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.
- Loud and frequent snoring
- Gasping or choking while sleeping
- Sleeping during the day
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.
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.
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