It's well-known that as our canine companions grow older, they often start to slow down: taking longer naps and craving shorter walks. But, when it comes to your older dog's sleeping habits, how much is too much? Here, our Apple Valley vets explain how long you can expect your senior dog to sleep each day and when you should bring them to see a veterinarian.
You love your canine companion and, by the time they are older, the chances are that you have spent a long time caring for them, loving them and living with them. Because you know them so well, you may become a bit worried by changes that are commonly seen in dogs as they age, including a reduced need for exercise and increased hours of sleep each day.
How long do senior dogs normally sleep?
As your dog has grown up, you may have become used to their sleep needs. Most adult dogs require around 12 hours of sleep each day to stay healthy and happy. As dogs transition into seniors, this required amount starts to slowly increase. While there is always some variance between dogs (and between days for one dog), most senior dogs fall into the range of needing between 14 (at the very low end) to 20 (at the very high end) of sleep each day.
When is my dog considered to be a senior?
While there is no firm line that a dog can cross from being an adult to becoming a senior, there are some general rules that may be helpful to keep in mind when considering whether or not your dog may be considered a senior.
Your dog's senior status is generally based on their life expectancy and while this can be difficult to say with certainty, generally speaking, the larger the dog, the shorter their expected lifespan. Because of this, large or giant breeds of dog like Great Danes of St. Bernards are often considered to be seniors by the age of 5 or 6. Small to medium dogs, however, are generally not considered seniors until the age of 7 or 8.
When should I be worried about how long my dog is sleeping?
If your dog is sleeping more now that they are older, that isn't a reason to worry for their health. If your dog doesn't sleep much more than they did when they were younger, that may be normal for your dog. The same is true if you notice that your dog needs more sleep gradually over the course of a year or two.
When sleep is an indicator that there may be something wrong, is when it becomes irregular, erratic, or changes quite suddenly.
If you notice that one day your dog sleeps significantly more than they usually do, that is worth keeping track of, but shouldn't be cause for worry just yet. If you notice a single significant change in your senior dog's sleep patterns, there may be any number of causes. They may have been extra-stimulated the day before (whether mentally or physically) or they may have eaten too much and gotten very sleepy.
When a sudden change in your dog's sleep patterns (whether they are sleeping lots more or lots less) are persistent or recurring over the course of a week, that is when it's time to get in touch with your veterinarian to have your canine companion checked out.
What other symptoms should I look out for?
If your dog is showing lethargy or exhaustion and sleeping a lot quite suddenly, keep an eye out for the following symptoms as well as signs to bring your pup to see a veterinarian:
- Having accidents in the house
- Loss of appetite
- Not playing as much as they normally do
- Vocalizing pain
- Not drinking water
- Drinking a lot more water
These symptoms - as well as sudden changes in sleep patterns, are quite general symptoms. So, it's critical that you bring you dog to see your vet as soon as possible to determine what the root cause of your pup's discomfort and abnormal behavior might be.