By Karen A. Soukiasian
You may be surprised to learn dogs sometimes have trouble sleeping.
Puppies have been comforted at night by the company of their litter mates and mother. Now they are alone and may have trouble sleeping.
Overweight dogs can be prone to sleep apnea, a condition where they stop breathing while they sleep. That can cause them to wake in a panic and it is a serious condition so you should check with your veterinarian.
Senior dogs may be in pain, due to health issues such as muscle aches, joint problems or arthritis. Bladder control for puppies and senior dogs sometimes makes it impossible for them to make it through the night without a “pit stop.”
Fleas or skin conditions that cause never-ending itching also can keep any dog awake.
With normally healthy dogs that have survived the dreaded puppy stage, they may occasionally experience insomnia, but it should not be a common occurrence.
The most common cause of canine insomnia is pent-up energy and inadequate exercise. Save your breath! Don’t even say it! A fenced-in backyard is not exercise!
Here are a few suggestions that may help your dog sleep through the night. Experiment with them to find the ones that work best for you and your pet.
Exercise! Exercise! Exercise! Giving your dog lots of exercise a few hours before bedtime is helpful. If you do it immediately before bedtime, they may still be “wired.” A trip to the dog park or a long walk together sometimes is just enough to take the edge off.
Pick up the water! If your dog is a heavy drinker, leave some water… but they don’t need a full bowl.
Ice cubes. Fill their water bowl with ice cubes. That way they have something to do; plus it gives them enough water to stay hydrated, without filling their bladder.
Make “last call” as late as possible. The mission is to go out, tend to business, come inside and go to bed. Do not get snookered into playing!
Use the dog’s crate. If your dog is a night owl, crate or confine her. Not having access to the entire house and being limited to a crate or confined space with a soft comfortable bed, often is enough to help them chill out for the night.
Make going into the crate or area something they look forward to. With a smile say “Bedtime!” and toss a treat or toy where you want them to go.
Praise them once they are in their crate or confined area. Tell them “Good night” and then leave them alone. You don’t want them to think they are being punished, but you do want to establish a routine.
Get them on a schedule! Even if you are a night owl, get your dog on a scheduled bedtime.
If you are up late at night, don’t be surprised if your dog wants to join you. Remember, being with you is the highpoint of their life.
Are they hungry? You know what it’s like going to bed with your belly growling. You toss, you turn, next thing you know; there you are, staring into the refrigerator at 2 a.m. with Fido at your side! An empty belly can keep your dog up, too. You may be feeding them too early or not enough. See if going to bed with a little something in their tummy helps.
Leave a radio on. There are dogs that just cannot cope with too much quiet. It raises their anxiety. Leave a radio on low, preferably on a talk show or weather channel, rather than music. The sound of voices may comfort them.
Lights on or lights off? It depends. Some puppies and dogs prefer a night-light. They find it comforting. With others, it just keeps them awake and busy. For them, make the house dark and quiet.
Too hot or too cold? Make the room where your pet is sleeping comfortable for them.
Create a special spot. Get your puppy or dog, their own comfy bed. Don’t have your dog sleep with you on your bed or in your room. Close your bedroom door, if you don’t confine your dog at night.
Bathe them! Fleas, fleabites and itchy skin conditions can keep your pet wake at night. Make sure they are flea free. Also, speak to your veterinarian about something to help your dog’s itchy skin condition.
Massage them! A good massage will knock most dogs off their feet for hours!
For senior dogs with aches and pains, a buffered aspirin; dosage approximately a quarter of a 325 milligram tablet per 10 pounds, may help relax your dog enough to get a good night’s sleep. One dose in the morning and one in the evening may make your pet much happier and more comfortable. If their problem is more serious, your veterinarian may prescribe something stronger to help them relax.
Bottom line: Normally, when a dog is comfortable, their belly isn’t growling at them, their bowels and bladder have been emptied, they have a comfortable place to rest and they are tired, they will go to sleep. Nightie-night! Sleep tight!
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