Dogs are beloved pets for many people, and are valued members of the family. It’s essential to make sure our furry friends are healthy and happy, and one crucial aspect of their wellbeing is their breathing quality. Sleep apnea is a breathing disorder that affects humans and is becoming more common as people’s lifestyles become more sedentary. In this article, we will investigate whether dogs can get sleep apnea, why it happens and how it is treated. Let’s dive in.
What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea refers to a sleep disorder characterized by breathing disruptions that interrupt an individual’s sleep. These breathing disruptions may manifest as cessation and restarting of breathing, and can result in a decrease in oxygen levels throughout the body. The two most frequent types of sleep apnea include obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which occurs when the upper airway becomes obstructed or collapses partially, and central sleep apnea, which occurs when the brain fails to send correct signals to the muscles responsible for controlling breathing.
What are the symptoms of sleep apnea?
The symptoms of sleep apnea may include loud snoring, gasping or choking throughout the night, fragmented sleep, morning headaches, daytime exhaustion, attention and memory difficulties, anxiety, depression, and irritability. In many cases, individuals suffering from sleep apnea may not be aware of their breathing disruptions throughout the night.
Can dogs get sleep apnea?
Yes, dogs can get sleep apnea. However, it is rare, and the symptoms of sleep apnea in dogs may differ from humans. The most typical cause of sleep apnea in dogs is obesity, and specific breeds may be predisposed to the disorder. Small breed dogs such as Chihuahuas, Pugs and Shih Tzus are more susceptible to this condition due to their narrow airways.
Causes of sleep apnea in dogs
Just as humans are more likely to experience sleep apnea when they have related medical concerns, dogs may experience the ailment under specific conditions. Factors that may lead to sleep apnea in dogs include:
- Obesity: Dogs with excess weight or that are obese may develop sleep apnea as the extra tissue can obstruct the airway, making breathing more difficult or impossible.
- Brachycephalic breeds: These are dogs with flattened, broad skulls and snub noses. They include breeds like pugs that have small airways, which can narrow and lead to breathing difficulties, including sleep apnea.
- Anatomical predisposition: Having a smaller than average windpipe or larynx, or other anatomical features of the airway, can make it harder to breathe, leading to sleep disturbances.
- Age: Older dogs are more likely to develop sleep apnea as their tissue loses elasticity, which can result in more airway obstructions.
Treatment options for dogs with sleep apnea
If a dog is diagnosed with sleep apnea or another type of sleep-related breathing disorder, treatment options may include:
- Medication: If there is an underlying medical condition causing the dog’s sleep apnea, treatment may involve medication to lessen the primary condition’s effect on breathing.
- Lifestyle changes: Making necessary adjustments to a dog’s lifestyle, including losing weight, decreasing bedtime treats or limiting playtime before bedtime.
- Surgery: Surgical interventions can help dogs with anatomic abnormalities to open their airways and breathe more comfortably while sleeping.
- Diet: Some dogs may require a special diet to help with weight loss, avoidance of certain foods, improved health or management of related diseases.
- Use of breathing aids: Similar to humans, dogs may benefit from the use of breathing aids to facilitate breathing during sleep.
Testing for sleep apnea in dogs
To determine if your dog has sleep apnea or another sleep-related breathing disorder, your veterinarian can perform a polysomnography (PSG) test. This is a non-invasive medical test that evaluates breathing, heart rate, oxygen saturation, and other essential health metrics while the dog sleeps.
Preventing sleep apnea in dogs
While certain breeds of dog may be more susceptible to sleep apnea, there are measures pet owners may take to prevent this from occurring. These steps include:
- Incorporating exercise into a vaccinated pet’s routine: Efficient exercise will help the dog maintain and attain a healthful weight, allowing more efficient breathing.
- Preventing access to smoking areas: Passive smoking can contribute to the development of airway diseases in dogs. It’s preferable to keep smoking away from dogs or smoking outside and away from them.
- Feeding a healthy, well-balanced diet: Keep your dog on a nutritious diet that meets all of its daily nutritional requirements. Make sure they do not over indulge in high-calorie meals or treats.
While sleep apnea occurs more frequently in humans, dogs can also get the ailment. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type of sleep apnea in dogs, often attributed to obesity or breed-related anatomical abnormalities. Owners of dogs with obstructive sleep apnea should work with their veterinarian to determine the best treatment option for their pet. Early diagnosis and intervention can significantly improve a dog’s prognosis and quality of life.
Q: What is sleep apnea?
A: Sleep apnea refers to a sleep disorder characterized by breathing disruptions that interrupt an individual’s sleep. These breathing disruptions may manifest as cessation and restarting of breathing, and can result in a decrease in oxygen levels throughout the body.
Q: Can dogs get sleep apnea?
A: Yes, dogs can get sleep apnea. However, it is rare, and the symptoms of sleep apnea in dogs may differ from humans.
Q: What are the causes of sleep apnea in dogs?
A: Factors that may lead to sleep apnea in dogs include obesity, brachycephalic breeds, anatomical predisposition, and age.
Q: How can I prevent sleep apnea in my dog?
A: You can prevent sleep apnea in dogs by incorporating exercise into their routine, preventing access to smoking areas, and feeding them a healthy, well-balanced diet.
Q: How is sleep apnea in dogs treated?
A: Treatment may include medication, lifestyle changes, surgery, diet, or the use of breathing aids.