We read a lot about how a dog’s daytime activities, such as repetitive movements or activities can have a negative impact on their musculoskeletal, as well as their overall health.
What about a dog’s nocturnal activities and how important is it to consider if your dog is getting enough ‘quality’ sleep?
Dogs appear to sleep so much, in fact they generally sleep for 12-14 hours a day, but this may not be ‘quality’ sleep. Quality sleep is quantified by a dog being able to go through the different sleep phases but getting sufficient REM sleep (rapid eye movement) is critical. Studies have shown that this is when there is most brain activity but also when the body properly rests and recuperates. So when we see our dogs ‘dreaming’ it could be assumed that they are in a REM sleep. When they are just lying still with their eyes shut, this could be SWS (slow wave sleep) which can be observed by slow deep breaths but they are able to wake from this phase more quickly, meaning they are not fully relaxed.
The dog on the right had such a painful neck, this is the only position he feels he can lie in, a pillow (and treatment) would aid the quality of his sleep.
From these studies it could therefore be assumed that the percentage of sleep received by dogs within the different and distinct phases of sleep could positively or negatively impact on their day. For example, a lack of proper sleep for a dog may mean that they have a lower tolerance to touch as well as a lower capacity for tolerating pain.
So why would I give my dog a pillow?
For me one of the biggest inhibitors of sleep is pain, or chronic discomfort and one of the primary and most common causes could be considered as muscle pain. I can confidently say that every dog I have treated with any form of lameness has a neck problem; so when they sleep, especially through the night time, providing them with something to support their neck, in my mind, is a critical part of their continued health.
I remember a dog I was treating where he had demonstrated a particularly pained neck. I asked his guardian if he had access to anything that he could use as a pillow, to which they initially replied ‘he wouldn’t know how to use a pillow!’ After the treatment I placed a cushion on the floor, where he was lying supine (sphinx-like) on the floor relaxing. The very moment I placed the cushion on the floor, he got up and lay down next to it placing his neck on the cushion in the most apparent comfortable lateral recumbent position (on his side).
This shows that dogs, like us, would choose to have appropriate support for their body whilst sleeping. In my opinion it is paramount that they have the option of being able to construct their own bespoke support within their bed.
So in order to enhance your dog's health and well being, consider the type of bed your dog lies in or on. Does their bed allow them to lie flat out and alter their position? If your dog has a sore or aching back and/or neck can they find a comfortable position for their back and neck? A good analogy is to think about sleeping every night in a budget aeroplane seat where you are unable to stretch out fully or sleep or turn over.
Perhaps these dogs need a bed to stretch out more? It is not the quality of each bed but its versatility and suitability for each individual dog.
If you have observed this with your dog, please offer them a cushion and also consider seeking treatment with a Galen Myotherapist who are specialised in treating, using a choice-led treatment that will be totally sympathetic to your dog’s comfort levels and pain perception.
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