Most Common Sleep Disorders in Dogs
You and your dog may have more in common than you realize. Just like people, dogs can suffer from sleep disorders too. These four issues can keep your furry friend from enjoying a good night’s sleep.
Sleep apnea triggers short breathing pauses that can occur hundreds of times throughout the night. Breathing troubles start when your dog’s airway becomes too narrow during sleep or collapses completely. When this happens, air can’t reach your pet’s lungs. A build-up of fat in the neck can increase your pet’s risk of developing sleep apnea.
Dogs that develop this sleep disorder are understandably tired during the day. Snoring can be a sign that your dog has sleep apnea, although not all dogs that snore have the disorder. Sleep apnea is more likely to affect obese dogs and dogs with flat faces, such as Boston Terriers, Pugs, and English Bulldogs, according to PetMD.
Losing weight may ease sleep apnea symptoms in overweight and obese dogs. Surgery might be needed for a flat-faced dog. Your veterinarian might perform a surgical procedure to widen your dog’s nostrils and may also remove extra tissues that can interfere with breathing.
Dogs with narcolepsy fall asleep without warning. One minute your dog is happily playing with you, and the next it’s fast asleep. Although narcolepsy doesn’t harm your pet, it can be frightening to watch your pet suddenly collapse and fall asleep.
According to the Sleep Foundation, narcolepsy can be related to a problem with the production of hypocretin, a chemical that regulates your dog’s sleep and wake cycles. The problem is inherited and may affect Labrador Retrievers, Doberman Pinschers, and Poodles, PetMD notes. Narcolepsy can also occur for unknown reasons or may happen if your pet is overweight or not very active.
You may notice that narcolepsy episodes occur when your pet is active or excited. Medications prescribed by your pet’s veterinarian may help keep your dog awake or at least reduce the number of episodes.
If you’ve ever suffered from insomnia, you can probably empathize with your pet. After spending the night tossing and turning, both you and your dog are bound to feel tired and irritable.
Insomnia can be a problem if your dog doesn’t get enough exercise during the day or has a health condition that causes pain or the need for frequent potty breaks. Insomnia may also be a symptom of dementia in older dogs.
Treating the underlying cause of insomnia will help your pet sleep better. If your dog is in pain due to arthritis or another condition, your veterinarian may recommend pain medication. Don’t give your pet human pain medication without checking with your vet first, as some medications can be toxic to dogs. Taking your dog for an evening run or walk or playing a game of fetch can help burn off excess energy and improve sleep.
Rapid Eye Movement (REM) Behavior Disorder
No one knows for sure what dogs dream about, but chasing rabbits or rolling around in the mud are probably favorite topics. Normally, when your pet enters a dream state, its brain shuts down limb movements. At most, you may notice that your dog’s legs twitch during a particularly good dream.
REM behavior disorder happens when there’s a glitch in the process that prevents movement while dreaming. Your dog’s limbs may move freely, and your pet may howl, bark, growl, or bite. Unfortunately, your dog can hurt itself or others if it has this rare sleep disorder. If your pet is diagnosed with REM behavior disorder, prescription medicine can be helpful.
We can help you manage your pet’s sleep issues. Contact our office to schedule an appointment.
Sleep Foundation: The Connection Between Animal and Human Sleep
PetMD: 4 Sleep Disorders in Dogs
Texas A&M University: Veterinary Medicine and Biological Services: Sleeping Disorders in Animals
University of Florida News: Dog with Rare Sleeping Disorder Sent Home After Unique Diagnosis at UFS Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital