on dogs, take it off this site ans stick to your area of knowledge!

4/29/2016, 4:14:58 PM

Hi Martha, thanks for reading the post and adding your feedback. It turns out a lot of people are searching for info about sleep disorders affecting their loved ones, four-legged or two. We certainly didn’t aim to irritate anyone with this post. In fact, the anatomy, causes and symptoms of sleep apnea on humans (our specialty) is very similar to those affecting pets. I agree that it might be more relevant for us to add additional info and links to resources for how to deal with your pet’s sleep apnea. Stay tuned for updates. Sleep well, Julia

ryan lewis

4/29/2016, 3:59:33 PM

I had no idea that animals could have sleep apnea as well. This is an interesting phenomenon. I was diagnosed with sleep apnea two years ago and I use a CPAP Machine for my therapy and it works. I wonder if they will develop some type of sleep apnea treatments for dogs. I couldnt imagine a dog sleeping with some type of mask, maybe they will make some type of guard to tie around the dogs mouth!

4/29/2016, 4:16:18 PM

Hi Ryan. Actually, the 1st CPAP, invented by Dr. Colin Sullivan the co-founder of ResMed, was tested by reversing a vacuum cleaner on his snoring English bulldog! I don’t think there are CPAPs or masks designed especially for dogs, but I’m sure someone can do better than a vacuum.

Comments

  1. Sahm Reply

    Julia, I found this reassuring and helpful. Don’t let grumpy people stop you from helping people AND their loved ones 🙂

  2. Kim Reply

    Hi Julia. I was actually diagnosed with sleep apnea and use a BiPAP machine. It has done wonders for my energy level Only because of my situation today start to worry about my dog I could tell he had some symptoms that I had read about in humans and it made me wonder so I was so happy to see you also included dogs in your posts He is in fact a bit overweight and it’s probably the cause because he did not used to snore loudly So thank you for expanding your information out to dogs who are indeed loved family members

  3. Colin heyes Reply

    Tell Martha to wind her self in…maybe it’s her stinking attitude that’s keeping her hubby awake if she’s like that all the time ..keep up the good work people

  4. Jenny Young Reply

    I’m sorry but I think Martha is a very selfish individual. I am experiencing sleep apnea in my cavalier King Charles spaniel and it is really scary and upsetting. Why would we not need a website to give advice and reassurance. There’s so much information out there for this condition in people but very little for dogs!

    Thank you for thinking of us people who love our pets. I personally am at my wits end. I’m scared to sleep in case I wake up and my furbaby has passed away! Please keep up the good work.

    • Carole Green Reply

      Hi Jenny
      I hope you receive this message. I have just discovered something amazing and I hope it will help your precious fur baby. I was at my wits end when my little dog stopping breathing and going into panic stations and trying to climb the wall. I realised that every time I had visited a friend on the Coast Tara slept well that night. He has a humidifier because he doesn’t produce natural tears and this is always going. I bought one and have not had a bad night since. Plus we have just been through a very bad drought with no rain for months and the air and the dust may have contributed to the problem. Good luck and hope this helps you xx

  5. Lisa Settle Reply

    Hi Jenny. Our CKCS snores so long ugly at times, I feel he’s gasping for air. So many people think it’s a joke, but a crap device for dogs would not only reduce stress in owners, but might actually extend the life of our babies.

  6. Lisa Settle Reply

    Loudly not long ugly.

    • Carole Green Reply

      I agree with you Lisa, my 11 year old CKCS has sleep apnea and it is breaking my heart to see her so distressed.

  7. Carole Green Reply

    Oh dear Martha, take a chill pill. I came to this site because my beloved dog has sleep apnea and I wanted to find as much information as I can. Keep your nasty comments to yourself. It’s not always about Humans

  8. Tiffany Reply

    I second Carole Greens reply. I google searched “sleep apnea in dogs” specifically to find help for my adorable Beagle. My husband has sleep apnea and I was curious to know if dogs can have this terrible frightening condition as well! Its 5:30am here right now, we had a transformer blow 4 hours ago. Our power has been out and the humidifier I use to help her with her sinuses cant run. She cant seem to breath. Shes gasping for air and tossing and turning. Then wakes up panicked I’m scared and worried for her.
    Thank you, thank you for spreading useful knowledge to loving, caring pet owners!
    Get over yourself Martha. Its not all about you!

  9. Joseph Guevara Reply

    I found youre article very helpful and will pursue a treatment for our pet, who is both overweight and has trouble breathing almost everynight, Martha is wrong and we all thank you for the information and is well recieved
    Joseph

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