Does your dog ever get up and start walking around in the middle of the night? Do they seem disoriented or like they’re in a trance-like state? Whatever happened to that furry friend who used to sleep throughout the night? If so, your dog may be sleepwalking. Now, most of us have heard of sleeping disorders in humans (such as night terrors, sleep deprivation, jerky movements, and obstructive sleep apnea – to name a few), but did you know that animals can sleepwalk, too?
That’s right— young dogs and senior dogs are just as susceptible to sleep disorders as we are. In fact, according to a recent study, as many as 18% of dogs suffer from sleep disorders like insomnia and sleepwalking. So, what causes these types of sleep disturbances? And is there anything we can do to help our furry friends get a good night’s sleep? Keep in mind, sleepwalking episode in dogs is relatively rare. As in most other sleep problems for that matter (though many dogs may have a bad dream every so often). If your dog does sleepwalk, there’s no need to worry; it’s usually harmless and doesn’t indicate any underlying health problems.
What is Sleepwalking?
Sleepwalking, or somnambulism, as it is also known, is a parasomnia—a type of sleep disorder that results in abnormal behavior during slumber. People (and animals) who sleepwalk often do so because they’re not getting enough deep sleep. Parasomnias can be triggered by stress, lack of sleep, sleep medication (or other types of medication), and other factors.
In humans, typical behaviors of sleepwalking usually involve walking around in a trance-like state. People who are sleepwalking often have their eyes open but don’t appear to be fully awake; they may have a blank stare and be unresponsive to their surroundings. People who are sleepwalking may also engage in activities such as cooking or cleaning, or they may attempt to leave the house. The appropriate treatment during an episode is usually to lead the person back to bed since they are currently stuck in a stage of sleep that can cause disorientation should they be woken up. Some people wake up on their own with no recollection of their episode (common with such behaviors).
Dogs who exhibit canine sleepwalkers behavior usually just pace back and forth—you’re unlikely to find your dog making a sandwich in the middle of the night! However, like human sleepwalkers, dogs who are afflicted with this disorder may seem dazed and out of it. They may not respond to their owner’s calls or attempts to get their attention.
Most dog sleepwalking episodes are brief and benign; however, some can last for longer periods of time or result in destructive behaviors. If your dog is destroying items or harming themselves during a somnambulism episode, it’s important to seek professional help from a veterinarian or certified animal behaviorist.
Most Common Causes of Sleepwalking in Dogs?
Dogs can experience sleep disorders, too, and some of them look eerily similar to human sleep disorders. Canine somnambulism is one such condition; it’s characterized by dogs appearing to be awake and moving around despite being asleep. Just like with human sleepwalkers, dog sleepwalkers often don’t remember their episodes when they wake up.
There are two main types of sleepwalking in dogs: REM-related and non-REM-related. REM-related sleepwalking is caused by an interruption in the dog’s normal sleep cycle. There are a number of factors that can contribute to sleep disorders in dogs, including stress, anxiety, boredom, pain, and even changes in the environment or routine. For example, if your dog is used to sleeping in your bed, under the covers with you, but you start making them sleep in their crate, that change in routine could cause them to experience insomnia or sleepwalking. Non-REM-related sleepwalking is less common and is usually the result of neurological disorders, neurological conditions, or injuries. Some experts also theorize that sleepwalking in dogs can also be due to age with cognitive decline, canine mental illnesses, and other medical problems.
Remember, when you have older dogs, a dog’s brain can start to develop a medical issue. Such issues could include cognitive disorders, violent behaviors, strange behaviors, and others that can inhibit brain function. Any pet owners with older dogs showing any clinical signs of cognitive dysfunction should be taken to a vet for a neurological examination to ensure a happy, healthy dog.
Symptoms of Sleepwalking in Dogs
The most obvious symptom of sleepwalking in dogs is—you guessed it—Walking while asleep! However, there are other symptoms you may notice if your dog is sleepwalking, including:
- Yawning or excessive licking
- Glazed eyes
- Uncoordinated movement
- Dilated pupils
- Heavy panting
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
If your dog is exhibiting any of these symptoms, it’s best to consult your veterinarian to rule out any underlying health problems.
Treatment Options for Sleepwalking in Dogs
There’s no need to treat sleepwalking unless it’s causing your dog distress or interfering with its quality of life. If that’s the case, your veterinarian may recommend behavior modification techniques or medication to help your dog relax and sleep through the night without interruptions. In most cases, however, treatment isn’t necessary; most dogs outgrow their tendency to sleepwalk as they mature.
Should I Be Worried if My Dog Sleepwalks?
Generally speaking, no—somnambulism isn’t harmful to dogs and usually doesn’t indicate any underlying health problems. However, if your dog seems overly tired during the day or if episodes of somnambulism are accompanied by other abnormal behaviors (such as urinating indoors), it’s best to take him to the vet for a checkup. In rare cases, somnambulism can be indicative of a more serious condition such as epilepsy, so it’s always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to your dog’s health.
Can I Do Anything to Help My Dog Sleep Better?
Yes! If your dog does sleepwalk, don’t worry—there’s no need to call the vet just yet. Most episodes are benign and pose no threat to your pup’s health or safety. However, if you’re worried about your dog harming himself, you can take some precautions to keep him safe. For example, you might want to put up gates to block off any stairs in your home or remove any sharp objects from his reach. If your dog typically sleeps in a crate, you might want to consider letting him sleep in an open area instead so that he can move around more freely if he does start sleepwalking. And finally, if you think your dog’s sleepwalking might be caused by an underlying health condition, please make an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible.
Also, make sure they have a comfortable place to sleep with plenty of blankets or pillows. You may also want to consider using a white noise machine to help them relax. Finally, stick to a consistent bedtime routine and avoid making any major changes to their routine or environment. By following these simple tips, you can help your dog get the restful night’s sleep they deserve!
Dogs are just as susceptible to sleep disorders as humans are—but there’s no need to panic! Although it’s relatively rare, some dogs do sleepwalk. The good news is that it’s usually harmless and doesn’t indicate any underlying health problems. If your dog is exhibiting signs of sleepwalking, consult your veterinarian to rule out any potential causes and determine whether treatment is necessary. In most cases, however, treatment isn’t needed; most dogs outgrow their tendency to sleepwalk as they get older. There are plenty of things you can do to help your furry friend get a good night’s rest. Just remember to stick to a consistent routine and make sure their sleeping area is comfortable and relaxing.