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Dr. Andy
Dr. Andy, Medical Director
Category: Dog
Satisfied Customers: 30036
Experience:  UC Davis Graduate, Interests: Dermatology, Internal Medicine, Pain Management
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My Shih tzu mainly at night she will be breathing and then

Customer Question

My Shih tzu mainly at night she will be breathing and then stop (seems like forever) probably 5 or 10 seconds and them gasps for air. This is scaring me. My vet says she is overweight but she has been overweight and now suddenly she has started doing this. Bell is 11 years old
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Dog
Expert:  Dr. Andy replied 2 years ago.
Welcome! My name is***** am a UC Davis graduate, and currently, a Medical Director of a veterinary hospital.
I am sorry to hear about this concern for Bell.
If she is overweight and exhibiting any irregular breathing pattern, it would be well worthwhile, at this age, to have her thyroid level checked. Hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormone) is very common in older dogs, and could be contributing to these symptoms.
Shih Tzu's, already have somewhat irregular breathing because of the confirmation of their faces. My concern for the breathing pauses would only be increased if she was doing it throughout the day, or if there was continued labored breathing after each episode.
The other thing I would encourage is having the vet double check the heart and lungs for any disease, and that should include some chest x-rays and maybe a ECG. A heart arrhythmia could certainly be a consideration, but can be difficult to diagnose since most of the time the heart is beating at a normal rhythm. That's where I would start. Good Luck!
Dr. Andy
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
My vet already did xrays on her lungs and heart and no tumors present other than overweight. My concern is why is this starting now?
Expert:  Dr. Andy replied 2 years ago.
Understood. Great about x-rays to rule-out a bunch of stuff
Well, many issues are simply age-related. There can be changes in the airways, throat, sinuses, etc..that all could contribute to episodes.
I do agree with the vet that the overweight issue could be a contributing factor. So, I strongly feel a basic blood test is important. But, got to make sure that blood test has a thyroid level on it. Low thyroid hormone can contribute to all sorts of other problems as well. Fairly easy to treat as well if diagnosed.
Brachcephalic breeds can have all sorts of conditions like tiny nostrils, long soft palates, narrow tracheas that they compensate for all their lives. Eventually, these issues can be more difficult to live with as a pet ages. So, that is a consideration.
In summary, we are essentially saying that she may be developing sleep apnea as a result of her being overweight, hypothyroidism, or possibly pre-existing issues in her respiratory tract that she is now having a harder time adapting to because of age.
Hope that clarifies a bit.
Dr. Andy