Neurologists and experts in canine behaviour say that there are no conclusive studies on sleepwalking in dogs. However, people and dogs have similar sleep cycles, and it is not ruled out that there are sleepwalking dogs, as this article analyzes. The causes and consequences of sleep problems in dogs are also exposed.
Sleepwalking is a sleep disorder that is characterized by the fact that the dog has a physical activity during rest, similar to what he would do while awake.
A sleepwalker would maintain his motor activity during sleep, such as walking asleep, running, jumping, crying or barking. Sometimes, these movements that are carried out unconsciously cause sleep interruptions, which in general do not affect the health of the dog. Sleep disturbances in dogs do not have to affect the quality of life of the animal.
The conclusive studies on sleepwalking in dogs do not exist, but there is evidence of dogs that suffer from sleep disorders and that have an intense motor activity during their deep sleep or REM phase (rapid eye movement or rapid eye movement).
A sleeping dog may have movements in its paws, similar to when walking or running (pedalling), growling, barking, getting up, and even walking.
However, this motor activity during sleep does not affect its health, says Javier Miner, veterinarian, and neurologist. This is because, in general, this type of sleep disturbance does not affect the quality of life of the dog.
Sleep disorders in dogs
Sleepwalking in dogs lacks documentation, and therefore it remains to be demonstrated its genetic component or other possible causes. However, the dog can suffer from sleep disorders, such as not sleeping at night or waking up often due.
Some changes and environmental factors explain these problems: a move or the arrival of a new family member home, such as a baby or another dog. These situations can alter and stress the animal, which will result in the loss of the quality of their sleep.
Sleep problems in dogs, causes
The lack of documentation and studies on the presumed sleepwalking of some dogs does not prevent some veterinary neurology specialists from believing that there are sleepwalking dogs.
Older dogs tend to suffer more sleep disturbances. The causes of the alleged sleepwalking in dogs are not determined. But the fact that certain mental illnesses, such as senile dementia, favour these sleep disorders.
In the clinic of Animal Psychiatry of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of the Complutense University of Madrid, they have studied the rest problems of the older dogs. According to its head, ” about 20% of dogs diagnosed with senile dementia suffer from sleep disorders, such as walking aimlessly while they sleep.”
Other causes of suffering from sleep disorders may include brain tumours, encephalitis and other mental disorders.
Consequences for dog health
A sleepwalking dog that moves and walks during sleep is not aware of the dangers to which it is exposed: falls or blows can take place when a sleeping dog moves without control. However, the dog’s sleep quality is not disturbingly disturbed by these episodes of unconscious physical activity during sleep because the animal is asleep deeply when they occur.
Prevention and treatment of canine sleep problems
The prevention and treatment of the ailments that can cause sleep disorders in the dog is the best way to prevent the occurrence of rest interruptions.
Treatments with anxiolytics are applied or, in the case of elderly dogs with senility problems, specific medications are prescribed, as appropriate.
Sleep disturbances in dogs are usually the consequence of other factors, such as stress, mental illness, or brain tumours, but not vice versa. Therefore, if these circumstances are treated and resolved, the sleep disturbance will disappear.