Your Boston terrier might not be the greatest bedmate if you want a good night's sleep. Like other brachycephalic breeds -- the term means "short head" -- he probably snores. That snoring may indicate sleep apnea, in which his breathing is obstructed and occasionally stops for up to 20 seconds.
Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome
For dogs with shortened muzzles, such as the Boston terrier, pugs, bulldogs and Pekingese, sleep apnea is an element of brachycephalic airway syndrome. The short heads and small nostrils mean dogs with this head shape must work extra hard just to take in sufficient air. Your dog's normal breathing when he's wide awake might be noisy, with excessive panting and snorting. If your Boston terrier is overweight, that makes the situation even worse. Hot, humid weather also creates problems for your buddy.
When your Boston is fast asleep, listen carefully to his breathing patterns. You might notice his snoring has ceased. His breathing could sound shallow or could stop altogether. He might suddenly startle, then start gasping for breath before slumber returns. Dogs with sleep apnea might experience as many as 100 episodes of interrupted breathing in a typical night's sleep.
Not only does sleep apnea affect your Boston terrier's ability to get restorative sleep, but it can lead to other health problems. Think about how you feel when you don't get enough sleep, and you'll have a pretty good idea how your dog feels if this is a chronic issue. He's not his normal, bouncy self during the day -- he's tired. He could suffer from mood changes, becoming irritable and standoffish. Affected dogs might experience headaches in the morning. Your pal can't tell you about his headache, but you can see he's not feeling great. Over the long haul, lack of sleep can lead to high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, and heart problems.
If your dog suffers from sleep apnea, take him to the vet for an examination. She might prescribe ondansetron, a drug marketed for people under the name Zofran. While generally used to prevent vomiting, it also can aid brachycephalic dog breeds with sleep apnea. If the condition is severe, she might recommend surgery. If your pal has an elongated soft palate, which is common in short-nosed dogs, surgery might include a soft-palate resection to ease snoring and breathing difficulties. If his nostrils are very small, a common condition known as stenotic nares, a section of the tissue in the nostrils can be removed. This allows the dog to breathe easier and more normally.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.