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What Can I Give My Dog to Sleep at Night: Safe Solutions for Restful Canine Slumbers - PawSafe
Dog Healthcare

What Can I Give My Dog to Sleep at Night: Safe Solutions for Restful Canine Slumbers

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

what can I give my dog to sleep at night

For some dogs, achieving a peaceful night’s rest can be challenging so answers to “what can I give my dog to sleep at night?” come in handy.  Dogs, much like humans, can encounter problems that disturb their nocturnal naps It may be anxiety, discomfort, or a myriad of other factors. In this article, we’ll explore some safe and practical solutions to help your dogs snooze away. 

We understand that a well-rested dog is not only happier but also healthier in the long run. Alejandra Mondino, DVM, MSc PhD, asserts that sleep is a vital process for dogs’ physical and mental well-being. Luckily, from natural remedies to creating a comfortable resting environment, there are several ways we can help our dogs drift off into dreamland.

Join us as we uncover options to help your dog enjoy better slumber using scientific reports and veterinary advice. We’ll discuss the use of calming supplements, establishing a routine, and creating a comfortable space for a restful canine. 

Night wakefulness in dogs affects both their health and your much-needed rest. Not many people can sleep through their dog’s constant changing of sleeping locations every two minutes. And the noise? That’s a whole different ball game. So, addressing this issue is best for both of you. 

By following the tips we cover and being patient, we believe that your dog will eventually learn to doze through the night, and both of you can enjoy a good night’s rest.

Common Reasons Dogs Have Trouble Sleeping

Sometimes, though, our dogs might have trouble falling or staying asleep. A ScienceDirect study looked into the most common sleep disorders in dogs. These were REM disorders, breathing issues like sleep apnea, narcolepsy (sleepiness throughout the day), and insomnia. 

But on top of those major problems, there are everyday issues that could affect your dog’s slumber. Let’s explore some common reasons why this might happen.

Anxiety and Stress

Dogs may experience anxiety and stress for various reasons. Loud noises, such as thunderstorms or fireworks, new environments, and changes in the environment can cause sleeplessness. 

Even puppies who sleep through the night can feel the effect of anxiety on their shut-eye. Additionally, a lack of sleep causes a variety of anxiety-like behaviors, decreases cognitive performance, causes inactivity, and depression.

Separation anxiety and changes in their environment can also be contributing factors. It’s essential to recognize signs of stress and provide a safe and comfortable space for our dogs to relax.

Medical Conditions

Certain medical conditions might affect our dogs’ ability to nap well. Look out for issues such as allergies, arthritis, endocrine disorders, and breathing or digestive problems. These can cause discomfort and disrupt nighttime rest. Additionally, old age causes nocturnal restlessness due to doggy Alzheimer’s and pain conditions like arthritis.  

Lack of Routine or Exercise

Establishing a consistent daily routine, including regular exercise and meal times, helps keep our dogs’ internal clocks in check. Lack of routine or inadequate exercise can lead to restlessness and difficulty dozing. Ensure your dog gets plenty of physical activity and mental stimulation throughout the day.

Here’s What To Give Your Dog To Help Them Sleep

Sometimes, our canines might have trouble dozing at night. So, we’re providing a few dog-friendly remedies to help them get a good night’s rest.

1. Melatonin Supplements

Melatonin is a natural hormone that helps regulate sleep-wake cycles and has a calming effect on dogs. It’s especially helpful for anxiety-induced disturbances. A PMC study on melatonin shows that it works best when authorized with a vet’s prescription. Don’t give your dog human melatonin since those vary from canine requirements in dosage. 

 Here’s a guideline for melatonin dosage:

  • Up to 10 lbs: 1 mg
  • 10-25 lbs: 1.5 mg
  • 26-100 lbs: 3 mg
  • Over 100 lbs: 3-6 mg

Fun fact: Studies on Pomeranian dogs have shown that melatonin can promote hair regrowth, giving rise to a renewed coat. So, it’s a win if your restless dog has alopecia since melatonin will assist with both. 

2. Herbal Remedies (Proven Safe, Natural Ingredients)

Herbs have been the go-to solution for most ailments and physical difficulties for centuries. For dogs, herbs will either calm your dog down by reducing anxiety and stress (adaptogens) or act as mild sedatives. These can be given as teas or sprinkled in foods as a powder. Our article on safe dog spices gives you an even longer list of dog-safe herbs.

