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Are There Natural Ways to Help My Dog Sleep?

Beagle dog sleeping with eyes closed

Although not as common in dogs as in humans, insomnia does affect dogs. Dogs may have problems sleeping due to separation or environmental anxiety, illness and pain, depression, and even parasites like fleas, ticks, worms, and more!

Sleep and activity patterns may be indicative of an underlying disorder that may be serious. If your dog is suffering from insomnia, consult with your veterinarian about natural sleep aids likepet CBD to help your dog sleep. In this blog, we’ll discuss how to help dogs sleep naturally.

Sleep & Resting Behaviors in Dogs

According to a study on sleep and resting behaviors in dogs, the researchers add that “The sleep cycle of most mammals, including dogs, consists of slow-wave sleep or quiet sleep, followed by REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement sleep, also called active sleep), and then wakefulness.”

The study goes on to add that “Changes in sleep architecture, that is changes in the order, latency to onset and duration of individual phases of the sleep cycle, occur in response to events experienced when awake,” via Plos One.

Thestudy explains that “Mildchronic stress in the form of unpredictable husbandry procedures has been found to decrease latency to the first REM sleep bout, increase the absolute time of REM sleep, increase the number of behavioral transitions during the REM sleep phase, and decrease sensitivity to rewards in rats indicative of negative welfare.”

The study concludes that “Others have found thatacute stress (e.g. an immobilization test) in rats results in an increase of REM sleep bouts during the sleep and wake phases compared to baseline, an increase in quiet sleep in those individuals who during baseline conditions slept least, and a decrease in quiet sleep in those individuals who, during baseline conditions, slept more than average. This implies that individual coping styles may be reflected in sleep changes following the experience of a stressful event.”

Effects of Sleep Deprivation in Dogs

The same study goes on to explain that lack of sleep in dogs is a major stressor in itself. If dogs go without the right amount of sleep, they may experience behavioral changes. These would include:

  • Psychomotor and sensorimotor deterioration
  • Disinhibition of responses to negative stimuli
  • Anxiety
  • Aggression
  • A decrease in response to rewards
  • Lower frustration tolerance
  • Lack of ability to cope with stressful stimuli

That said, research shows that lack of sleep in dogs can have negative health impacts.

Sleep disturbances elevate hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis activity during the day, leading to changes in neuroendocrine functioning (e.g. alterations in corticotrophin-releasing factor in the long term, or elevation of cortisol and adrenal corticotropic hormone levels in the short term), and strongly attenuated adrenal corticotropic hormone responses to stressors, compared to subjects who get sufficient sleep. Therefore, subjects who do not get enough sleep are less able to cope with stressful stimuli,” via Plos One.

Factors that Influence Sleep in Dogs

There are many factors that may affect your dog’s sleep like illness, moving to a new home, loss of a family pet, new family member, and even things like fireworks and loud noises. Dogs that are noise sensitive may react to thunder, fireworks, and unexpected noises by hiding, cowering, shivering, and not sleeping.

Research demonstrates that other factors that may affect your dog’s quality of sleep. “Other factors that appear to influence sleep in dogs include diet and frequency of feeding, changes in housing conditions changes in working routine, and activity levels during the day. 

Dogs who received more social interactions with humans and other dogs and spent more time walking had shorter latencies to their first sleep bout and spent more time in quiet sleep than dogs that were less active during the day. 

Furthermore, sleep patterns also correlate with age, such that older dogs tend to sleep more during the day and night, but their sleep is more fragmented (which is reflected in more, but shorter, sleep bouts), particularly throughout the day,” via Plos One.

Today, current research together highlights that sleep in dogs is sensitive to the environment, as in other human and non-human animals. Hence, individual differences in sleep patterns may reflect different degrees of adaptation and welfare. Researchers also warn pet parents to look out for lethargy in dogs. This may be due to depression.

Natural Sleep Aids for Dogs

Fortunately, there are many ways to help your furry best friend get a good night’s rest. In addition, you should always consult with your veterinarian for a check-up to see if there are any underlying health conditions.

Most times canine insomnia stems from anxiety. If you have a high-energy dog breed, and you’ve not kept up with a regular exercise schedule, this may affect your dog’s sleep patterns. Pain can also trigger off insomnia.

A good option for helping dogs that are recovering from post-operative pain is to purchase an  orthopedic dog bed for optimal musculoskeletal support. It is not uncommon for some dog breeds to be more hyperactive at night if there are unexpected noises, thunderstorms, fireworks, or family gatherings. If and when your dog suffers from insomnia, you may decide to opt for natural remedies like herbs, CBD, and pheromone diffusers to relieve anxiety.

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CBD as a Natural Sleep Aid for Dogs

Cannabidiol may be beneficial for both  depression and anxiety in dogs. While depression may be hereditary in some dog breeds with anxiety factoring in, an increase in exercise in way of longer walks trips to the dog park or dog beach may help with canine insomnia. As a natural sleep aid, CBD for pets may be a good alternative to Prozac, Zoloft, or Paxil because of the minimal side effects.

Reduces Anxiety 

CBD may be beneficial for canine depression and anxiety. A dog’s behavior is influenced by many factors including environment, genetic predisposition, physiology, and experience, and learning. Depression may be inherited to some degree with anxiety factoring in.

