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Can a dog that snores endanger a marriage?

Source: Marco Verch/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

I was chatting with a friend who volunteers one day a week at a nearby SPCA. She described an incident that left her quite perplexed:

“I was working the front desk when a woman brought in an English Bulldog that she wanted to give up to the shelter. I took all her information and then I got to the part where I had to ask her why she was giving up the dog. She was like, ‘He snores.’ When I looked at her puzzled, she went on to explain, “He snores a lot and is loud. We live in a small apartment in the center of the city and my husband is a light sleeper. When Bosco starts snoring, he wakes my husband up and he can’t get back up to sleep. There is no place in the apartment to keep the dog where my husband can’t hear the sound of his snoring. Because of the noise, my husband, Dan , he suffers from lack of sleep which makes him irritable and nervous. A couple of days ago he told me that I had to get rid of the dog or he would leave me!'”

Snoring has an impact on relationships

As I listened to his story, I was reminded from my research on human sleep patterns that snoring is a real problem that is often dismissed as a minor issue. I remember being surprised to find out that snoring is actually the third leading cause of divorce in the United States, after infidelity and financial problems. Studies in the UK have shown that 80-90% of people with a partner who snores will eventually resort to sleeping alone in another room to avoid the interruption. Research indicates that when one person in a relationship snores, it becomes a regular source of arguments for about half of the couples surveyed. When this continues for years without resolution or intervention, it can become a real stressor that, combined with other sources of stress (work, children, and finances), allows snoring to become a leading cause of divorce.

I’ve never heard of a dogs snoring is cited in divorce proceedings, but it is true that some dogs snore so loudly that it has the potential to cause marital discord if one spouse refuses to give up the dog. (You can get an idea of ​​the scale of this problem for yourself by clicking here to listen to two bulldogs snoring.)

Why do some dogs snore?

Not all dogs snore. The reason one snores a lot while another doesn’t usually has to do with a dog’s anatomy. The classic example is the Bulldog, which has a long, soft palate. The palate forms the back of the roof of the mouth and separates the nose from the throat. To understand snoring, imagine a lot of clothes drying on a line. When there is a lot of wind, it can cause clothes to move and make slapping or snapping sounds. The same principle applies if the dog has an elongated soft palate. The soft palate shakes every time the dog breathes and, if the vibration is strong enough, it produces the sound we call snoring.

Snoring is a particularly common problem in brachycephalic (short-faced) dogs, such as:

  • boston terriers
  • boxers
  • bulldogs
  • chow chow
  • french bulldogs
  • Pekingese
  • pugs
  • Shih Tzu

The difficulty stems from the fact that in brachycephalic breeds, the front of the dog’s skull is flattened, but the soft tissue structures, including the tongue, tonsils, and soft palate, retain their original size. So these flat-faced dogs have a disproportionately long soft palate that vibrates with each breath as air moves in and out of the trachea. An additional difficulty is that this constant vibration can also cause inflammation, which can cause the palate to become even thicker and increase the volume of snoring.

There are other possible contributors to snoring. Any condition that causes the glands in the throat to swell, or anything that narrows the larynx and the opening to the airways, can trigger snoring. This can include allergies, irritants, infections, and some medications (especially those that tend to relax muscles).

Being overweight can also contribute. The extra weight creates excess tissue in your throat, and all that extra meat narrows your airways and makes you more likely to snore.

Can something be done about canine snoring?

If the problem is due to the shape of the dog’s skull, there is a surgical procedure to reduce the length of the soft palate. Basically, the tissue is trimmed back, removing much of the palate from the entrance to the trachea. With less soft palate there is less vibration and snoring is reduced or eliminated. However, this surgery should not be considered lightly, as if the surgeon removes too much of the palate, the dog is at risk of food or liquid getting into its nose, and may even end up inhaling liquid, which can put his life in danger.

If the difficulty is not the basic anatomy of the dog, there are other methods that can be tried. If the problem is allergy or inflammation, a vet might suggest treatment with anti-inflammatory medications, steroids, or antihistamines. Deep cleaning the dog’s bedding to remove allergens, vacuuming regularly, and making sure there is no smoking in the house might help. Using a humidifier sometimes works to make the airways more comfortable and less irritated. If your dog is overweight, a diet could make things better.

If your home allows it, the simplest solution is to have the dog sleep in another room with the door closed. I have been told that some people have successfully used earplugs to block out the noise of canine snoring.

The sad thing is that we have created these dog breeds with flattened faces because some people think that head shape is cute and attractive. But maintaining that image comes at a price, like many things associated with beauty and style. In this case, that cute squashed face comes at the added cost of subjecting your home to a dog’s strong inclinations to sleep. As with a human partner who snores, what happens next is a matter of weighing the costs and benefits of the relationship. Some people may find a loud snoring dog tolerable and worth the effort based on the appearance and temperament of the dog they have chosen, while others may find themselves at the intake desk of their local animal shelter signing release papers . At a minimum, people who choose brachycephalic dogs should be aware of this potential problem that can affect their own sleep and relationship with their pet or spouse.

Copyright SC Psychological Enterprises Ltd. May not be reprinted or published without permission.

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