15 Reasons Your German Shepherd Snores: And Prevention Tips!


Social media is loaded with viral videos of German Shepherd owners who have captured adorable footage of their snoring dogs. German Shepherds can especially sound exactly like a human when they hit the hay, however, the cuteness of your loudly snoring pooch can quickly diminish if it’s keeping you from getting a good night’s sleep!

So, why do German Shepherds snore? Just like humans, snoring occurs in German Shepherds when their breathing is restricted in the upper airway; this can be a result of sleeping in an irregular position, allergies, age, dental issues, obstructions, and more.  

This article is all about German Shepherd snoring. Below is a rundown of what we’ll cover including 15 reasons why your dog snores and some useful prevention tips:

Your German Shepherd’s snoring is likely to be a temporary issue with a simple remedy. But it’s also possible that your dog’s snoring could be caused by a medical problem that needs attention. We’ll also look at when it’s time to call the vet.

But first, if you are a proud German Shepherd owner you will know just how human-like and often hilarious their snoring is! If you have never heard it before, here goes…

Why does my German Shepherd Snore?

Before we can answer why your German Shepherd snores, let’s firstly look at exactly what snoring is.

Dogs, like humans, snore due to a restricted airway. If your German Shepherd’s airway is restricted or obstructed in any way, the tissues inside the passageway flap together and vibrate when he breathes in.

When the vibrations of the flapping tissues become strong enough, they create a rattling, buzzing sound that we recognize as snoring. Similarly, snoring can occur if your dog’s nasal passageway is restricted.

Let’s now take a look at 15 possible reasons why your German Shepherd snores:

1. Sleeping in a Weird Position

Just like the GSD in the above video clip, one of the joys of having a canine companion is to catch him sleeping in some crazy, seemingly impossible position.

In fact, most dog behavioral experts will tell you that sleeping on his back, with an exposed belly is a sign that your dog feels emotionally safe and well-adjusted. You can learn more about how to read German Shepherd body language here.

German Shepherd Sleeping on Back. Reasons why your German Shepherd snores
My German Shepherd “Willow” sleeping on her back

But, sleeping on his back or other unusual positions can cause your German Shepherd’s tongue to rest too far back in his throat, collapsing the soft palate; this initiates the vibrations that induce snoring. 

2. Foreign Object

Sniffing, licking, and even eating things in their path is a way of life for your pet. But it can also lead to trouble. It’s not uncommon for a dog to get a carpet hair, a seed, a blade of grass, or a bit of soil that ends up lodged at the back of his throat. 

A foreign object such as this in your German Shepherd’s throat or at the back of his tongue can cause irritation and swelling that narrows the air passageways enough to cause snoring. Alternatively, your dog could have swallowed an object large enough to partially block his air passage.

3. Particle Irritants

Just like humans, your dog inhales particles from the air, such as dust or pollen. But living life down close to the ground, he is also constantly sniffing stuff from the floor, carpet, furniture, and his sleeping area. Materials in the air in his environment can irritate your German Shepherd’s nose or throat and cause enough swelling to induce snoring. 

4. Allergies

Your dog may be allergic to items he’s coming in contact with around your house and yard. Some dogs can have an allergic reaction to grass clippings, household cleaners, soap, or even essential oils.

While it’s more typical for dogs to display symptoms of allergic reactions in the form of skin irritation, some allergic reactions occur with symptoms such as swelling in the throat and constriction of the airway that could be the cause of your German Shepherd’s snoring.

Grass Pollen
Grass pollen

For more in-depth information on German Shepherd allergies including causes, symptoms, and treatments, you may find this article helpful.

5. Obesity

Your German Shepherd’s weight could be the reason for his snoring. A recent study by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention revealed that over 55 percent of dogs in the U.S. are overweight or obese. 

Like other medical conditions canines share with humans, obesity is a significant concern in veterinary medicine and can lead to a multitude of other health issues. When a dog becomes overweight, fat collects around the neck and blocks the windpipe. 

If you can’t feel your dog’s ribs when you run your hand over them, or if he is panting excessively (when not overheated), it’s likely he is overweight. Extra flesh around your German Shepherd’s neck can compress or narrow his throat as well, causing him to snore.

