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.


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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 🙂

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