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Why Do Old Dogs Sleep So Much

↯ Key takeaway points

  • Dogs need sleep to improve their brain functions and reduce stress, just like humans.
  • A study showed that canines above 1.5 years old spend 10.1 hours of sleep daily, and seniors have more uninterrupted sleep during nighttime.
  • Older dogs tend to nap all day due to their less active bodies and weaker bones and muscles, so it is normal for them to sleep for 18 to 20 hours per day.
  • Senior dogs may sleep excessively due to underlying illnesses such as narcolepsy, hyperthyroidism, diabetes, or organ failure, or even boredom.
  • To help senior dogs have normal sleep, pet owners can give them a comfortable place to sleep, maintain a regular sleep schedule, provide appropriate exercises, and watch out what they feed their dogs.
A pet lover passionate about educating readers about animal health and care. Love reading studies and recent research.
Zoo and wildlife doctor in veterinary medicine passionate about animal welfare and preventive medicine.
Published on
Friday 23 December 2022
Last updated on
Friday 2 June 2023
Why Do Old Dogs Sleep So Much
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Sleep is essential for our bodies, and the same goes for our furry friends. Dogs need their rest too! Sleeping helps dogs keep their brains sharp and reduces their stress levels. If you’re concerned about your senior dog’s sleeping habits, don’t worry – changes in sleep patterns are normal for older dogs. However, if you notice excessive sleeping, it’s worth checking in with your vet to rule out any underlying health issues.

When dogs mature, their sleeping patterns also change. Sometimes, they sleep all day and wake up at odd hours during the night. Frequent sleeping can be normal and sometimes caused by underlying illnesses. Check out this article if you have a senior dog that sleeps so much.

Why Do Older Dogs Sleep So Much

The sleep patterns of dogs are related to their age. A study conducted in 2020 revealed that dogs over 1.5 years old tend to sleep for an average of 10.1 hours each day. Additionally, older dogs have longer periods of uninterrupted sleep during the night.

Another study about dogs’ sleep patterns showed that dogs between the ages of 2 and 8 years old have two peak periods of activity. These periods are typically between 8 am to 10 am and 5 pm to 11 pm during the night. Interestingly, the study found that older dogs tend to sleep more during these active periods.

Dogs share a lot in common with their owners. A 16-year-old dog, depending on their size, is similar in age to an 80 or 123-year-old human being. Just like elderly people, dogs’ bodies can become weaker, and their cognitive functions can decline.

As dogs get older, they may not have the same energy they did when they were young. Their bones and muscles can weaken, causing them to prefer sleeping to conserve energy. It is common for older dogs to rest for 18 to 20 hours per day.

How Much Should Dogs Sleep?

Puppies spend their time playing and learning new skills. They’re burnt up easily, so sleep renews their cells and promotes their development. That’s why puppies need 18 to 20 hours of sleep every day.

Adult dogs, aged 1 to 5 years old, are night sleepers. They spend 60 to 80 % of the night sleeping. Whereas during the day, they only take a few occasional naps. Hence, adult dogs only need 12 to 14 hours of sleep.

As dogs reach seniority, their bodies become less active. It’s normal for older dogs to nap all day.  In some cases, they rest for 18 to 20 hours a day. That’s a combination of short daytime naps and longer nighttime sleep.

Canines naturally spend 75% of their time sleeping.  But, if you notice them growling or biting while sleeping for more than 20 hours, then that’s not normal. That’s a symptom of REM sleep disorder that needs urgent medical care.

Signs of Sleep Problems in Older Dogs

Senior dogs need the proper care and monitoring of their health. When they have nothing to do, older dogs sleep a lot. Yet, excessive sleep has its downfalls. If you’re a pet owner, take a look at some signs of sleep problems older dogs encounter.

Sleeping in Different Places

Senior dogs can sleep all day in their favorite spots.  But, they will leave that location if they start to feel uncomfortable with it. Canines choose their sleeping place based on their needs. When they feel ill, afraid, or irritated, they will most likely choose a more secure place.

Whining or Twitching

Frequent whining or twitching accompanied by sluggish behavior in the morning is a sign of REM sleep disorder. Older dogs sleeping all day spend 10% of their dreams in REM. This behavior is dangerous because it causes violent muscle spasms that injure dogs in their sleep.

Not Curling Up

You might have noticed an old dog sleeping in a curl-up position all day. That happens when they feel cold and want to conserve body heat. In some cases, senior dogs sleep flat on their stomachs when they’re anxious. That flat position means they’re resting and can jump into action anytime.  

Staying Awake at Night

We’re used to seeing older dogs sleep so much every day. In other instances, they can have insomnia and stay awake all night. Insomnia is caused by Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome. It destroys a dog’s awareness, leading to confusion whether it’s day or night.

Not Waking Up to Stimuli or Sound

Dogs can suffer from comatose. This usually happens when old dogs sleep all day and refuse to respond or get startled by loud sounds. This condition canines with diabetes, hyperthyroidism or brain tumors are prone to this condition. 

How to Help Your Senior Dog Have a Normal Sleep

Sleep is essential for all living creatures, especially dogs. It helps with their cognition and strengthens their immune system. Sleep-deprived senior dogs can be prone to infections. Check out the following tips below on how to help senior dogs with their sleep.

Provide a Comfortable Place to Sleep

A senior dog’s sleep can get disrupted due to back pains and discomfort. Like any dog, seniors prefer a nice and quiet place to relax. If you want your old dog to sleep all day comfortably, you can get them an orthopedic dog bed

Maintain a Regular Sleeping Schedule

Older dogs usually sleep at 8 pm. So, when it’s bedtime, you can invite your dog to their crate. You can also set up pre-bedtime routines to ease their anxiety. For instance, massages and short evening walks can make an older dog sleep so much at night. 

Give Appropriate Exercises

Senior dogs also need exercises to keep their minds and bodies alert. Implement short 10 minutes exercises, so you don’t hurt your dog’s joints too much. After that, you won’t have trouble making them rest since old dogs will sleep all day when they’ve had enough fun.

Watch Out What You Feed Your Dog

A study in 2012 claimed that owners should not feed their dogs before bedtime since it increases activity levels. Late-night feeding won’t make your older dog sleep so much. Instead, it will only promote unhealthy weight gain and more energy levels to burn.

Senior dogs may have joint problems, so they’re less active in the household. Usually, an old dog that sleeps all day isn’t an issue unless that sleeping behavior is suddenly altered. Or worse, coupled with diarrhea, loss of appetite, and vomiting. When that happens, it’s best to consult a vet right away.

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