6. Age

Is your German Shepherd getting on in years? If so, his age may be the reason for his snoring. As dogs approach their senior years, their muscle tone begins to weaken; this includes the muscles around the neck and throat. 

When your senior dog relaxes as he sleeps, these weakened muscles slacken, narrowing his airway, which could cause him to snore; this is why snoring is much more common in older dogs.

7. Dental Issues

It may seem far-fetched that an issue with your German Shepherd’s teeth could be causing him to snore – but there are dental issues that could be affecting his breathing while he sleeps. Bacteria from an infected tooth, for example, can irritate the tissues lining his airway. 

8. Common Cold or Upper Respiratory Infection

Rhinitis, otherwise known as the common cold, with symptoms such as a runny nose, could be the culprit in your German Shepherd’s snoring. A build-up of mucus in your dog’s nasal passages can block the air as he breathes and can cause him to snore.

9. Sore Throat

Your German Shepherd’s snoring could be caused by Pharyngitis, or inflammation in his throat. Yes, dogs can get sore throats too! This inflammation can cause swelling in the tissue lining his airway. If enough swelling occurs, it can result in friction and flapping of the tissues, causing a snoring sound.

10. Tonsillitis

Like humans, dogs have tonsils, so they can get tonsillitis. According to Dr. Ernest Ward’s article on the topic, tonsillitis is usually the secondary complication of another medical issue. 

In other words, other medical issues such as a long-lasting cough or vomiting can expose the tonsils to bacteria and cause them to become infected. Inflamed, swollen tonsils can disrupt your German Shepherd’s airway and could be a possible reason for his snoring.

11. Congenital Abnormalities

German Shepherds are not predisposed to genetic traits in bone structure that commonly cause snoring in breeds such as English Bulldogs and Pugs. However, your dog may have been born with an anatomical abnormality that is inducing his snoring.

There could be something about the unique shape or structure of his head, nose, neck, or throat that is blocking his airway when he breathes while relaxed and sleeping, resulting in snoring – however, this is rare in German Shepherds. 

12. Medications

It’s possible that your German Shepherd’s snoring could be related to medications he’s taking, especially if your dog is prescribed sedatives or pain meds. In the process of doing what they were intended to do, sedating, reducing anxiety, or relieving your dog’s pain, these medications can sometimes cause your dog’s throat and neck muscles to relax too much. 

If the throat muscles become overly relaxed, they can sag, inhibiting your German Shepherd’s airway, which can cause snoring.

13. Fungal Disease

Fungal disease (blastomycosis) may be contributing to your German Shepherd’s snoring. This disease occurs when a dog inhales the microscopic spores of a fungus that typically grows in soil or rotting wood, entering through the moist lining of the dog’s nose. The spores then travel to the lungs and throughout the body and can result in a severe infection. 

While farm dogs and dogs who spend most of their time outdoors are the most likely to come into contact with these spores, indoor dogs are also susceptible. Dr. Ian Sprandel, a veterinarian specializing in pathology, states:

“Exposure to the outdoors or soil is not required for infection, however. Many strictly indoor dogs have also been infected. Living near a waterway increases the risk of infection.”  

University of Illinois, College of Veterinary Medicine

While having trouble breathing and/or snoring are symptoms of fungal disease in dogs, other signs would accompany these symptoms if your German Shepherd is suffering from this condition.

14. Growth or Tumor

A growth or tumor in your German Shepherd’s throat, mouth, or sinus cavity can obstruct his air passages and cause snoring. While it’s extremely uncommon for tumors to develop in the canine throat, when they do occur, it is a severe issue. 

Again, a tumor is rare and would present a myriad of other symptoms in addition to snoring, such as weakness, nausea, coughing, fatigue, depression, weight loss, foul breath, swelling of the neck, and more. 

15. Sleep Disorder

If your German Shepherd snores loudly and frequently, stops breathing for several seconds while sleeping, and then suddenly gasps and wakes up, he may be experiencing sleep apnea. This condition is rare but more common in dogs that are carrying extra weight. 

