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Dear Daisy Dog

My bulldog, Winston, snores. My husband, who also snores, was diagnosed with sleep apnea. Do dogs develop sleep apnea, too? If so, what signs should I watch for?

Daisy Responds

I’m not sure how you are able to sleep, given the snoring that surrounds you every night. My dad often snores so loudly that I have to leave the room and sleep elsewhere.

He, too, has sleep apnea, and he treats it because he knows that left unchecked, it can cause high blood pressure and other cardiovascular diseases, memory problems, headaches, daytime sleepiness and additional difficulties.

Dogs also can develop sleep apnea and the problems that arise from it, so it’s important to watch for clinical signs in Winston.

The typical dog with sleep apnea has intermittent, brief episodes of cessation of breathing followed by snorted inhalations when breathing resumes.

The disorder occurs most frequently in bulldogs and other brachycephalic breeds, dogs with short (“brachy”) heads (“cephalic”).

In fact, bulldog sleep apnea is so common that this breed has been the subject of most of the animal studies conducted to enhance the understanding of human sleep apnea.

Research has shown that a brachycephalic dog, like a bulldog, may have tiny nostrils, an overly long soft palate, excessive tissue in the back of the throat and other problems with the respiratory anatomy.

These characteristics can lead to breathing difficulties when the dog is awake – and sometimes to obstructed air flow during sleep.

Sleep apnea also may have a neurologic component: The dog’s brain sometimes forgets to trigger a breath.If you notice that Winston has trouble breathing while he sleeps, or worse yet, he stops breathing for short periods of time, ask your veterinarian to evaluate him for sleep apnea.

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