Is my Dog Sleeping Too Much?


Dogs seem to have a great ability to nod off and grab some shut-eye at any time of the day or night! But how do you know if your dog’s sleeping patterns are normal? Especially with a lot of us being at home with our pets more than usual just now, we may notice their day to day sleep patterns more. It can be easy to wonder whether they are sleeping too much. 

How much sleep is normal for dogs? 

As a rough guide, dogs sleep for around 12 hours in a 24 hour period. However, this is quite variable depending on dog breed, age, activity level, health and temperament. Puppies will tend to sleep for a much longer time over a 24 hour period. They take lots of naps interspersed with moments of mad activity! Certain breeds e.g. Greyhounds and some of the giant breeds tend to spend more time asleep compared to smaller breeds. As dogs do not share our circadian rhythm of being awake during the day and asleep at night, it is normal for them to take their sleep over several daytime naps as well as at night. 

What can cause changes in my dog’s sleeping pattern? 

You may notice a change in your dog’s sleeping pattern if he/she seems to be spending more time asleep or is choosing to withdraw away and sleep instead of interacting with you. There could be various reasons for this. 

Increased activity –

Have you increased the amount of exercise your dog is getting recently? If the length or intensity of their exercise has increased this may result in them sleeping more. Make sure you make any increases in exercise gradually over several weeks. 

Stress or boredom – 

Like people, dogs will react to stressful situations in different ways, and some will sleep more. If there have been any changes to the household routine recently, your dog may be struggling to adjust. Make sure you have plenty of ‘one-on-one’ time with your dog to play and interact. As well as a regular exercise routine. 

Weight gain – 

If your dog is above their ideal bodyweight this may mean that he/she struggles to exercise as much, becoming tired more quickly. This results in a vicious cycle as the less exercise they take, the more weight piles on! It can be challenging to accurately assess your pet’s weight when you look at them every day. Weight can be assessed by weighing your dog on scales (usually available at your veterinary clinic) and a visual assessment called ‘body condition scoring’. A veterinary surgeon or veterinary nurse will be able to assist you with using this technique to assess your dog’s weight. They can then advise you on whether weight loss is required and how to safely achieve this. 

It is very important that your dog receives a nutritionally complete, balanced diet. Your veterinary professional will be able to help you ensure the diet you are feeding is meeting your dog’s needs. Sometimes a diet specially formulated for weight loss can be helpful in the short-term to kick start the weight loss process. 

Pain – 

This is a common cause of sleeping more but can be very difficult for owners to recognize. Dogs are good at hiding their pain from us and the signs are often subtle. Even when they are in considerable pain, dogs will often appear normal a lot of the time. They will not yelp, cry or show obvious limping. However, if they are sleeping more and you have also noticed changes in their general temperament, such as becoming ‘grumpy’ or withdrawn, or if they seem less keen while out on walks or appear to tire more easily during activities they previously enjoyed, then pain may be a factor. 

A clinical examination by a veterinary surgeon is needed to ascertain whether pain is present and find the cause. For example, arthritis (inflammation of the joints) is a very common cause of pain in dogs, but can be managed successfully, usually with a combination of treatments such as exercise modifications and physiotherapy, weight loss if needed, joint supplements and medication. You and your vet can devise a plan to manage this condition which works for you and your individual dog. 

Medical illnesses

Similarly to dogs who are in pain, those who have an underlying illness may show only subtle signs that something is amiss, such as sleeping a bit more than normal. There are many diseases that may cause lethargy and reduced activity levels. 

For example…

Hypothyroidism

Having an underactive thyroid is related to a slower metabolic rate, weight gain and lethargy (sometimes there are other signs such as hair loss, increased appetite and increased drinking and urinating). This condition can be diagnosed with a blood test and can be managed with medication very successfully. Once affected dogs start treatment, owners often notice a huge difference in their energy levels. 

Anaemia 

A potentially serious condition where the levels of red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body, are abnormally low. This can have various causes, but the result is a reduction in oxygen supply to all tissues of the body. If your dog is affected, this may make them less able to cope with exercise or exertion, as well as being more sleepy. 

Diabetes 

A hormonal condition which can result in your dog sleeping more and being less active. It can also be related to weight changes, changes to appetite and drinking and changes to toilet habits. 

False pregnancy 

This is a condition that affects some entire (unspayed) bitches. Alterations in hormone levels can result in changes to behaviour and energy levels as well as physical symptoms. Many owners report that their dog sleeps more when she is affected by this condition. In a lot of cases these changes are temporary and will go away by themselves, but for those dogs which are more severely affected, effective medication is available from your vet. 

In conclusion…

As well as the obvious (tiredness!), there are a range of medical conditions and hormonal imbalances which can cause your dog to sleep more than usual. It is worthwhile seeking advice from your veterinary surgeon. Mention any recent changes to your household routine, dog’s diet or exercise regime, or any other unusual signs you have noticed. Your vet may ask you to bring your dog in for an examination. Depending on the findings may suggest further tests to establish a diagnosis. Working together, you and your vet can find the cause for the change in your dog’s sleeping habits. Get them back to their usual sprightly self!

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