Why Do Dogs Sleep So Much?

Sandra Mitchell, DVM
Feb 25, 2020
Image: Photo Grapher / via Image Bank

The life of a dog seems like such a leisurely experience. Get out of bed, go outside to relieve yourself, come in, have a snack, and go back to bed. Then wake up, go outside again, have dinner, and then go back to bed for another nap.

While this may seem like a lot of time spent sleeping, it’s actually quite normal. Here’s everything you need to know about your dog’s sleep patterns and when it’s time to worry.

How Many Hours a Day Do Dogs Sleep?

Dogs sleep a lot more than people do, and they sleep when their bodies say they need sleep—unlike people who have busy schedules and don’t always listen to the signals from their bodies.

On average, most dogs spend about 50% of their day sleeping, about 12 hours in a 24-hour period. Puppies, large-breed dogs, and older dogs may sleep more, while small-breed dogs and working dogs may sleep less.

When you think about this, it makes sense.

Larger dogs simply need to work harder to move their bodies about, and it takes time to recover from that effort.

Young dogs race around, exploring everything and burning up all kinds of energy. Then, they crash and sleep hard until their body has recovered and is ready for another bout of play.

Older dogs also need more sleep to help their bodies recover from daily activities.

Dogs Also Enjoy Lounging

In addition to the 50% of their day spent sleeping, dogs will then spend another 30% of their awake hours doing what I call “loafing.”

Loafing is when a dog is awake but really not doing much of anything—just hanging out. Typically, loafing time is spent lying down, watching the world go by, and generally enjoying being lazy.

So, that comes out to a whopping 80% of the doggy day being spent not doing much of anything at all.

When to Worry About Your Dog’s Sleep Habits

With dogs already spending so much of their day sleeping, when should pet parents start worrying about their dog’s sleep?

Changes in Sleep Patterns

Most important to us, as veterinarians, are when pet parents notice changes in a dog’s sleep patterns.

If your dog usually sleeps for 2-3 hours in the morning and then is up for the rest of the day, but then you suddenly notice they are sleeping for 5-6 hours in that time block, it’s time to call the vet.

Conditions such as diabetes and kidney disease could be the reason for the change in your dog’s normal sleep patterns.

Slow to Wake Up

Another thing we tend to clue in on is the dog’s response to being awakened.

Most dogs will wake up fairly quickly, and if there is enough motivation (such as a dangling leash or a snack!), they will stretch, get up from the nap, and be ready to rumble.

We worry if the dogs are very hard to wake up, or if they can’t be motivated to go and do the things that they normally enjoy.

Exercise Intolerance

One thing that can be hard to tell from normal sleeping and loafing is something we call exercise intolerance.

With some diseases, we see that dogs may tire much more quickly than they should under ordinary circumstances. A dog may appear to be resting comfortably, but may in fact be too tired to finish whatever it was that he started.

Dogs with exercise intolerance often stop to rest in “odd” places and are often panting heavily, as well.

What Causes a Dog to Sleep More Than Normal?

Some of the big ones in older dogs are hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid), heart disease, and arthritis.

If you notice that your dog is sleeping more than normal, keep a sleep log and make an appointment with your vet.

Your vet can look over the sleep log and do tests to help find underlying conditions that may be causing your dog to sleep more.

By: Dr. Sandra Mitchell, DVM

Featured Image: iStock.com/gollykim

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