Sleep apnea can lead to your dog feeling tired or irritable during the day due to being awakened multiple times during the night which can also have long-term effects on his overall health. Although sleep apnea is more common in dog breeds with short snouts like English Bulldogs as detailed in this study, if you’ve noticed these symptoms, your dog may suffer from this sleep disorder.

How to Stop a German Shepherd Snoring

German Shepherd snoring on the couch
My German Shepherd “Willow” snoring on the couch!

There are several solutions to ease the condition of snoring for your German Shepherd, and possibly increase the quality of your own sleep in the process – especially if you allow your dog to sleep with you!

Adjust Sleeping Position

If you’ve noticed that your German Shepherd snores primarily when sleeping on his back or at unusual angles, assist him in changing his sleeping position to prevent snoring.

In the above photo of my GSD, she was snoring due to the angle of her head. You can see that her head/neck was positioned slightly back – this restricted her airway enough causing her to snore. If you’re near your dog when he’s snoring, give him a little nudge to roll over or change position and he will adjust to breathing more easily. 

Add a pillow to support your dog’s neck and raise his head to keep his airway open. Also, you could consider getting an oval-shaped bed for your dog such as the BarksBar Gray Orthopedic Dog Bed from Amazon that encourages him to sleep curled up on his side for better breathing.

However, this depends on how your dog likes to sleep as most German Shepherds, like mine, prefer to stretch out on a rectangular shaped bed!

For the “Rolls Royce” in orthopedic dog beds, go for the Big Barker Orthopedic Dog Bed which has a comfy headrest to help prevent snoring. Be aware that this is not like a normal dog bed but is a real bed – for dogs! You can find my in-depth review of the Big Barker here.

Improve Air Quality

As in humans, it’s not easy to determine if something in the air is triggering allergies for your German Shepherd. But you can improve your dog’s breathing by improving the air quality in your home, such as by using an air purifier.

I use the Dyson Pure Hot and Cool Air Purifier from Amazon, which can also be used as a heater and fan. It is quite expensive but like other Dyson products, it does a great job and always gets good reviews. The latest model automatically senses air pollution, such as dust, pollen, mold, or smoke, initiates purification, and then reports air quality levels on the LCD display!

German Shepherd Allergies, German Shepherd lying next to Dyson air purifier re pollen allergy
My German Shepherd “Willow” with a Dyson air purifier

Besides ensuring your home is free from dust or smoke, make sure you use caution in diffusing essential oils, spraying cleaning agents, or using air fresheners that disperse particles in the air that could be irritating your dog or causing an allergic reaction. 

If your home has an unpleasant odor, it’s healthier for both you and your dog to regularly clean it rather than trying to cover up the bad smells with perfumes or air fresheners. German Shepherds are also known to shed heavily all year round and daily vacuuming is a must.

Moisture in the air reduces your German Shepherd’s chances of snoring. Use a humidifier to combat dry, dehydrating air to ensure the mucus in your dog’s nose doesn’t become thick and create congestion.

Again, I like Dyson products such as the AM10 Humidifier from Amazon. I think Dyson products are awesome and although you may pay a hefty price for them at first, they last a lifetime. As an example, my air purifier pictured above is years old and I just change the filters annually.

Other cheaper humidifiers can breed bacteria whereas the Dyson kills 99.9% in the water with UVC light so make sure you do your research if you opt for a less expensive brand.

Clean Surfaces

Be sure to clean your German Shepherd’s bed regularly and use household cleaners free of perfumes or harsh chemicals. Likewise, it’s a good idea to refrain from using deodorizing powders or sprays if your dog is having a snoring problem – even if they claim to be designed for pet odors! These can be irritating to the nasal passages and throat and/or trigger allergic reactions.

Keep them Active

If your German Shepherd is overweight, improving his physical fitness can reduce the chances of snoring. Appropriate diet and increased exercise can help your dog attain or maintain a healthy weight. Take it easy on the extra treats!

For more info and ideas on the best diet for German Shepherds, check out my top guide which includes nutrition, types of diet, and exactly what your dog can and can’t eat. Be sure to get out there and run or walk with your canine companion as GSD’s are high energy dogs that require at least 2 hours of daily exercise, and not just leash walking!

