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Snoring / Snorting

Shih Tzu Noises - Snorting & Snores


If you have a Shih Tzu, you may have a lot of questions about snores and/or snorting noises. 

This section will discuss exactly why this occurs, what is and is not normal, what to do if there is an increase with this and important health tips regarding this issue.
Most owners are aware that the Tzu is a brachycephalic breed, but what precisely does this mean? And how does this relate to snoring and snorting issues? …

Set aside from other dog breeds, the dogs in this category were bred, over centuries, to have a compressed upper jaw, a short muzzle and a compact skull…

This in turn, led them to have a compressed upper respiratory system. 

So, let’s break this down to fully understand what it means.

Brachycephalic Elements

Jaw - The normal lower jaw and compressed upper jaw gives us a face structure that is relatively flat, hence the “short muzzle”. While the jawbone itself does not relate to the noises that a Shih Tzu may make, owners should be aware that this means that the 42 teeth that all dogs have need to fit into a smaller space that with many other breeds….

And this can mean slanted teeth and/or issues with dental care, as compacted teeth can be harder to clean. Therefore, prudent dental care should be provided on a regular basis.

Skull - The term of “compact skull” may leave you wondering what this means in comparison to other types of dogs. Here are the possible types of skulls that purebreds can have:
Shih Tzu compared to long snout dog
Doclichocephalic - This shape has a round head and a very long snout (which is also referred to as the nasal cavity) Dogs such as Greyhound and Great Dane have this elongates snout and it allows for lots of room for the nasal cavities.

Mesaticephalic – With this shape, the skull and snout are each just about the same size (in length) and dogs in this group are said to have “medium” sized muzzles. Canines such as the Beagle and the Lab are in this grouping.

Brachycephalic - With this profile, the skull is rounded but the muzzle is very short or, for some breeds, practically non-existent. Aside from the Shih Tzu, the Pug and Boxer are a couple of the other dogs in this classification. 
Therefore, for the Shih Tzu, since the muzzle is so short and flat, this compresses the nostrils and all inner workings of the sinuses.

Snoring and Snorting

It is normal and expected for a Shih Tzu to snore to some degree. Most, but not all, will make some sort of noise while they sleep. This can range from a very low vibration noise barely noticeable to an owner to all all-out, shake-the –windows rumbling. 

Snorting is also common and happens due to the same reason as the snoring: 

Elongated Soft Palate - The soft tissues of the mouth and throat of the Shih Tzu do not always fit well in the compacted facial area. The soft palate refers to the tissue that divides the oral cavity from the nasal passages. Due to the lack of sufficient room, it flaps down into the throat in varying degrees…

Each Tzu is different. This, in turn, causes the dog to make snoring noises at night when asleep and a grunting or snorting noise when awake. For those with minimal drooping, the only issue is these noises. It is not harmful and may find it to be “charming”. However, one should keep in mind that in severe instances, breathing can be severely disrupted and this may call out of surgery that trims down the palate. This would be detected during routine examinations by an experienced veterinarian, most often observed during the puppy's first year.
A Word about Stenotic Nares - This is also referred to as Pinched Nostrils and is common with this breed. Simply put, the nostril openings are very narrow. Some veterinarians and some owners rush to have these surgically altered. One must know that with the Shih Tzu, this can be a temporary issue… For many, they will open as the dog grows,…and in some cases, they will appear to be quite a problem, however once the teething phase passes, they open up.

With this said, in severe cases, the openings can be so small that it interferes with breathing ability. It can then put stress on the Tzu’s body and can lead to additional respiratory problems. With the dog struggling to inhale and exhale through the nose, snoring and snorting will be heard. In this case, a reputable veterinarian will discuss the possible medical interventions that may be necessary.

New or Increased Snoring or Snorting

If your Shih Tzu has just begun making these noises or if you have noticed an evident increase with this, it can be due to one of several reasons:

1. The palate can become swollen due to excessive barking and/or panting – If this happens often enough or to a serious degree, surgery may be needed. While you should have your veterinarian examine the area, in some cases this is only temporary.

2. There may be another obstruction…It can be an abnormal growth…or even a toy or other object that is blowing the breathing passages…You would be surprised how many dogs swallow non-food elements…ranging from necklaces to shoelaces to socks!

3. Weight gain is the #1 reason for an increase in Shih Tzu snoring and snorting. As fat layers build up and put pressure on the neck and face, this weighs down an already compressed area, causing problems. Since the Tzu is so small, even a gain of 1 or 2 pounds can create a health issue in this regard. If it is determined that your Tzu needs to lighten up, this should be done gradually over a period of time. For most, one pound per month is a realistic goal. This is done by combining 3 methods: A decrease of fatty foods and unnecessary snacks, an increase of healthy foods and an increase in activity.

Since this breed is susceptible to overheating and can have breathing problems if exercise is too taxing. It is recommended to simply add 5 minutes to your daily walk each week.

Therefore, week #1 would see an increase from 20 minutes to 25…Week #2 would bring us to 30 minute and so on, until you have reached the goal of 40. Remember to bring along extra water and a collapsible bowl, take rests if needed and to avoid walking during the hottest time of the day… Dawn and dusk are preferable times to head out with your little Tzu.

Just a Way to Communicate?

For some Shih Tzu, it is common to make little snorting noises, often referred to in this case as grunting, and it has nothing to do with any physical or bodily concern. 

There are many different types of noises that a canine can make aside from barking! There is also howling, whining, growling, whimpering, yelping and moaning. Some of these are signs of distress and some are signs of pleasure. 

With some Tzu, a grunting can be a verbal communication that can mean, “I am happy” or “that feels good!” It may happen when you are rubbing your pup’s tummy or cuddling him or her in a certain way. When a person owns 2 Shih Tzu, it is not uncommon for the two dogs to communicate to each other with a series of snorts and grunts. While we will never know what they are conveying to each other, they may just be agreeing about what a wonderful, loving owner you are!
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