Here are a few canine-safe adaptogens and sedatives:

Chamomile 

This herb has calming properties that help your dog relax and rest better. Try giving them a chamomile-based dog treat before bedtime. You can also steep a chamomile tea bag in hot water, let it cool, and then add a small amount to your dog’s water dish. A study of 55 dogs shows that lavender and chamomile aroma stimulation had the most calming, relaxing effect on dogs.

Valerian Root

Valerian is another herb that can help with sleep and relaxation. Valerian root can be found in capsule form or as a tincture. You can give your dog the recommended dosage based on their weight before bedtime. Make sure to consult with your veterinarian beforehand.

Ltheanine

A good alternativ-e-archive to melatonin is L-theanine, an amino acid that promotes relaxation and better slumber. It’s found in green tea and can be used as an aid for our dogs. L-theanine has been proven to reduce storm sensitivity and generalized anxiety. 

Passionflower

Passionflower is known for its calming properties and may help alleviate anxiety. It is available in supplement form and is sometimes included in herbal blends designed to promote relaxation in dogs.

Ashwagandha 

This is an adaptogenic herb that may help the body adapt to stress. A study of 24 dogs with stress-related symptoms showed improvement after supplementation and even showed pain-reducing effects.

Lemon Balm

With a reputation for its stress-relieving properties, lemon balm is believed to have a mild sedative effect, helping to alleviate anxiety and promote relaxation.

CBD €oil

This natural home remedy has gained popularity in recent years for its potential to alleviate anxiety and reduce inflammation in dogs. This natural compound, derived from the hemp plant, may also aid in promoting a restful night’s rest for our canine companions.

Kratom 

Kratom has been used for centuries in traditional medicine to treat many ailments and red kratom (as opposed to white or green) is known to help sleep. However, Its safety and effectiveness for dogs remain uncertain, but a PMC study proving efficacy is convincing. Keep in mind that kratom can be addictive, so don’t use it more than necessary, and don’t use it in dogs with liver issues or dogs prone to seizures.

Tryptophan and Casein

For those looking to add sleep-promoting foods to their dog’s diet, we can also consider tryptophan and casein. Tryptophan is an amino acid found in foods like poultry, fish, and cottage cheese, while casein is a protein found in dairy products. While casein is extracted from milk products. Both nutrients can help induce sleep by increasing the production of calming neurotransmitters like serotonin.

3. Aromatherapy 

Aromatherapy can also be an effective tool to help your dog nap better at night. Essential oils like lavender or cedarwood have soothing properties that can help calm your dog. Here’s a simple way to use aromatherapy for your dog:

  • Choose a pet-safe essential oil: Look for high-quality, therapeutic-grade essential oils that are safe for pets. We recommend sticking to lavender and Chamomile.  Avoid using essential oils like rosemary, tea tree oil, citrus oil, peppermint oil, and cinnamon oil.
  • Dilute the essential oil: Mix one drop of essential oil in a liter of water. You can use a spray bottle or a diffuser for this purpose.
  • Introduce the scent to their napping area: Lightly mist your dog’s bed or room with the diluted essential oil. This creates a calming atmosphere to help your dog relax and rest better.

4. Over-the-counter medications (Antihistamines)

We often use antihistamines to treat allergies, but they can also help your dog doze better. The most common antihistamine used is Diphenhydramine, which you may recognize as the active ingredient in Benadryl. Here’s a quick reference table for dosing:

Dog’s WeightDosage
Up to 25 lbs12.5 mg
26-50 lbs25 mg
Over 50 lbs50 mg

Before administering antihistamines, it’s essential to consult with your veterinarian to ensure it’s safe for your dog, especially if they have any preexisting medical conditions.

Antihistamines and aids containing melatonin are two over-the-counter options for helping your dog. As always, consult with your veterinarian before administering any medications to ensure your dog’s safety and well-being.

5. Vet-Prescribed Medications

Sometimes, our canines need a little help snoozing, just like us. In certain cases, we might consider using sedatives to help our dogs rest at night.

Sedatives

These medications should always be prescribed by a veterinarian and administered under their supervision. Some common sedatives include:

  1. Acepromazine (a tranquilizer that can also help with car sickness);
  2. Diphenhydramine (an antihistamine with mild sedative properties, also known as Benadryl); and
  3. Trazodone (a serotonin antagonist used for both humans and dogs).

It’s important to never give our dogs human sleeping aids without consulting a veterinarian first, as some can be toxic to our pets.

