Sleep apnea is a condition marked by abnormal breathing during sleep. Although the disorder is manageable with treatment, sleep apnea can cause various health problems and exacerbate other issues.
If you’re a pet owner, you may be surprised to learn that animals, like humans, also get sleep apnea. Unfortunately, the condition can be very dangerous for pets and may be difficult to detect if it develops slowly over time. That said, there are ways to spot sleep apnea in pets if you know what to look for. Keep reading to learn the most common warning signs of sleep apnea and what to do if your cat or dog has it.
History of Sleep Apnea in Animals
Sleep apnea was first discovered in animals in 1987 when mild obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) was observed in an English bulldog. With its characteristic large, soft palate and narrow oropharynx (nose), this particular breed of dog is prone to snoring and more likely to develop sleep disorders.
Much like people, other animals have developed sleep apnea due to obesity. One example comes from a study done on a group of Yucatan miniature pigs. The pigs had gained a significant amount of weight and were shown to develop both obstructive and central sleep apnea as a result.
How to Tell If Your Pet Has Sleep Apnea
Cats and dogs can actually have many different sleep disorders, including sleep apnea, insomnia, and narcolepsy. However, the health risks associated with sleep apnea tend to be much more damaging, ranging from trouble sleeping to death in some cases.
The best way to help your pet is to catch the early signs and symptoms of sleep apnea and report them to your veterinarian. Your pet may have sleep apnea if:
- It is overweight
- It snores loudly while sleeping
- It chokes or gasps while sleeping
- It is grumpier or more lethargic during the day
- It has allergies that inflame and block the airway
- It is a breed of cat with a flat face, such as a Persian, with shorter airways
- It is a breed of dog with a short nose, such as a bulldog or Boston terrier, with shorter airways
What to Do If Your Pet Has Sleep Apnea
It’s normal if your dog or cat occasionally snores while they sleep. However, if you notice abnormally loud snoring or any issues with your pet’s breathing, contact your vet immediately. While there is currently no CPAP therapy available for pets, there are other treatment options, depending on what is causing the sleep apnea.
Sleep isn’t just important for our furry friends – it’s essential for you too! If you’re struggling with sleep apnea, contact us today to learn how we can help you get a better night’s sleep.