If you care for an elderly, injured or special needs pet, you've come to the right place!
My close friend has a 17 yr old poodle that will not sleep more than 2 or 3 hours a night. He gets up barking, crying. he has been to the vet and all say he is surprisingly healthy for his age. She has tried a # of holistic treatments and nothing is working and she is beside herself, with no sleep
I would suggest getting an opinion from another vet. Obviously, something is going on. It sounds like the dog is either in pain or insecure. How long has this been going on? Is the dog handicapped in any way? Sometimes handicapped pets do this when their owners are out of their range of sight, I think because they become aware of their helplessness without us. Is she allowing the dog to sleep in the same room as her to provide some reassurance? She might try the trick used for puppies, and give the dog an article of clothing with her scent on it. I guess I should have asked if the dog cries during the day or acts as if it's in pain. A good work-up at a Veterinary school might provide some answers.
Is the dog sleeping in the day and staying up all night? Cody started doing that. He would sleep all day and pace around all night.
A very common problem in older dogs is cognitive dysfunction syndrome (basically the canine equivalent to Alzheimer's). It can cause this change in sleep habits as well as disorientation, loss of housebreaking, the animal acting "stuck" in corners when they really are not. There are other symptoms as well. Cody had all of these signs and more, too. There is a medication called Anipryl (Selegiline) to try to help this. However, the medication is VERY expensive and doesn't have a really great success rate. I tried Cody on it for about 3 months and it never helped. However, Cody may have been have been having some of these signs due to the onset of his brain tumor as well as cognitive dysfunction syndrome.
If the dog is having the sleeping problems due to CDS, another option is Hill's prescription B/D (brain diet) which has sometimes helped some of these. That is only available through a veterinarian upon his/her prescription. It has antioxidants to help with free radicals, etc. I also tried Cody on B/D, which is what he ate up till the end. It did not help him, but that is because he had brain cancer.
Anyway, in short, the lack of sleeping could be caused by a physical or mental problem. After physical problems are ruled out, then I would consider if it could be a mental problem such as the dementia older dogs frequently get.
Cody's FOREVER proud Mom
Here are some wild guesses at what might be wrong (bear in mind that I am not a vet):
Perhaps there is some minor pain that does not bother the dog during the day, but becomes more annoying at night, especially after not moving for a while. I have some minor aches and pains that come and go, that don't bother me too much during the day, but can prevent me from getting to sleep or wake me up, unless I take a pain reliever.
It may be something as simple as having a body part "go to sleep". You know, the feeling of numbness, when you have inadvertently cut off circulation to an arm or leg by putting weight on it for a while, followed by tingling when sensation returns. My 21-year-old cat frequently has difficulty moving one hind leg when she first wakes up and shakes the whole leg. I have found that a little gentle message helps speed up the restoration of circulation and normal function.
Perhaps the dog has a form of doggie Alzheimer's. I believe I have seen something like this in my 21-year-old cat, similar to the symptoms my 91-year-old grandfather had. She wakes up and meows, as if she is disoriented and does not know where she is. As soon as I go to her and pet her and she sees where she is, then she settles down. It can be as simple as falling asleep on the couch and waking up facing the back of the couch, instead of where she can see the room. She generally moves around within a small area. If I carry her around with me and go too far from the living room for too long, she gets upset, like she thinks I am getting us lost, and won't be able to find our way back. I moved a litter box a few feet once. She kept going to the spot where it used to be and looking. I finally figured she was either unable to find the new one or unwilling to go in anything but the same old familiar location, so I put it back, and she used it immediately. I have learned not to change the location of anything or vary the routine even slightly and she seems perfectly happy.
Perhaps the dog has obstructive sleep apnea and wakes up gasping for air. I have that. It can be frightening enough when you know what it is. Imagine if it happens to a dog and they don't understand why. It can make you dread going back to sleep if you know you are going to stop breathing while you sleep and wake up gasping for air again. For people, sleeping on your side helps and you can put something behind your back to keep you from rolling over. I don't know if that helps for dogs.
Does the dog have overactive bladder and wake up whining for someone to let him out so he can go? Does he have a doggie door to the outdoors or some paper he is trained to pee on available?
Maybe the dog is having nightmares.
It could be some combination of problems.
If the dog does not sleep right next to the owner or with another dog, in addition to the idea of putting a piece of clothing with the owner's scent on it in the dog bed, you can also try putting a ticking clock or watch, wrapped inside something soft, like a towel, in the bed. I have been told that it simulates the ticking heart of a companion.
I would suggest that your friend watch her poodle sleep at night and see if there's something happening in the dream state that is causing either anxiety or disorientation. If the poodle has arthritis somewhere, it could be that lying in a certain position is causing muscle spasms. Usually a dog will not bark or cry unless the pain is acute.
Is she certain that the barking is not occuring during sleep? Naya, my almost-17 girl, sometimes barks in her sleep, as well as making a sound kind of like a whining bark, a squeaky "mrph" sound.
After the dog wakes up, does it go right back to sleep or does it stay up the rest of the night?
Sometimes it seems like Naya will sleep for an hour and then want to get up and pace, and will do this several times in the night, which is very frustrating for her dog-ma, because I keep thinking she needs to go outside.
Since she has severe arthritis in her spine and hips, she can't lie down normally. If she does, it's sort of a slow sinking motion and her legs are stretched in front and underneath like a Barbie doll legs would be if you turned them up. When I'm at home I don't let her lie down on her own, I lift her up and sort of flip her to her side and drop her onto her bed. This way her legs are in a more natural position. When she gets back up, and I lie her down again, I put her on the other side. She weighs about 48 lbs these days, so it's no easy task, but "practice makes perfect".
If your friend's dog is vison-impaired due to age, cataracts, whatever, using a night light near the dog's bed might help. It could very well be that it's waking up in the dark of night and being scared because it can't see where it is in the dark. When I wake up, I can't taste or smell anything for a few minutes, and I think this could be true of a lot of dogs, so expecting one that old to smell where it is right away might be asking too much.
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