Dog sleeping

Help your dog relax when it's bedtime with these home remedies.

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Here are 5 home remedies to help your dog fall asleep

By Nick Whittle Author

Updated on the

Although canine insomnia is not common, when it happens it can make your life and your dog’s life difficult. Take a moment to learn about some simple home remedies recommended by vets and owners to help your dog sleep.

Your dog’s inability to fall asleep could be due to things such as illness, pain, stress or old age, but to find the real cause can take some time.

It’s important to work with your vet to get to the bottom of it, so that both you and your dog can have a restful night’s sleep.

What will stop your dog falling asleep?

If your otherwise healthy dog isn’t suffering from one of the health problems outlined below, the reason for her not being able to fall asleep might be related to anxiety or stress. Unfortunately, the majority of a dog’s stressing is related to its human counterpart.

You may be experiencing relationship problems or struggling at work, or you may even be sick. The behaviour you manifest will bring about doggy stress.

Dogs are also incredibly sensitive to changes of weather, routine and their living quarters, meeting new people and new dogs, and loud or sudden noises. Just one of these factors can trigger anxiety and insomnia. Other causes may be:

Lack of exercise

Dogs love to run and play; they also love to interact with others. If for whatever reason they are denied these valuable pastimes, they may not be able to sleep due to their unspent energy. Days which are demanding both physically and mentally should sufficiently wear out a healthy dog.

Physical Problems

Some vets suggest a dog may not be able to sleep because she is poorly. The following are possible culprits of canine insomnia:

A thorough investigation of your dog’s health may be called for. Using blood and urine tests your vet will be able to determine whether your dog is suffering from one of these conditions.

Intracranial disease

With all other diseases and conditions ruled out you may need to consider the possibility that your dog has some sort of brain injury, encephalopathy or tumorous growth. A vet would be able to rule out such conditions by examining your dog with a CT scanner.

Old age

An elderly dog is more likely to be restless at night than a younger dog. Old dogs are prone to debilitating conditions such as arthritis and eye problems. It’s often the case that when a dog begins to lose their sight, the first sight that goes is ability to see in low light. This can make night times a very anxious time.

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction otherwise known as dog dementia should also be considered as a cause of an old dog’s insomnia. This causes your dog to feel confused, particularly when it comes to times of day and night.

Home remedies to help your dog fall asleep

Until the causes of your dog's insomnia are determined, there is no harm in trying to help your dog to sleep. These different sleep remedies are recommended, but they are not solutions to the underlying problems.

Here are five home remedies suggested by pet owners and vets:

1. Herbs

Products that are premixed with anti-anxiety herbs such as Bach flower, passionflower and valerian are said to be effective remedies of sleeplessness. They are easy to administer (you would usually add one or two drops of the remedy to your dog’s water or food). Be sure to discuss the use of herbal therapies with your veterinarian as some herbs interact with other medications and can worsen health conditions.

2. Massage

Massaging your dog gently, which can also include stroking and brushing with soft brushes, stimulates the release of endorphins. These are natural relaxants which can make your dog feel relaxed and sleepy. They also play a role in pain relief.

3. Exercise

Plenty of exercise is good for a dog and not just because it burns off their excess energy. Dogs with stiff joints gain the benefit of loosening up, and gentle, controlled exercise can reduce the pain of conditions such as arthritis. In addition to this, exercise helps reduce anxiety, which can lead to better relaxation for your dog.

4. Orthopaedic bed

The bed your dog sleeps on should be big enough, comfortable and padded. For dogs with arthritis, orthopaedic beds are good because they are designed to support a dog's weight. Where you put her bed is also important: a bed that is too near to draughts or heat sources will cause your dog to lose sleep.

5. Dog appeasing pheromone

Dog appeasing pheromone (DAP) can be bought in the form of a spray, collar or room diffuser. It helps your dog feel relaxed and comforted at times of stress. It is particularly good for intense evenings and nights, such as those with thunderstorms or fireworks.

What is a good sedative for dogs?

Dogs should never be medicated to encourage them to go to sleep. The use of medications without veterinary prescription can cause significant health consequences to your dog. If you are concerned about sleeping issues, it is a good idea to contact your veterinarian to explore what could be the underlying problem.

Canine insomnia can be difficult to cope with, but these remedies may just make things a little easier. Try holistic remedies for a week or so and if there is no improvement in your dogs’ sleeping take her to the local vet for a check-up. At least by doing so you should be able to get the bottom of what is causing her insomnia.

Reviewed by Dr Jo de Klerk, BVetMed (Hons) MScTAH MRCVS 
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