Many dog owners envy their canines' easy capacity to fall into deep sleep and awaken refreshed. These companions instinctively know when rest is necessary, giving themselves over to it completely...and gaining its benefits immediately. Common perceptions aside, this adaptability is oftentimes not the case. Many dogs suffer from a myriad of sleep disorders for a variety of reasons. In fact, several of these problems mirror sleep ailments in humans. Like their owners, dogs need sufficient sleep to enjoy optimal health. Here’s a quick breakdown of a few common disorders and some easy tricks that will greatly improve the quality of your dog’s sleep.
Canine Sleep Disorders and Their Effects
When a dog is unable to get at least 12 to 14 hours of sleep per day--gained through naps during the day and extended slumber at night--stress hormones will accumulate, causing the dog to lack energy, on the one hand, or act aggressively on the other. Meanwhile, its immune system is compromised making it vulnerable to infection. A few examples that merit concern are:
- Insomnia—often related to physical discomfort from arthritis, fleas or a kidney infection
- Sleep Apnea—more common in overweight dogs and flat-faced breeds
- Narcolepsy—usually a genetically-rooted propensity to collapse into deep sleep
- REM Behavior Disorder—akin to sleep-walking in humans
How To Enhance Healthy Sleep in Dogs?
Deal with Health Issues Immediately
The ailments referenced above can and are often treated with a variety of medications, nutritional regimens and behavior modifications. A thorough check-up by a veterinarian should not be delayed; similarly, all vaccinations should be up to date. Yet pet owners can take immediate measures to ensure that a dog's sleep is optimal, sufficient and conducive to good health.
Maintain a Regular Schedule for the Dog
Whether feeding, exercise, naps or play time with family, the dog benefits from each of these things occurring at the same time each day. Granted, weekends and holidays may throw a well-planned routine off of momentum but consistency during the week goes a long way in upgrading sleep quality.
Give the Dog Plenty of Exercise
Walks, runs, fetch and rough-housing (to a degree) with the kids all work in tandem to burn off a pup's energy reserves. The amount of time best spent in physical exertion depends on the breed. However, as a rule of thumb, between a half-hour and two hours daily is the range that dog owners should go for. In addition to sleep improvement, physical activity also helps maintain muscle tone and joint performance. The lower frequency of obesity in well-exercised dogs also makes sleep apnea less likely.
Same Bed Every Night
Warm, furry and affectionate, dogs have a way of tempting their people to let them into their beds. Fight the temptation. Families do the dog no favors in terms of its sleep or their own. Clean, comfortable and healthy dog beds should be canines' only recourse come bed time.
A Bed the Dog Will Love
Since dog beds play a crucial role in fostering restful sleep, owners should select those that are large enough, soft enough and well-constructed. A fluffy, warm blanket is a good complement. Knowing the dog's favored sleep position--and whether it gets too hot or cold--helps to make an informed decision. Place the bed in a part of the house that does not get much noise. A bedroom is fine as long as the traffic is minimal.
Sleep difficulties in dogs could be minor or major, related to other issues or causing other ailments. Regular veterinary appointments, wise nutritional choices and a good dose of human interaction go far to minimize damaging effects on slumber. A proper venue and bedding also help dogs reap the best benefits from time asleep.