Dear Daisy Dog
I’m pretty sure my dog has sleep apnea. How can I help him? Money is tight these days, so a low-cost solution would be best.
Sleep apnea is characterized by snoring, snorting and difficulty inhaling air.
It’s most common in flat-faced breeds, referred to as brachycephalic. (Brachy-, pronounced “brakey,” is Greek for “short,” and -cephalic means “head.”) English bulldogs, pugs and Boston terriers are examples of brachycephalic breeds.
These dogs have tiny nostrils, an overly long soft palate, eversion of small sacs in the throat so they protrude into the airway, and a underdeveloped trachea, or windpipe.
Sleep apnea also occurs in overweight dogs, because internal fat partially collapses the airways during sleep.
If your dog is overweight, help him lose enough weight that he is on the lean side of the normal range.
The standard treatment for sleep apnea is to surgically correct the dog’s abnormal anatomy. Your veterinarian can give you an idea about cost and refer you to a specialist if you decide to pursue surgery.
If not, tell your veterinarian about your dog’s sleep apnea. If chronic breathing problems have swollen his air passages, your vet can prescribe anti-inflammatory medication to bring down the swelling, enlarging his airway. If allergies are a factor, an antihistamine might help.
Finally, warm, humid weather makes it more difficult for dogs to breathe, so be sure it’s cool where your dog sleeps. An air conditioner can help during the warmer months.