Eek—Is My Dog Sleeping Too Much?
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A good night’s sleep is essential self-care for people and animals. For canines, sleep keeps their brains healthy and their emotions stable. Studies say healthy adult dogs normally sleep about 10 hours per day. Solid snoozes are especially important for puppies whose bones, muscles and nervous systems are still growing. In fact, puppies and senior dogs usually need a few more hours of sleep over the course of a 24-hour period than adult pups. But what if all your dog does is sleep? According to Dr. Sarah Wooten, DVM and veterinary expert for Pumpkin Pet Insurance, your dog is sleeping too much if they’re zonked out for more than 18 hours a day. Of course, this can vary.

Is my dog sleeping too much?

Dr. Wooten says she would be worried if a healthy adult dog slept more than 18 hours per day, every day. As mentioned, observational studies have shown adult dogs at least 12 months old sleep an average of 10 hours per day. Dr. Wooten says in her experience, “A normal, healthy adult dog sleeps between 12 and 14 hours per day.” Normal means your dog hasn’t been diagnosed with any sleep disorders or other severe health conditions that could impact internal systems. For instance, an adult dog with heartworm may be more lethargic than one without it.

Senior dogs and puppies will both sleep way more than adult dogs. “Very old dogs will sleep 14 to 18 hours,” says Dr. Wooten. A North Carolina State University Study released in 2020 found older dogs were less active than adult dogs during peak activity hours. They get worn out more easily, even if they remain active well into their teens. When it comes to senior dogs, it’s very important to monitor their routines and sleep schedules. Any changes (aka, all of a sudden sleeping way more than normal) could indicate an underlying health issue.

Puppies, it seems, can sleep all they want. Dr. Wooten says puppies typically get between 15 and 20 hours of sleep a day, but don’t freak out if that number creeps up even higher. “I’m not worried unless they are failing to thrive, are not rousable or have other signs of sickness. If they are growing normally and aren’t otherwise sick, let them sleep,” she says.

What causes dogs to sleep more than usual?

Dr. Wooten says there are several factors that could up your dog’s sleep needs. Several of these actually revolve around your dog’s mental health. Dogs who are stressed out may need more sleep (or might want to sleep more). Stressful activities like visits to the vet, being boarded at a kennel and participating in strenuous exercise can wear a dog out. Did you take your pup to visit pals at the dog park for the first time in a long time? Bank on a nap when you get home.

There are also environmental factors that would cause a dog to sleep more. Hot weather, especially for short-nosed breeds like Pugs and Bulldogs, could dramatically increase how often your dog sleeps. Recent additions to the family—or even houseguests!—may mean an increase in activity, leading your dog to need more time to recharge his batteries.

Dogs, like people, tend to sleep more if they are depressed. Excessive sleep, extreme sluggishness and disinterest in favorite activities are all signs your dog might be feeling blue! Canines can develop depression and anxiety after traumatic events like scary storms, the loss of a family member or isolation.

Aging, dogs may develop strange sleep habits due to the onset of dementia or the loss of sight and sound. If a senior dog seems to be sleeping a lot despite an active household operating around him, it could be nothing more than hearing loss. However, an old pup wandering around at night who can’t sleep could be experiencing early signs of doggy dementia.

Finally, expect your pup to take a few extra naps after a surgery or when recovering from an illness. Just like people, sleep helps canines bounce back.  

When should I be worried about my dog’s sleep?

When a traditionally healthy, adult pup sleeps more than 18 hours, it’s time to worry. Before calling your vet, which you should definitely do, look for additional clues that may help determine what’s going on with your dog. Things like decreased appetites, dry coats, low energy and increased aggression are noteworthy symptoms. It’s possible something other than sleepiness is plaguing your pup. The more clues, the better! Even if nothing has changed in your dog’s life or environment, yet there’s a sudden shift in their sleep habits, you should still see your vet.

Alternatively, a dog who isn’t sleeping at all or shows signs of sleep deprivation could also be ill. Canines with chronic joint pain and arthritis might not be able to find a comfortable position for good sleep. The American Kennel Club says a dog who regularly falls asleep sitting up or refuses to lay down to sleep could be suffering from a heart condition that leads to fluid in their lungs. 

When in doubt, call your vet! You'll be able to rest well knowing what’s going on with their sleep, and your dog can go back to dreaming about whatever it is dogs dream about.

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