Sleep Apnea in Dogs

Sleep apnea is a common sleeping disorder in dogs that causes disruption of sleep. Untreated sleep apnea can be dangerous for your pet’s health.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea can cause your pet’s breathing patterns to become altered during sleep. His breathing may become very shallow or interrupted and the interruptions in breathing could last from 10 to 20 seconds. Your pet might have as many as 100 interrupted breathing episodes in one night resulting in a drop in blood oxygen levels. When the breathing is paused or interrupted, the pet is jolted out of his normal sleep pattern and breathing resumes with a gasp.

The pet may or may not be aware of the interruptions in breathing. Sleep apnea can result in chronic sleep deprivation that can, over a period of time lead to health problems.

Breeds Prone to Canine Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is most common in dogs that have flat faces. Such dogs are termed as brachycephalic, the Greek for short head. Breeds with short heads such as English bulldogs, pugs and Boston terriers are prone to this sleeping disorder. This is because dogs with short heads have small nostrils, a very long soft palate, small sacs in their throats that protrude in the airway and a short windpipe.

Dogs that are overweight are also prone to sleep apnea as the internal fat causes the airways to collapse partially during sleep resulting in interrupted breathing.

Symptoms of Canine Sleep Apnea:

  • Choking or gasping during sleep
  • Loud and chronic snoring
  • Interrupted breathing with long pauses between breaths
  • Sleepiness in the day
  • Daytime fatigue
  • Morning headaches
  • Breathlessness if the pet wakes up due to interrupted breathing
  • More prone to accidents
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Sleep deprivation

Health Problems Caused by Canine Sleep Apnea

If a pet suffering from sleep apnea is not treated for a long time, it can lead to chronic sleep deprivation and health problems such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity, heart disease and stroke.

Causes of Canine Sleep Apnea

Swollen air passages can cause the airway to get narrow. A narrow airway could result in interrupted breathing and cause disturbances in the normal sleep patterns. Anti-inflammatory medication can help control the swelling and widen the airway. Allergies to food, chemicals or toxins can also cause disturbances in breathing and sleep patterns. Anti-histamine medications can help control the allergic reaction and provide relief.

Dogs find it difficult to breathe in warm and humid weather and this too can result in sleep apnea. If your pet has sleep problems in the summer, you should let him sleep in an air-conditioned room. It’s best to ensure that an overweight pet loses undesired weight to help resolve his sleeping problems.

Treatment of Canine Sleep Apnea

Surgery to correct abnormal anatomy is the standard treatment to cure a pet suffering from sleeping disorders. There are several types of surgeries that can cure a pet of sleep apnea and these procedures depend on the part of the body that has to be corrected. Some such surgeries are maxillofacial surgery, nasal palatopharyngeal surgery and upper airway surgery.

Canine sleep apnea can be life threatening and should be treated by a qualified vet at the earliest.