by Adrienne Farricelli of veterinaryplace.com
The many struggles of life keep you tossing and turning at night, but why on Earth is your dog, who has every reason to lead a happy, worry-free life, unable to fall asleep? He has no financial worries; he no longer has to hunt or scavenge for food and has all the comforts and commodities that come with being a pampered pooch of the 21st century. What signs would you expect in a dog suffering from insomnia? Of course, your dog won’t wake up with dark circles around his eyes and you won’t hear him tossing and turning throughout the night. Instead, you might hear him whining, barking or pacing during the late night and wee hours of the day. The reasons for these sleepless nights may vary depending on what is causing the insomnia. Here are some potential causes and what you can do about them.
If you recently got a new puppy, don’t be surprised if he’s struggling to fall asleep the first night. Used to being around his mother and litter mates and now in a completely new environment, he’ll need some time to adjust. On top of that, if you have put him inside a crate or in a solitary room away from your reassuring presence, he’ll feel even lonelier which will manifest through barking, whining and relentless scratching geared towards the crate, door or any other barrier that’s preventing him from being close to you.
What to do: To help your new pup out, keep his crate near your bedside so he’ll know you are within reach. This is just a temporary adjustment to help him better cope with his loneliness the first nights. Afterward, the crate can be gradually moved farther and farther away. Some breeders recommend letting your new pup sleep next to a ticking clock that mimics a mother dog’s heartbeat and a bottle filled with warm water wrapped in a blanket to mimic the warmth of his litter mates and mom.
So you’re out for most of the day leaving your pet home alone, and by the time you get back in the evening, your dog turns into an animated hyper pup in perpetual motion. Don’t be surprised if after feeding him, he has a hard time falling asleep. Most likely, he has been sleeping for most of the day awaiting your return, and now that you’re finally home, he just can’t contain himself. We can’t blame him though; his needs for exercise and mental stimulation are possibly not met, and, along with his excitement to see you again, the last thing he wants to do is fall asleep.
What to do: It might help to hire a pet sitter or a dog walker to tire him out and provide companionship during the day. Doggy day care is another option. Walking him before going out to work and upon your return, along with providing mentally stimulating toys in your absence, may help out too.
Countless people report their dogs being awake for most of the night pacing, whining and acting as if they have seen a ghost or witnessed some odd paranormal activity. In reality, these dogs are often reacting to noises us humans cannot hear. Most likely, there’s some nocturnal critter living under the deck or in your attic that is getting your pet all hyped up. Your dog is likely barking, whining and pacing from the frustration of not being able to hunt down the critter. Common critters that love to share your home and may be active at night include mice, bats, raccoons, squirrels and opossum.
What to do: Have a pest inspector check your home for the presence of these critters.
Moving into a new home or having guests over can be an overwhelming experience for your dog. New scents, new sights and new sounds can cause major disruptions in a sensitive dog’s routine. A scared dog is unable to relax, and when Fido can’t relax, he’ll be unable to catch his healthy dose of ZZZs. The same form of insomnia may affect your dog if he’s fearful of thunder or other noises. This is a natural response to the situation, as fear causes the release of hormones which trigger the fight or flight response and put him in a heightened state of alertness.
What to do: Invest in aids such as DAP diffusers, play soothing music through a radio and try calming herbs for dogs such as our very own #20 Keep Cool. We feel that owners can effectively relieve their dogs of anxiety with herbal supplements without having to rely on antihistamine drugs such as diphenhydramine.
If your dog usually sleeps through the night and suddenly out of the blue he’s up and awake all night with no changes in his environment, you may want to investigate if something is amiss in the health department. Is your dog repeatedly licking or pawing at joints or any particular part of his body? If so, there may be a wound or an itchy or achy area that needs attention. Is you dog pacing nervously and retching? This may be a medical emergency as these can be symptoms of bloat. Is your dog drooling and smacking his lips? He may be suffering from some form of digestive upset. Is your dog frequently asking to go outside at night? He may have a urinary tract infection, a gastrointestinal problem or some other kidney or bladder condition.
What to do: Have your dog see your vet for a thorough check-up.
Last but not least, any medication you are giving your dog could be contributing to his sleepless nights. Steroids are one possible example, as they are known for causing numerous side effects in dogs including increased drinking and urination, restlessness and insomnia. If you’re giving your dog a medication, check the list of side effects to see if nervousness, incontinence and insomnia are on the list.
What to do: Contact your vet and report to the side effects you have observed. They will be able to assess the situation and advise you on how to proceed.
The Bottom Line
Your dog may have his own good reasons for not being able to fall asleep. Insomnia in dogs is usually a short-lived problem that subsides once the underlying issues are addressed. Don’t try to ignore the problem in hopes that it goes away by itself; your dog’s insomnia may provide important clues about his health and emotional well-being.
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