The neurotransmitters in a dog’s brain all play an important role in his or her temperament and behavior. Abnormal levels of hormones will also play an important role in depression, aggression, fear, and anxiety.

Depression and anxiety in dogs should be taken seriously. Dogs at shelters and those that have recently been adopted may also be prone to depression and anxiety. Examine your dog’s past history to see if anything in the past could be affecting his current behavior and sleep patterns.

Helps with Depression

If you notice that your furry best friend is suffering from the blues, and is not his usual self, it’s best to consult with your veterinarian. Although some “health” problems in dogs are closely linked to behavioral problems, your veterinarian will usually recommend that you consider a veterinary behaviorist after your dog has had a complete health check for any medical conditions. That said, here are signs to look out for if you suspect canine depression:

  • Lethargy
  • Lack of appetite
  • Inactive (not to be confused with arthritis)
  • Different sleep patterns
  • Grieving from the loss of another dog or person
  • Withdrawal

A 2010 study on the effects of CBD on depression adds that “Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-psychotomimetic compound from Cannabis sativa that induces anxiolytic- and antipsychotic-like effects in animal models. The effects of CBD may be mediated by the activation of 5-HT(1A) receptors. As 5-HT(1A) receptor activation may induce antidepressant-like effects,” via PubMed

The aim of the experiment was to “ test the hypothesis that CBD would have antidepressant-like activity in mice as assessed by the forced swimming test. We also investigated if these responses depended on the activation of 5-HT(1A) receptors and on hippocampal expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).” 

The results demonstrated that “BD (30 mg*kg (-1)) treatment reduced immobility time in the forced swimming test, as did the prototype antidepressant imipramine, without changing exploratory behavior in the open-field arena. WAY100635 pretreatment blocked CBD-induced effect in the forced swimming test.

CBD (30 mg*kg (-1)) treatment did not change hippocampal BDNF levels. CBD induces antidepressant-like effects comparable to those of imipramine. These effects of CBD were probably mediated by activation of 5-HT(1A) receptors.”

Aids with Insomnia

CBD oil is one of the 104 chemical compounds from cannabinoids found in cannabis. With no “high effect” that comes from regular marijuana, CBD has been found to be beneficial for numerous health conditions and ailments, as well as for insomnia in pets. It also has no dependency potential.

CBD comes from the hemp plant, but can also be extracted from the cannabis plant. CBD oil is the liquid that comes from the cannabis plant, with the best form of extraction being the CO2 method.

How to Calculate Your Dog’s CBD Dose?

  • Convert your dog’s weight from pounds to kilograms. ( ask your veterinarian for help)
  • There are 2.2 pounds in 1 kilogram, you’ll need to divide your dog’s weight in pounds by 2.2 to get kilograms.
  • Multiply the CBD dose by the number of your dog’s kilogram weight to get the dose in milligrams.
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How to Purchase a CBD Pet Product for Your Dog’s Insomnia?

With plenty of CBD oils geared towards pain and anxiety relief, as well as for improving your furry best friend’s health, looking for a full spectrum of phytocannabinoids with terpenes and flavonoids is relatively easy to do.

Here are some tips on how to make sure that the CBD that you’re purchasing for canine depression is a high-quality product.

  • Purchase only THC-free products

  • Opt for organic and USDA certified hemp
  • CBD treats may be more appropriate for anxiety and depression
  • CBD tinctures may be more potent and geared towards chronic illnesses or conditions
  • Purity and consistency in CBD oils are important
  • Full-spectrum combined with CBG, CBN, and CBDA all work together in benefiting pain, anxiety, reducing tumor growth, and helping with skin allergies and hot spots, and more.
  • CBD oil should be derived from non-GMO hemp and should have no contaminants, herbicides, or pesticides.
  • All CBD products that you purchase for your dog must have a Certificate of Inspection (COA) to confirm quality and purity.
  • A CBD liquid will have a faster effect than an edible which will need to be digested first.

Final Thoughts on CBD

We adore our dogs, and always want to help them! Like people, dogs may at times suffer from insomnia or stress causing insomnia. The use of CBD for pets as a natural sleep aid may be beneficial. As usual, consult with your veterinarian for the best advice.

Since there are minimal side effects from CBD, cannabidiol can be taken via capsule or tinctures, treats, and more. That said, it’s important to discuss CBD dosing with your veterinarian. Also if your dog is on medicines, see if it’s safe to add CBD oil to your pet’s food.

There are some medicines that interact badly with CBD. Ensuring that your pooch gets a good night’s rest is important for his health. Just keep in mind that a comfortable and  supportive dog bed not only relieves arthritic pain but also helps to promote sleep!

Meet The Author 

Claudia Bensimoun

Canine Specialist & Writer

Claudia Bensimoun is a freelance journalist and author, and specializes in veterinary content, and eBooks. She's a long-time feature writer for Animal Wellness magazine, Fido Friendly magazine, and the United States Dog Agility Association. In addition, Bensimoun has written for numerous pet websites, magazines, newspapers and online publications. Her interests include wildlife conservation, animal welfare, disaster/ humanitarian relief, veterinary research, and veganism.

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