Most simply, snoring occurs when soft tissues vibrate in the upper airway (think of playing around with different woodwind instruments in elementary school). As such, many factors can cause those nighttime noises.

Brachycephalic dogs (and cats): Many a pug or bulldog owner is soothed to sleep by the soundtrack of their snoring pup. Brachycephalic dogs are those short-snouted pups such as bulldogs, boxers, pugs, Boston terriers, Shih Tzus, mastiffs, and Pekingese (and cats such as Persians). While snoring is common in these breeds and can be considered “normal,” it’s important to remember that it is because many brachycephalic dogs have anatomy differences. Their upper airway conformation can result in numerous serious problems that may need to be surgically corrected.

Obesity: Excess weight can also result in snoring, as well as predispose animals to a plethora of other health concerns. Learn how to evaluate your dog or cat’s “body condition score,” and obtain guidance from your veterinarian on how best to address weight concerns.

Sleeping position: Just like people in certain positions are more prone to snore, sleeping in “pretzeled,” funny positions can cause intermittent snoring for animals (and is an excuse for a delightful picture to be snapped!).

Mona in snoring position during a nap. Photo credit: Dr. Emily Andersen

Physical obstruction: Foreign material such as inhaled grass awns, masses, or trauma causing injury and swelling can all potentially result in snoring that was not previously present.

Rhinitis: Word nerd moment! “Rhin-“ means nose and “-itis” inflammation, so “rhinitis” simply means inflammation in the nose. Similarly, “sinusitis” is sinus inflammation. Causes of this can be many including allergies, viral, bacterial, or fungal disease, or dental disease (check out my past BGV article on the importance of pet dental hygiene!). Poor air quality such as that caused by secondhand smoke can also result in inflammation. If you notice snoring accompanied by sneezing, coughing, nasal or ocular discharge, lethargy, or other concerns, reach out to your veterinarian.

Kitty PSA!

**Open mouth breathing or panting in a cat is NEVER normal. Reach out to a veterinarian emergently if you notice this.**

Sleeping cats all in a row. Photo credit: Dr. Emily Andersen

Cliff notes:

  • If your dog or cat has always snored, it is likely less concerning (but reaching out to your veterinarian is always wise!).
  • New snoring, especially when accompanied by other symptoms such as lethargy, nasal/ocular discharge, cough, etc. is of more concern and merits more emergently reaching out to your veterinarian.

Happy napping!

Dr. Emily

Disclaimer: The content of The Bethel Grapevine’s Ask the Vet blog is for informational purposes only. It is not intended as medical advice and should not be treated as such. If you have a medical question about your pet, call or visit your veterinarian or a veterinary hospital.

Some further reading:

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