It’s normal for a dog to sleep longer as they get older. Just like humans, elderly dogs often need more sleep to feel well-rested.
Is it worrying if your dog sleeps all day though? This depends on many factors, including whether the dog is awake at night, if their sleep habits suddenly change, how much energy they have when awake, and whether there are other symptoms of illness.
Keep in mind that sleep changes can often be the first sign of illness. So, any changes to your dog’s sleeping patterns should be assessed by a vet.
Let’s look closer at why older dogs need more sleep and what could cause them to sleep all day.
Why Do Older Dogs (Usually) Need More Sleep?
As a dog ages, they typically need more sleep. This is because elderly dogs often have more health issues that the body needs to repair during sleep, which causes the dog to feel tired and sleepy.
While every dog is different, it’s not unusual for a senior dog to sleep up to 18 hours each day. Most senior dogs get by with around 14-16 hours sleep per day, but this is still more than adolescent or adult dogs.
Unfortunately, there are no hard rules about how long dogs should sleep. Even the concept of “senior” isn’t the same for each dog, as big breeds are considered elderly sooner than small breeds. Bigger dogs also tend to sleep longer hours, possibly because there is more for the body to repair while resting.
For these reasons, try to monitor your dog’s sleeping patterns. Any changes can be an early indicator of a health problem.
Aside from how long a dog sleeps, these changes could include how deeply the dog is sleeping, when during the day they sleep, and how tired they are when awake.
Tip: Many senior dogs have some level of hearing loss. This can make it seem like they are sleeping deeper, as they don’t always wake up to loud noises.
Why Might An Older Dog Sleep All Day?
Older dogs generally need more rest than younger pups, so they are naturally asleep more during daylight hours.
This may not be anything to worry about if the dog is happy, active, and eating normally when they are awake.
There are several situations when sleeping during the day is more worrying though:
- The dog is sleeping all day but is awake at night. This could be due to a range of conditions that we’ll discuss in the next section, such as canine cognitive dysfunction, pain, or heart disease.
- The dog is sleeping for long hours during the day, but doesn’t seem to have energy when they are awake (or isn’t interested in normal activities). Again, this could be caused by many conditions, including arthritis, diabetes, or neurological disorders.
- The dog is sleeping a lot, along with other symptoms of illness, such as a loss of appetite, lethargy, drowsiness, or behaviour changes. These symptoms should always be investigated by a vet.
- There is a sudden change to the dog’s sleeping patterns. This is a common sign of pain or acute illness.
We’ll discuss potential reasons for a dog sleeping during the day in the next section. But you should always visit a vet if you notice problems with your dog’s sleep.
Why Do Some Dogs Not Sleep At Night? (Canine Insomnia)
Senior dogs are more likely to sleep all day if their night sleep is interrupted. There are many possible reasons for this, ranging from diabetes to neurological conditions.
We’ve listed some of the most common below, but you should get a vet checkup for an accurate diagnosis. Senior dogs should have regular checkups anyway, but these are particularly important when you notice changes in their behaviours or sleeping patterns.
Canine Cognitive Dysfunction
Canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD) is similar to dementia in humans. It can cause many changes to a dog’s behaviour, including making them sleep more during the day and less at night.
There are several reasons for this:
- CCD affects a dog’s circadian rhythm, which controls when they feel tired or awake. It’s common for dogs with CCD to sleep all day and become restless at night. They may also become confused about the time of day and lose their sense of routine.
- A common symptom of CCD is disorientation, which can be made worse by the hearing and sight loss many senior dogs experience. This can cause the dog to wake up in the dark and become confused about where they are.
- Dogs with CCD also tend to become more anxious. Anxiety can affect their sleep quality, particularly if the dog struggles to be left alone at night.
It can be hard to diagnose CCD, as there’s no test or scan for it. Instead, the condition is often diagnosed once other possibilities have been excluded.
You can help your vet by taking note of other changes in behaviour, however small or insignificant they might seem. Examples of other symptoms to watch out for include:
- Difficulty navigating around the house
- Changes to behaviour, including barking or howling more at night
- Stops greeting family members (or greets them less enthusiastically)
- Stops recognising familiar humans
- Lack of interest in their normal activities
- Toileting accidents
Visiting a vet is vital if you notice these symptoms or other changes to your dog’s behaviour.