Physical exercise and a healthy diet not only improves the quality of life for your dog – but also their sleep, especially for aging German Shepherds. While it may mean less running and more leisurely walks, the activity will help improve muscle tone in the neck area to reduce snoring.

When is it Time to Call the Vet?

When is a German Shepherd’s snoring a cause for concern? Light snoring could either be just a little endearing trait that comes and goes, or there could be an underlying medical issue that needs professional attention. 

So, when should you put down your smartphone camera and think about calling your vet? This depends on whether snoring has always been in your pooch’s cuteness repertoire, or if it’s something that just started to occur. 

According to Los Angeles veterinarian Dr. Jeff Werber, DVM, from PetMD:

“If your dog has never snored, but all of a sudden is snoring that should be investigated.”

PetMD

It’s strongly advisable to contact your veterinarian if you’re concerned that your German Shepherd’s snoring is related to something more sinister.

Obstructions

If your German Shephard has an object lodged in his nasal passages or throat that is blocking his airway, you should call your vet so he can examine your dog as soon as possible. In more serious cases, the object may need to be removed surgically. 

Dental Issues

If you think your dog might have a dental issue, it’s important to get this checked out without delay. I’m sure you’ll agree there is nothing worse than dental pain!

Your German Shepherd may need antibiotics or oral surgery to treat this. Once the problem is under control, establish dental cleaning as part of your dog’s regular grooming routine, or use healthy dental treats. My dog adores Pedigree’s Dentastix and it looks like thousands of other dog owners too, as they are rated 5 stars on Amazon.

Illnesses & Infections

If you’re noticing symptoms like a runny nose or coughing, this could mean your dog has a cold or a sore throat. Like most humans, a case of the common cold in a dog should run its course in a matter of seven to ten days. But if you don’t see any improvement, it could be something more serious such as a severe respiratory infection or tonsillitis. Your dog could need antibiotics or in rare cases, a tonsillectomy.

Snoring in dogs can often be a sign of hypothyroidism. This is when the thyroid gland doesn’t make enough of the hormone that controls his metabolism. Your German Shepherd will need medication for the rest of his life to control this but this is not really a big deal.

Finally, if your dog is experiencing the following symptoms in addition to snoring, contact your vet immediately: 

  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Trouble breathing
  • Coughing
  • Eye disease
  • Lameness
  • Sores on skin

The Medical Cost

We’ve suggested many strategies for reducing your German Shepherd’s snoring related to short term or non-serious conditions – the most common reasons for canine snoring. But there are medical issues associated with snoring that represent more underlying severe illness or complications.

Timely treatment at your regular vet is more reasonable in terms of cost than a trip to the emergency vet. We would also recommend a good pet insurance policy as this not only helps you to budget but also gives you peace of mind.

The cost of veterinary treatment for your German Shepherd will depend on the medical condition and its severity. Here are some estimated costs of veterinary care to give you a rough idea.

  • Physical Exam: $45-55
  • Allergy Skin Testing: $195-$250 (skin)
  • Allergy Blood Test: $200-$300
  • Geriatric Screening: $85-$110
  • Surgery or Treatment of Serious Illness: $1,000 and up (multiple overnight stays can increase the cost)
  • Emergency Treatment: $1,000 and up

The above data is courtesy of Wellness Pet Food.

Final Thoughts

The tendency to snore is one of the numerous characteristics we have in common with our beloved furry friends. Here are some key takeaways from the article:

  • There are many reasons why your German Shepherd may snore and most are harmless.
  • Be aware of the more serious underlying causes.
  • Taking some simple steps in maintaining your German Shepherd’s overall health is the key to reducing his snoring.
  • Maintaining a home with cleanliness and clean air quality will ensure a better night’s sleep for you both.
  • Invest in a suitable pet insurance policy for peace of mind in case of unexpected veterinary costs.

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Sources:

Sharon Waddington

I am the owner of World of Dogz. I have a 5-year-old female German Shepherd named "Willow" and I've worked with dogs for almost 30 years. I love spending time with my dog and I enjoy sharing my knowledge and expertise of all things dogs on this site!

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