Dogs make a lot of sounds and you are probably used to most of them. Your dog will howl, growl, bark and whimper occasionally, perhaps even let out a long loud sigh before going to sleep. The point is, all these sounds happen so often that you have come to consider them a part of your dog’s normal routine and behavior. But are there times when your dog emits strange sounds such as bubbling noises either when sleeping or awake? Have you noticed this just recently or has it happened before? Are the bubbling noises accompanied by other symptoms? We discuss this strange dog behavior below.
The Root of the Behavior
According to a study conducted by Matthew Wilson and Kenway Louie from MIT, dogs dream in their sleep. This conclusion was based on their observation of dogs during sleep where the researchers noted that just like human beings, dogs exhibit random eye movement (REM) during the active phase of sleep. During these moments, dogs will make movements and noises. If your dog makes bubbling noises during REM sleep, it is most likely because he is dreaming. Bubbling noises that happen when your dog is awake can be concerning as they could indicate illness. If it has been going on for a few days and interferes with breathing through the nose, it could be life-threatening and should urgently be treated by a vet. The noise could be a result of fluid buildup in the chest or lungs and could be fatal if not treated urgently. Even when a dog doesn’t exhibit difficulty while breathing, immediate medical attention should still be sought. This is because some conditions such as chylothorax, which affect some breeds of dogs such as the Shiba Inu and the Afghan Hound can develop over time without exhibiting breathing problems.
Noisy breathing during wakefulness is called stertor and usually emanates from the trachea, throat, or voice box. The noise is usually perceptible without the help of a stethoscope and happens because your dog’s air passageways are narrowed due to partial blockage. The trapped fluid or loose tissue vibrates, making the noise which sounds like snoring or bubbling. Besides happening in a dog with a respiratory illness, stertor is quite common in flat-faced dogs that tend to have narrowed or shorter airways. Additionally, dogs can suffer from inherited or acquired paralysis in the voice box, causing them to make strange sounds while breathing. Large and giant dog breeds like Newfoundlands, Golden Retrievers, St. Bernards, Irish Setters, and Labrador Retrievers are likely to suffer from acquired voice box paralysis. Inherited paralysis is common in Dalmatians and Siberian huskies and has also been noted in bulldogs and Bouviers des Flandres.
Encouraging the Behavior
Bubbling noises that are dream-related should not concern you unless your dog sounds like he is choking or suffocating. Even then, most dogs can wake themselves from a bad dream, so your dog will probably stop bubbling and wake himself up. It is not advisable to wake up a dog when he is dreaming but should you do so, take great care as he could bite you. If you suspect that your dog’s bubbling noises are illness related, the first thing you should do is take him to a vet. The vet should conduct complete and thorough tests to make an accurate diagnosis. Depending on the illness (or suspected illness), tests might include an MRI to check the lungs and thoracic cavity, urinalysis, coagulation testing, and electrolyte testing, among others. Stertor that is due to your dog’s physiology as is commonly seen in flat-faced and flat-nosed dogs can also be managed with the help of your dog’s vet.
While your dog is recuperating, keep him under keen observation and limit all forms of exercising, excitement, and exertion. This is because exercise increases the rate of inflow and outflow of air which can overload the air passageways. Rest, in addition to giving him his medication as prescribed by his vet, is the most important thing for your sick dog. If your dog is under any other medication such as sedatives, inform the vet of this fact as sedatives will relax the muscles in the airway passages causing further blockage and increased difficulty in breathing.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Contrary to popular belief, breathing difficulties are not necessarily age-related. Therefore, advice given without thorough lab tests, to put down a dog that has difficulty breathing supposedly because he is advanced in age should only be followed if one, it comes from a certified vet and two, the vet has conducted all possible tests. The vet should also give sufficient reasons why your dog should be put down. For instance, if the condition is causing your dog pain or if his overall quality of life is diminished. Additionally, if the vet determines that your dog is not sick, is not suffering from stertor, and the bubbling doesn’t originate from the chest, it could be possible that your dog’s bubbling is nothing to worry about. Seek a second opinion before you make this determination.
Now that you understand the origin of bubbling noises in your dog, you can get him the appropriate treatment. If he is flat-nosed, his vet can help him manage the condition, but you should probably be prepared to hear that bubbling noise more often as you can only do so much to control your dog’s physiology.
By a Golden Retriever lover Maryanne Gaitho
Published: 03/23/2018, edited: 01/30/2020