As your dog gets older, just like with humans, certain ailments and challenges will begin to form. One thing you’ll notice is that unlike with humans, dogs tend to sleep a lot more than usual as they progress deeper into their senior years. It can be frightening when your dog is in such a deep sleep that waking them up can actually become quite difficult. When a dog is younger, their hearing is normally very sensitive and they are likely to wake up for any little noise. On the other hand, when they get older their hearing deteriorates and loud noises or explicitly calling out their name right next to them often goes undetected. Although this is a natural part of getting older for a pooch, it can sometimes be the result of age-related health conditions. Below we’ll cover the essentials of what you can expect with your dog’s sleeping pattern as he or she gets older.
How much is a normal amount of sleep for adult and senior dogs?
You’re bound to notice a change in the way your dogs sleep as they get older. The times of having limitless energy to run around and play games will one day inevitably become a thing of the past. Instead waiting at the door to greet you, your pooch will be more inclined to just lay in their bed and rest. This is the way it goes for most dogs. It’s a normal part of aging that you have to learn to accept.
You can expect the daily sleeping patterns to differ based on your dog’s environment, their size, their breed, the condition of their health, and of course the amount of exercise they get. On average, a fully matured dog is likely to sleep between 12 to 14 hours in a day. Bigger canines tend to sleep even longer (18 hours). Your elderly dog might even sleep up to 20 hours of the day. This will take place at different stages over a 24 hour period. Senior dogs will spend more of their energy when it comes to physical activity, so it’s not unusual for them to need more sleep to recover. The duration of their sleep is not the only aspect that will change. The times that your dog sleeps will also start to vary somewhat, with nap time likely to occur more often during the day than at night.
If you begin to notice that your furry friend is awake at strange hours of the night or they’re struggling to sleep at all in the evenings, it could be a sign of an underlying health condition and you should go see your veterinarian just to be on the safe side.
Factors that may be affecting your dog’s regular sleeping habits
One possibility that may be having an impact on your dog’s sleeping habits is dementia. Diminished brain functionality isn’t uncommon in older dogs. This can often play a big role in altering their mood around members of the family, it can create a level of anxiousness due to disorientation, and of course it can disrupt their natural sleeping pattern.
Getting older also makes it more difficult for dogs to find a comfortable position in which they can fall asleep. This could be a result of arthritis, a degenerative condition that can create a fair amount of pain and discomfort, making it challenging for your pooch to get a decent restful sleep. Check with your vet to see if your beloved canine is suffering from osteoarthritis. A specially designed dog bed and supplements for the joints can help to treat the condition.
Elderly dogs can also suffer from something called hypothyroidism which is developed from a decrease in the thyroid hormones which assist with metabolic regulation. Symptoms of this can be extensive sleepiness or drowsiness even when your dog is awake. There are also medicines available to help treat this condition.
With age comes a more sensitive bowel and bladder, which can also disturb your pooch’s sleep cycle. The need to do a number 2 can keep your dog from getting a good night’s sleep as he or she will feel agitated with the sensation of having to their business. A frequent scenario in senior dogs is a lack of bladder control when they’re in a stressful situation or when they’re extremely relaxed (such as when they’re about to drift off to sleep). This is known as canine urinary incontinence. It’s an unfortunate condition where small amounts of urine makes its way out your dog’s bladder without them realizing it, which can lead to discomfort and prevent them from sleeping soundly.
There could also be a range of other health problems that might affect your pooch’s slumber. Any unusual symptoms should be taken seriously and a visit to the vet should follow shortly after. Symptoms to be aware of are: coughing, whining, inappetence, loss of bladder and bowel control, diarrhoea, vomiting, drinking excess amounts of water or not enough water, uncontrollable sneezing, and loss of enthusiasm in general.
What can be done to improve your dog’s sleep cycle?
You would do well to keep track of when your dog sleeps and for how long. Keep a record book or diary of what times your dog usually sleeps and how many hours he or she gets during each session. You can use this diary to note any changes in behaviour, dietary disposition, physical symptoms, and any other details you might want to include. Not only will this provide you with a clearer view on your dog’s condition, but it will also be a helpful tool to update your vet on the events and circumstances that you otherwise might not remember, and it could potentially give your vet a bit of necessary information that unveils a particular ailment.
Try to get your dog to participate in some light exercise a few times per week. This will improve cognitive function, oxygenate the blood, and stimulate the joints and muscles making movement a lot easier. It might sound cliché but it’s actually true that the more you do, the more you can do. Along with generating a better, more restful sleep, exercise increase the body’s long-term initiative to produce more energy, making it more likely that your dog will actually want to move around during the day.
Establishing a safe and comfortable sleeping spot will make your pooch of advancing years feel more relaxed. It will aid against anxiety and allow for a more fulfilling sleep. If adding extra blankets to their bed doesn’t work, an orthopaedic bed might be an option to consider as they’re specifically designed to meet the needs of your aging pet. If possible, keep their bed in the same room as where you sleep to make your dog feel even more secure when it comes to bed time.
Depending on your work it might be difficult, but if possible try to stick to a consistent schedule so that your pooch’s internal clock learns when it’s sleepy time. Do your best to structure play time, meals, and exercise during the day according to the plan you’ve established so that your senior canine companion gets tired at an appropriate time and hopefully sleeps through most of the night.
Another possible solution may be to change your dog’s diet. If their food consists of too many heavy items, a lot of energy can be lost during digestion. Including fruits and vegetables in their diet can provide a lot of nutrients and fibre that will help keep your hound healthy, happy, and regular. Consult your vet to learn what dietary ingredients are suitable for your senior pooch. While you’re at it, review what medication your dog is on to figure out if there is something in particular that is likely to make him or her drowsy. If so, check with your vet if there is an alternative that has less sedentary side effects.
Although ensuing they have sufficient water so that they don’t experience dehydration is important, you may want to limit water access before bed to prevent their need to urinate in the middle of the night. This should help to create a more solid sleeping schedule.
Dealing with a puppy can be exhausting, but your dog’s senior years can perhaps be even more challenging as their condition is less resilient and every decision you make can have a dramatic impact on their quality of life. Excessive sleeping is normal but it’s also something to maintain an awareness of. Keep your eyes and ears open for anything unusual in their daily routine. Do what you can to make your dogs feel loved. Provide them with as much good food, attention, and comfort as you can possibly manage. Cherish your time with them and don’t get too mad at them when they do something wrong. We only get to share our lives with our precious pets for a short time, so try to learn from them and appreciate them as much as you can.