Q. My Boston terrier snores all night and when he sleeps deeply during the day. It’s so loud that sometimes he wakes himself up. Other times, he actually seems to stop breathing. Should I be worried?
Probably. Here’s why:
Boston terriers and other brachycephalic or “short-headed” breeds have an abnormal upper airway anatomy due to the “smushing” of the tissues in the nose, mouth and pharynx. All those excess folds of flesh lead to loud sounds when air moves past them.
Unfortunately, those sounds indicate that air isn’t getting where it’s supposed to as efficiently as it should. Studies show that sleeping brachycephalic dogs experience episodes of significantly reduced oxygen levels compared to other dogs.
As with snoring humans, snoring dogs can also experience sleep apnea with its potential for excessive sleepiness, dry mouth, sore throat, headaches and irritability.
Dogs who snore almost certainly experience respiratory compromise that affects their waking lives, too. Instead of the sweat mechanism humans employ, dogs use panting as a cooling mechanism. Cool air tempers the heat of the blood that courses through the many vessels of the tongue and respiratory tract. So dogs with impaired breathing are more likely to suffer heat stress.
Enlist your veterinarian’s help. Strict weight management is strongly recommended, but surgical options to reduce airway stress may be available, too.
Dr. Patty Khuly has a veterinary practice in South Miami and blogs at dolittler.com. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or Dr. Dolittler, Tropical Life, The Miami Herald, 3511 NW 91st Ave., Doral, FL 33172.