Snoring and Noisy Breathing (Stertor) in Dogs

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3 min read

Key takeaways

Noisy breathing, or snoring, is common in dogs resulting from resistance to airflow in the nose and throat (upper airways).

  • Low-pitched snoring is referred to as “stertor” and is sometimes accompanied by difficulty breathing, retching, or coughing
  • Most respiratory noise is caused by excessive, or abnormal soft tissue in the upper airways
  • Noisy breathing is most commonly associated with brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS) in push-faced breeds (e.g. French bulldogs)
  • Other causes include abscesses, foreign bodies, neuromuscular disease, laryngeal paralysis, and tumors
  • Diagnostic tools include physical examination, blood work, and diagnostic imaging
  • Biopsy may be recommended in some cases
  • Treatment depends on the underlying cause but may include surgery. anti inflammatories, antibiotics, and steroids
  • Prognosis varies depending on the underlying cause and severity
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A closer look: Snoring and Noisy Breathing (Stertor) in Dogs

Snoring is common in many dogs while they are asleep. Mild to moderate snoring that doesn’t disturb sleep is a normal process and doesn’t require veterinary attention.

Snoring (stertor) that continues when the dog is awake, or occurs during periods of exercise, excitement, heat, or stress is abnormal and requires veterinary attention.

Both stertor (snoring) and stridor (wheezing) are common in brachycephalic (push-face) breeds, such as bulldogs, pugs, and shih tzus. While the respiratory noise is commonplace in these breeds, it is not normal and indicates underlying conditions that usually require treatment.

Sudden onset stertor or stridor requires prompt veterinary attention. Any dog having difficulty breathing requires emergency veterinary attention.

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Possible causes

In general, snoring is caused by partial obstruction of the airway, either due to anatomical abnormalities, sleeping position, or disease.

Risk factors

Stertor describes a low pitched snoring noise and can range from being normal in some sleeping dogs, to a life threatening presentation in dogs with severe stertor secondary to a significant obstruction.

Push-face (brachycephalic) dogs are at highest risk of snoring, as are obese and overweight dogs.

Testing and diagnosis

Investigation of respiratory noise involves:

  • Physical examination
  • Blood work
  • Diagnostic imaging
  • Biopsy

Treatment depends on the underlying cause and may include:


  • Antibiotics
  • Steroids
  • Management of gastric reflux
  • Chemotherapy or radiotherapy for tumors

Lifestyle changes

  • Exercise management
  • Weight management


  • Correction of brachycephalic abnormalities
  • Foreign body retrieval
  • Tumor removal
  • Laryngeal tieback
  • Stenting

Similar symptoms

Associated symptoms


Dr. Bari Spielman - Writing for PetPlace
Dr. Rania Gollakner - Writing for PetMD
No Author - Writing for Wag!
Hannah Hollinger - Writing for Wag!
No Author - Writing for University of Cambridge Department of Veterinary Medicine
Richard B. Ford, DVM, MS - Writing for Veterinary Partner
PetMD Editorial - Writing for PetMD
Dr. Bari Spielman - Writing for PetPlace
Lynelle Johnson DVM PhD DipACVIM; Jill Sammarco BVSc DipACVS DipECVS; Gert ter Haar DVM PhD MRCVS DipECVS; Nai-Chieh Liu DVM MPhil PhD - Writing for Vetlexicon

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