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.


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.


  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

    • Louise Reply

      Hi. Can I please ask about your dog, my dog is like this now when she wakes up and I’m at my wits end it’s so frightening

  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

  10. Boris's Mommy Reply

    Yeah. Martha needs a chill pill. Or SOMETHING. I’m starting to think my blue Pitty angel has this condition and I was seeking information. Screw her husband – dogs are better than us, anyway. And thank you a million for the very helpful information, Ms. Rodriguez 🙂

  11. Bev C Reply

    My CKCS has what I call sleep apnea- and I’m at my wit’s end to help her. She’s almost 10- and she now snores less than she used to. But now she jumps up from a sleep and makes a frantic dash- before stopping and gasping for a breath. Sometimes it’s a few steps- sometimes her legs give out and she collapses before she can get that breath. It can happen hours apart- sometimes she can have 3 or 4 episodes about 20 minutes apart. I have no idea how many times through the night- or if she sleeps through when we’re sleeping. There’s no rhyme or reason as to when they happen. She likes sleeping in the bathroom- so I may try the humidifer idea- see if that helps. She has a low grade heart condition so not sure if that is contributing – she is on meds for that.

  12. Barbara Grace Reply

    Julia, Thank you for posting this article. I have a beautiful wheaten terrier who is like my “child” and I found it so comforting to read your article. I found my dog sleeping on his side. He was unresponsive to name and touch when I asked him to go outside to relieve himself. I thought he had died. I shook him real hard and he came around. He had a choking cough and seemed dazed. I took him a few minutes to walk. I was fearful he had a stroke. I took him to the vet who said it sounds like sleep apnea. I had never thought of that. He told me I would have to take him to a specialist two hours away for treatment. He is 15 yrs old and the travel would be hard on him. I went to Google to see if there was anything I could do to help prevent this from happening again. There was your article. Thank you for your information and support.

  13. Amy Baker Reply

    I’ve got a 5 month old blue nose APBT who has snored since the day I brought him home at 9weeks old. As he’s growing and putting on weight I’ve noticed that the snoring has gotten louder. Yesterday afternoon he climbed up into my lap and was being the sweetest boy and as I was stroking his head and back he drifted off to sleep where he began snoring. I watched him as he slept, his chest and tummy areas going up and down, then after several seconds It occurred to me that his chest wasn’t and had not moved for what seemed like a long time. In reality it was probably about 25 seconds or so. As I continued watching, waiting to see how long it would be until his next breath, I thought about what sleep apnea symptoms are and that’s when the question came to mind of whether or not dogs can have the sleep disorder. Finally it came, his next breath- which I estimated to have taken right at a full minute after his last. He was startled awake as he struggled to get a good breath only to gasp for air for a couple of seconds before finally catching a good deep breath of air. It scared me something awful seeing him stop breathing for what seemed like forever and then struggling to catch his breath. So I came to the information superhighway to look for answers and that’s how I wound up here. Thank you for sharing your expert knowledge of this subject with the rest of us.

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  15. Priya Rai Reply

    Awesome sleep blog. Keep it up.

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  17. High Rated Gabru Reply

    Wow. Nice info. Keep sharing!

  18. Linda Loukos Reply

    My CKC has been having these same issues and she’s almost 11. Many sleepless nights for her especially and myself. Vet has been treating for everything else but apnea. It’s concerning to watch and hear…at first she screamed and now yelps tries to get up and falls over. So sad! Just breathe baby girl!

    • Louise Rhodes Reply

      Hi. My Cavi girl is just like you are describing in your dog, did you ever find out what it is please, I’m so scared

  19. Lucas Ross Reply

    When you fall asleep, your throat muscles relax, which can cause the tissue to sag into your throat.

  20. Sherri Reply

    I am so grateful to have found this information. Our dog has all of the symptoms of this but I wasn’t sure dogs could get it. Thank you for sharing – and don’t let grumpy people stop you from spreading education.

  21. Beaumont Reply

    The most severe cases can result in death, but even a mild instance can disrupt your dog’s sleep.

  22. Bozeman Reply

    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!

    • Chris Reply

      How wise

  23. Bismarck 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.

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  25. Ashley Reaks Reply

    Thank you for this – like others on here my 11 year old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is suffering from sleep apnea and gets very panicked when jolted out of his sleep. Some nights are not too bad and other nights he wakes up every 30 minutes or so. My sleep is disrupted too as I wake every time he wakes.

    I’ve got him on a diet and he’s lost 1 and half kilos so far but no change. Also run a humidifier and keep a fan on as he gets hot very quickly. Did anyone find anything that helped? Thanks in advance

  26. Coco Reply

    I have the exact same issue my Cavalier has been having fits in the night I stayed awake and found out the fit starts at the end of him holding his breath (sleep apnea) I would really appreciate any advice as the vets don’t want to know when it comes to Sleep Apnea. Has anyone any advice on medication that has worked effectively?

  27. Reply

    Much better if your dog will be examined with the right person to properly diagnose with this kind of illness.

  28. cubes 2048 Reply

    My dog often meows while sleeping. I think it’s dreaming a terrible dream. But I did not take her to the doctor because her health was not affected much. If someone also has a pet hope to get some shares.

    • Chris Reply

      Hey cubes
      Sounds similar to my cocker spaniel does. It usually occurs as soon as he falls to sleep. Scary to hear. He has also been diagnosed with Sinus Tick Syndrome, his heart rate goes as low as 30 beats per min. , stops over 200 times in in 1hr. Searching for connection with sleep apnea in dogs as is common factor for us humans.
      Thank You to Julia Rodriguez for writing this post
      And for those who are upset it’s a post about our “kids with fur coats”…..Realize most advancement in Medecine is (unfortunately)because it’s tried on dogs just before approval for Humans!
      Your vocabulary speaks mountains of you’re unhappiness in life. God

  29. Icariin Reply

    My dog snores quite a lot but it seems normal, although it has become louder in recent months, so I’m going definitely going to stay on-the-ball, just in case it progresses into sleep apnea.

  30. Icariin Canada Reply

    I feel sorry for some dog breeds, it almost seems like they are born with sleep apnea due to their short nose formation.

  31. slope Reply

    The same thing is happening to me. My Cavalier has been suffering convulsions during the night, and I remained up to discover that they begin when he stops breathing (sleep apnea). Any suggestions would be very appreciated, especially because vets don’t seem to be interested in this condition. I was wondering if anyone has any recommendations for medications that actually worked.

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