It mainly affects older dogs and can be treated with medication
If you’ve ever found your dog straying around your house in the middle of the night, or noticed that he hasn’t seemed to sleep through the night lately, don’t rule out that your pet is suffering from insomnia. Because, while it sounds a bit strange, pets can also have a hard time falling asleep. “It’s not a common disorder, but there are cases,” said María Luisa Fernández Miguel, president of the Tenerife Veterinary School and spokesperson for the small animals section of the Spanish Collegiate Veterinary Organization. (OCV).
Dogs, for example, adapt well to herd habits and often have no difficulty adjusting to the schedules of the family they live with. However, their sleep patterns change over the years, and in some cases, they can develop illnesses similar to senile dementia found in humans, which includes, among other symptoms, episodes of insomnia. This is called cognitive dysfunction syndrome and it affects older dogs. “When they’re older, it’s more common for them to have higher nighttime activity and wake up multiple times during the night. Also, they do things that don’t really make sense: they wander the house, they go in circles, etc. Living with an animal with this type of dysfunction is complicated because it breaks the family’s sleep routine. It is important to be aware of this and to adapt to the new rhythm of the animal, ”said María Luisa Fernández, also in charge of coordinating the rescue of animals on the island of La Palma following the eruption of the volcano. Cumbre Vieja.
Although there is no cure for this syndrome, there are treatments that help alleviate the symptoms. “Usually, prescribed medications help blood flow to the brain. Cognitive dysfunction is linked to its proper functioning as an organ, which means that if the blood flow can be improved, the dog will be able to sleep better, ”explained the OCV.
Another cause that could lead to “sporadic episodes” of insomnia in pets is a diet low in nutrients, overeating, or a “more difficult to digest” diet. External stimuli, such as noise, strong lights, or smells, can also affect animal rest. And that’s without forgetting the health problems. “Insomnia in animals does not have a psychological component like it does in humans. Let’s say they don’t care, that’s why if they have a bad night, it’s usually attributed to a one-off disease or pain, ”said María Luisa Fernández.
How do you know if an animal is not sleeping well? The signs are “different and variable”. This ranges from changes in behavior (fatigue, loss of interest in daily activities …), moods (irritability, lack of energy …), yelling or meowing to physical or nervous appearance. “.
Dogs need 10-14 hours of sleep, while cats need 12-16 hours.
Pets, just like humans, also need a certain number of hours of sleep to wake up feeling well rested and in a good mood. According to vets, dogs sleep between 10 and 2 p.m. (mostly at night), while cats are more sleepy and need 12 to 16 hours (they recover most of their energy during the day). Another factor that affects animal sleep is ambient temperature. Cats and dogs will sleep a lot more on hot days and be more active at night when temperatures drop. Very cold or humid places can also cause one-off episodes of insomnia in animals. And the place where they sleep is important (it should not be uncomfortable, not near drafts …).
However, sleep problems should not be confused with the sleep patterns of some animals. Cats, hamsters and ferrets are crepuscular animals and are active after dark. “It’s not uncommon for a cat to sleep halfway during the day and then jump around the house at night. This nocturnal activity has nothing to do with insomnia or sleep disturbances, it’s just their nature, ”she said.
The problem is, it’s not always easy to adjust to their habits, like with hamsters. “Children usually handle hamsters during the day to play with them and the animal barely reacts. They just want to sleep. But when night falls, they take their wheel and don’t stop. They can be loud for hours.
One of the tips vets give to make sure pets aren’t having trouble sleeping is to tire them out before going to bed. “A dog who hasn’t really been out all day will want to run and express himself at night. Even if for us it is a nuisance because we do not always have the time or the energy, it is recommended to take your dog for a long walk at 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. What they need is time for them as close to nightfall as possible. As for cats, you can play with them “for a long time” so that they get tired: make them run in the corridors, throw balls at them, point lasers at the wall …