Anti-Anxiety Medications

For dogs with anxiety or stress-related issues, anti-anxiety medications might be the solution. Like sedatives, these should also only be given with a vet’s prescription and supervision. Common anti-anxiety medications for dogs include:

  • Fluoxetine (a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, SSRI);
  • Clomipramine (a tricyclic antidepressant used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder); and
  • Alprazolam (a benzodiazepine commonly known as Xanax).

These medications work by altering the levels of certain neurotransmitters in our dogs’ brains, helping them to feel calmer and more relaxed, which can, in turn, help them sleep better at night. 

Potential Side Effects of Sleeping Aids

Giving your dog an aid may have some potential side effects. While natural remedies are often safer, it’s always best to be well-informed about any possible consequences. Here are some potential side effects you should be aware of when determining what to give your dog for a good night’s rest:

  1. Drowsiness: While it’s the intended effect, some aids may cause excessive drowsiness in your dog. Keep an eye on their energy levels to ensure they don’t become too lethargic.
  2. Upset stomach: Some sleep aids may cause an upset stomach, leading to vomiting or diarrhea. Make sure to monitor your dog’s behavior and adjust accordingly.
  3. Allergic reactions: As with any medication, your dog may have an allergic reaction to the sleep aid. Watch for signs such as itching, swelling, or difficulty breathing.

Remember, each dog is unique, and some may experience side effects while others may not. Once you’ve consulted with your veterinarian, start with a low dosage and gradually increase it until the desired effect has been achieved. 

Other Ways To Help

In addition to supplements and medications to help with your dog’s shut-eye, we recommend the following lifestyle changes:

Create a Comfortable Environment

Make sure your dog’s bed is comfortable and cozy. Provide them with a warm blanket and a favorite toy. Placing their bed in a quiet area of your home can also make a big difference.

Give Them Enough Exercise

Creating and maintaining a consistent daily workout routine can help dogs improve their snooze patterns. A general guideline is to provide at least 30 minutes of physical activity for small dogs and 1 hour for large each day. This can include walks, runs, or playing fetch.

In addition to physical exercise, we must not forget about our pups’ mental stimulation. Puzzles, toys, and engaging in training sessions can help tire their minds out and promote peaceful shut-eye.

Switch off Lights & Electronics

Dogs can be sensitive to light and sound. While you might think your dog can doze through anything, they still might be affected by the natural light outdoors or artificial indoor lights. 

To block out excess light, try using window treatments, such as blinds or curtains, that can darken the room and keep it a peaceful place for them to rest.

Besides light, the noise from electronics can disturb our dogs. Televisions, radios, or even our smartphones can emit sounds that may keep them awake or anxious. 

Diet and Treatment for Doggy Dementia

As our beloved canine companions age, they may develop canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD), also known as doggy dementia. Making adjustments to their diet and implementing appropriate treatments can help slow down the progression of this condition.

One important consideration for dogs with CCD is their nutrition. A diet high in antioxidants, essential fatty acids, and B vitamins can be beneficial in addressing the symptoms of doggy dementia. Diet For Doggy Dementia: How Nutrition Can Slow Canine Cognitive Dysfunction suggests incorporating these key components into your dog’s meals:

  • Antioxidants: Include fruits and vegetables rich in antioxidants, such as blueberries, spinach, and carrots.
  • Essential Fatty Acids: Sources of Omega-3 fatty acids, like fish and flaxseed, can support brain health.
  • B Vitamins: A variety of animal proteins, like chicken, turkey, and beef, can provide the necessary B vitamins.

In addition to these dietary changes, it’s important to consider medical treatment options for doggy dementia. Discuss the most suitable treatment plan for your dog with your veterinarian. Some potential treatments may include:

  • Medications: Prescription medications, like Anipryl or Selegiline, increase neurotransmitter levels in the brain, improving cognitive functioning.
  • Supplements: Natural supplements, such as ginkgo biloba and phosphatidylserine, can also support brain health and prevent cognitive decline.
  • Physical Therapy: Engaging your dog in low-impact exercises can improve their overall physical health and may positively impact their mental well-being.

Create a Bedtime Routine

Creating a consistent bedtime routine for our dogs can help let them know when it’s time to nap and make it easier for them to relax at night. Here are some steps we can incorporate into their routine:

  1. Set a consistent bedtime: Choose a specific time to start winding down for bed and stick to it every night, even on weekends. Consistency is key for our dogs to associate with their bedtime.
  2. Dim the lights: Lowering the lighting can signal to our dogs that it’s time to doze, as it mimics the natural change of light from day to night.
  3. Quiet playtime: Engage in calm playtime or cuddling with our dogs before bed. This can provide mental stimulation and help them feel secure before dozing off.