Many dog owners assume these changes are part of their dog’s ageing process, but that’s not always the case. Treatments and medication can improve a senior dog’s quality of life and slow the progression of CCD.
If your dog has CCD, there is an excellent book called “Remember Me?” by Eileen Anderson. In the book, Eileen discusses how to care for your dog and give them the best possible senior years.
A dog in pain will often become restless and have difficulty sleeping. The pain may also worsen at night when it’s colder and the dog is lying down for longer.
Symptoms of pain at night often mimic anxiety. Examples include panting, lip licking, tail held downward, and whimpering.
Pain could be caused by various health problems, ranging from muscle strain to cancer. Many senior dogs also suffer from arthritis, which can cause the joints to stiffen up during sleep.
Always visit a vet if you think your dog might be in pain. Once your vet diagnoses the problem, they’ll help your dog feel more comfortable and improve their sleep quality.
It’s fun to see a dog wag their tail or try to run during an enjoyable dream. However, dogs can also have nightmares – and these can affect their nightly sleep if they happen regularly. They can also cause the dog to become anxious and scared at night.
What causes canine nightmares though? It’s thought that a dog’s nightmares are probably based on previous experiences. That’s why nightmares are more common in rescue dogs with trauma.
While it’s hard to stop nightmares, a comfortable and supportive bed may improve your dog’s sleep quality. Some dogs also enjoy sleeping in a “den”, such as a partially covered crate, as it makes them feel more secure. A calming diffuser can sometimes help too.
Related Article: Do Dogs Sleep Better In The Dark?
Other Reasons for A Dog Not Sleeping At Night
There are many other reasons why a dog might not sleep at night. Here are a few of the most common examples:
- Heart disease or failure. Heart disease can cause a dog to feel anxious during the night. They might pace around the house or find it difficult to sleep, which leads to sleeping longer during the day. As the disease progresses, fluid in the lungs can cause the dog to start sleeping while sitting.
- Neurological conditions that cause seizures. Many health conditions can cause seizures, including brain trauma, tumours, and liver disease. Seizures are often suppressed during the day, but are more likely to happen at night. This can make it difficult for the dog to get high-quality sleep, leading to napping more during the day.
- Environmental changes. Changes to a dog’s environment can cause stress and anxiety, which may interrupt sleep. Examples include a new family member, moving house, or even minor changes such as a different dog bed. New noises outdoors can also cause a dog to become anxious.
- Routine changes. Changes to a dog’s routine can affect their sleeping habits. Reduced physical and mental stimulation may also make it more difficult for a dog to sleep at night.
How to Improve Your Senior Dog’s Sleep Quality
If you notice changes to your dog’s sleeping habits that last more than 1-2 days, the first step is to contact your vet.
You should also take your dog for a vet checkup if there are other symptoms of illness. These could include toilet accidents, coughing, vomiting, lethargy, and a lack of enthusiasm for normal activities.
Aside from veterinary treatments, here are some tips for improving your senior dog’s sleep quality:
- Adaptil collars can reduce anxiety and stress at night. Anti-anxiety diffusers can have a similar effect.
- Get an orthopedic bed that supports the dog’s joints (this is particularly important for dogs with arthritis or other joint conditions).
- Place the dog’s bed where they are relaxed and in an area that’s easy to access. Avoid placing the bed upstairs.
- Keep the house comfortably warm, especially if your dog suffers from arthritis.
- Maintain a consistent routine when it comes to walks, food, and sleep.
- Provide plenty of mental stimulation throughout the day (this is essential when you need to reduce your senior dog’s physical exercise).
- Never wake your dog up when they are sleeping, as this can make it hard for them to relax.
- Contact a canine behaviourist if your dog is anxious about certain noises. They will help you to implement a desensitisation program using positive techniques.
Older dogs need more sleep than when they were young. This can cause them to sleep more during the day.
However, sleeping all day can sometimes indicate a medical condition. You should contact a vet if you notice any changes to your pet’s sleeping patterns.
Do you have any questions about why an older dog might sleep all day? Please let us know in the comments below.