Dog Breathes Heavy When Sleeping

Have you ever wondered why dogs breathe heavily when they are asleep? 

In this blog, I will reveal to you the secret reason why dogs breathe heavily when they are sleeping.

When your dog breathes heavily during his sleep, he could be having an exciting dream, suffering from respiratory distress, or is feeling too hot in his sleeping area. He could also be feeling anxiety, going through sleeping cycle changes, having a shorter airway (due to brachycephalic breed) or due to aging.

The first thing to point out is that it is completely normal for dogs to breathe heavily when they are asleep. 

In fact, it is a very common phenomenon that is nothing to worry about. 

He may be having an exciting dream that he is running in a park chasing after a squirrel or maybe even a cat. 

But what is NOT normal is when he starts to do it excessively and frequently. 

If your dog is snorting and pawing at the air like he is trying to catch a dragonfly frequently, then you should pay attention to this because it could be a sign of something more serious.

Affected By Respiratory Distress

The probability of your dog experiencing respiratory distress while sleeping is relatively low, but it does happen from time-to-time. 

If your dog starts snoring or gasping for air during the night, then you should check with your vet to make sure he is not suffering from an upper airway obstruction.

As his breathing gets heavier and heavier, his chest cavity expands even more. 

This makes it harder for his heart to pump blood through his body. His blood pressure goes up and this puts a lot of stress on his heart. 

Over time, this condition can be fatal for your dog.

This can be caused by anything from an inflamed tonsil to a tumor on his tongue or even a growth in his nasal cavity. 

If this is the case, then your vet will need to perform surgery to remove whatever is obstructing his breathing.

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Insufferable Heat In Sleeping Area

When your dog is feeling too hot in his bed, he tends to breathe more heavily than usual with his tongue out in his sleep to cool himself down. This causes his ribs to expand with each breath.

Use of Small Fan

What you can do is to make his sleeping area a little cooler by putting a small fan on the floor near his bed. 

This will cause a gentle “breeze” to move over his area and make it a few degrees cooler.

Do this when you put him in for the night. You can turn the fan off when he is no longer breathing heavily.

Use Of Cooling Blanket

You can also get a cooling blanket for your dog.

These are available from most pet stores. Just make sure you get one that is made for dogs. 

They come in several sizes and are useful for wrapping around your dog when he is too hot.

Just hold it against his body, and it will absorb the heat and give out coldness.

Keep Him Well Hydrated

Staying hydrated is another easy way to keep your dog cool.

In fact, it is one of the easiest ways to keep him healthy.

So, make sure that your dog has access to fresh water all day long, and he will be less likely to get dehydrated.

Result Of Anxiety

When your dog is in an anxiety state, he will breathe more heavily during the night and pant more often.

This is one of the earliest signs of anxiety that you will notice.

You may think that he is having a bad dream and would just gently wake him up.

However, this is not what is happening. Your dog is really anxious and uncomfortable about something.

As his anxiety level increases, so does his panting. Soon, his panting will become so severe that it will be almost continuous. 

What you can do is to:

Show Him Your Love

The most important thing you can do for your dog when he is in an anxious state is to comfort him and soothe him as best you can.

Hold him close to you and stroke him gently. Talk to him softly and reassure him.

You should also do what you can to make him feel calm and at ease before he sleeps.

Help Him Release Pent-Up Energy

Play with your dog for a while so that he has some form of physical activity to help tire him out right before his sleep.

This will certainly help to ease his anxiety and calm him down.

You can go for some physical activity such as “hide-and-seek” or giving him a KONG toy stuffed with frozen food.

As he tries to get the treat out of the toy, he would be using his brain power and that would get him mentally tired and sleep well through the night.

Toys are a great way to keep your dog entertained.

Get Him To Sleep In Crate

If your dog has separation anxiety, try putting him in his crate for the night sleep as the crate will serve as a “safe place” for him to go to when he is feeling anxious. 

Of course, this is on the assumption that you have already crate trained him.

Keep a blanket and some chewing toys in the crate to make it cozy for him to stay in.

Give him plenty of affection and make sure he understands that everything is going to be okay.

This will greatly improve his quality of sleep, which in turn, will greatly reduce his anxiety level.

Use Of Aromatherapy

Dogs have a great sense of smell. Make use of aromatherapy to calm down your dog before his sleep.

You can gently massage his body with essential oils such as Lavender, Chamomile, Orange, Bergamot or Rosewood. These oils have an amazing effect on making your dog feel relaxed.

Another option is to use a spray bottle filled with water and add a few drops of essential oil and spritz onto his coat.

Just a little goes a long way so don’t overdo it.

Make His Sleeping Environment Cozy

You should also dim the lights in the room and play some soothing music. Go for some classical music, like Beethoven or Mozart.

You see, classical music has a way of putting people to sleep. It’s not just you either. Even animals find it comforting. This will make your dog feel relaxed and unwind.

Use whatever method works best for you to help your dog get to sleep. The more at ease he is, the better he will sleep. If none of this works, try putting him in another room with you. 

I know all this seems like a lot of work, but it really isn’t. This will be worth it in the long run because a good night’s sleep will do wonders for your dog’s emotional and physical well-being.

Due To His Aging

It is inevitable that when your dog gets older, his breathing will get heavier during his sleep as he tries to get more oxygen. 

And this will cause him to snore. This is completely normal and nothing to worry about. 

However, if you notice that your dog seems to be getting heavier snoring or if it becomes bothersome to you or your family, there are some things you can do. 

The first thing you should do is try to make your dog’s sleeping conditions as comfortable as possible.

You can get him a round bed which will help him to sleep on his side. This sleeping posture will help to open his airway, which in turn reduces his snoring. 

You can also use a pillow to prop up his head during his sleep. This will also help to keep his airway open and reduce snoring.

Another way to reduce snoring is to make sure that his head and neck are relaxed. You can gently massage the neck to reduce stress and tension right before his sleep.

Due to Sleeping Cycle Changes

Your dog will go through what is known as the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleeping stage when he is asleep.

During this phase, his eyes will move rapidly back and forth under his eyelids and that is when you will find his breathing turns heavy.

As he comes out of this REM sleep and goes into his “light” sleep cycle after 20 minutes, you will find his breathing lightens up considerably.

Your dog will go between these 2 sleeping cycles every 20 minutes. So it would be normal to see his breathing get heavier when he goes into REM cycle.

Unless his breathing turns heavier persistently, you shouldn’t get too worry on this.

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Dog Breed That Breathes Heavily By Nature

Some breeds of dog (such as the brachycephalic breed) tend to breathe more heavily as they have a shorter airway and that means they get stuffy noses more easily.

A stuffy nose is usually accompanied by a runny nose and watery eyes. These symptoms indicate that your dog has an infection in his nasal passages and this can be caused by bacteria, virus or fungus.

So, if your dog belongs to a brachycephalic breed, and he breathes heavily during his sleep, he could have a stuffy nose.

There are many causes of stuffy noses in dogs, such as due to dust, pollen, dander, fur and other allergens.

So make sure that the place he is sleeping is free of these substances. 

You can use a vacuum cleaner to remove these substances and keep the house dust-free. 

Also, make sure that your carpets are cleaned regularly. If you are using wool or silk type bedding, wash it often. This will help remove allergens from his bedding.

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