Remember, consistency is key! Stick to the routine as closely as possible, and our dogs will start to recognize and expect these activities, making it easier for them to relax and fall asleep at night.

White noise

White noise is a consistent sound that can help mask other external noises, providing a soothing and calming environment.

One way to introduce white noise into your dog’s routine is by using a white noise machine. These devices play a variety of soothing sounds, such as rain, ocean waves, or gentle static noise. You can also find white noise apps for your smartphone or tablet that offer similar features. Experiment to find the right volume, location, and sound type for your dog.

Remember, it may take some time for your dog to get used to the sound of white noise and learn to associate it with rest. Be patient and consistent – before you know it, your furry friend could be snoozing soundly through the night with the help of white noise.

When to Consult a Veterinarian

It’s important to recognize that not all issues in dogs can be resolved at home. If you’ve tried everything and your dog is still having trouble falling asleep, it might be time to consult your veterinarian. They can help determine if there’s an underlying issue causing the problems. Here are a few situations when you should definitely seek professional help:

  • Persistent Insomnia: If your dog’s nocturnal issues persist for more than a few days despite making changes to their routine, it’s time to consult your vet. This could be an indication of an underlying health issue.
  • Signs of Illness: If your dog is showing signs of illness such as lethargy, loss of appetite, or vomiting, it’s essential to see your veterinarian immediately. These symptoms could indicate a more severe problem that needs to be addressed.
  • Sudden Changes: If your dog was previously dozing well but suddenly developed problems, it could be a sign of an injury or illness. Sudden changes in your dog’s behavior should always be brought to your vet’s attention.

We also recommend going to the vet if you’re considering giving your dog any kind of medication. Some medications are safe for dogs, but it’s always better to consult a veterinarian to ensure the proper dosage and safety guidelines.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What natural remedies can help my dog sleep?

There are several natural remedies that can help your dog sleep better at night. Some popular options include chamomile tea, valerian root, and lavender oil diffuser. These can be added to your dog’s diet or used in aromatherapy to create a soothing environment.

Is melatonin safe for dogs and what is the correct dosage?

Melatonin is generally considered safe for dogs, although it’s always recommended to consult with your veterinarian before administering any supplements. The correct dosage depends on your dog’s size and weight. Typically, the recommended dose is 1 mg per 20 pounds of body weight. However, it’s best to start with a lower dose and gradually increase if necessary.

Can I give my dog over-the-counter sleeping pills?

It is not recommended to give dogs over-the-counter pills without consulting a veterinarian. These medications can be potentially harmful and can cause dangerous side effects. If your dog is having trouble sleeping, consult your veterinarian about the best course of action.

Are there any dog-specific sleep aids available?

Yes, there are dog-specific aids available on the market. These products are specially formulated, mostly with melatonin, to help dogs relax and doze better. Consult with your veterinarian before trying new aids, as they can help determine the best option for your dog’s needs.

What should I do if my dog accidentally eats sleeping pills?

If your dog accidentally consumes sleeping pills, contact your veterinarian or an emergency veterinary clinic immediately. It can be helpful to provide the veterinarian with information about the medication, including its dosage and active ingredients, and observe your dog’s symptoms. Prompt action is crucial in these situations.

How can I help my dog sleep better while traveling?

To help your dog snooze better while traveling, try to maintain a consistent routine and create a comfortable environment. This can include bringing along your dog’s favorite bed, toys, and blankets, as well as using calming scents like diffused lavender or products in the car or crate. Make sure to take breaks for your dog to stretch, and avoid feeding them immediately before bedtime to encourage a peaceful night’s sleep.

Final Thoughts

After considering various options, we recommend trying a few natural remedies to help your dog get some shut-eye. It’s essential to know your dog’s behavior and needs, as well as consult with your veterinarian to find the best solution for your furry friend. Suggestions to help include using herbs like kratom, catnip, diffused lavender oil, chamomile, and melatonin. Creating a routine, increasing exercise, and addressing medical issues will also help.

Remember, every dog is unique and might respond differently to various options. Don’t be discouraged if you need to try a few different approaches before finding the perfect solution for your furry companion. Patience and persistence are key! 

References:

Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe

Author

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.