January 16, 2020 5 min read

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Dogs tend to follow our own schedules pretty closely. They tend to wake up around the same time that we do, maybe even a few minutes earlier on occasion, and they always seem to know when dinner time is approaching. 

However, dogs tend to have some more “down” time throughout the day compared to their humans, and that leaves time for napping. Where do your dog’s total sleep times stack up against a human’s average seven to eight hours a day?  

Factors in dog sleep

There are numerous factors that affect total sleep times for dogs. On average, an adult dog will sleep about 12 to 14 hours per day.

Young puppies, like babies, will sleep more throughout the day due to their growth requirements and the fact that they aren’t yet accustomed to a set sleep schedule.

Senior dogs will also sleep more because they may be less active than their younger counterparts.

Some older dogs may be less active due to arthritis pains, and older dogs with canine cognitive dysfunction (aka “doggy dementia”) are more likely to sleep throughout the day due to the way that cognitive dysfunction affects their sleep-wake cycles.

Larger breeds of dogs tend to sleep a little more often than smaller dogs do, though dogs that are bred for hunting and farm work will typically be more active and sleep less than dogs with more sedentary lifestyles.

Sudden life changes like moving or new ownership can affect a dog’s sleep patterns. This is because changes in a routine can lead to nervousness and anxiety, which can prevent dogs from sleeping as long as they should. Conversely, dogs who become depressed can appear lethargic and may sleep more than they normally would.

Causes for concern

When are changes in your dog’s sleep pattern a cause for concern? Knowing when to worry is important because you may be able to help prevent major issues for your furry friend.

If you have an active dog who suddenly becomes lethargic or sleeps more than normal, then there may be a problem.

Dogs suffering from lethargy can have any number of health issues, from anemia to gastrointestinal issues to heart disease. If your dog has an underlying illness, then he could have other clinical signs like loss of appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Dogs with the gastrointestinal disease tend to absorb fewer nutrients which can cause a lack of energy and therefore more sleeping. The same applies to dogs with anemia because they have fewer red blood cells, which leads to less oxygen being carried to parts of the body. Without enough oxygen, dogs tend to be much more tired than normal.  

If your dog has a problem that causes him to pace and pant more than normal, then you may notice that he is sleeping less throughout the day or at nighttime.

Dogs with pain due to arthritis, gastrointestinal disease, and other problems may sleep less due to their inability to feel comfortable. Pain can make dogs more anxious and therefore pant and pace more frequently.

Dogs with heart disease may pant and also cough, especially at night, and senior dogs that pace often may be showing early signs of canine cognitive dysfunction.

Dogs with anxiety due to noise phobias, separation anxiety, and sudden routine changes usually pant more often and will exhibit other signs of anxiety-like avoidance, tail-tucking, and hiding. Endocrine disorders like diabetes and Cushing’s disease may also cause excessive panting.

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When To Seek Help

These health problems are all good reasons to seek help from your veterinarian right away, especially if your dog is experiencing excessive sleeping.

If your dog has anemia, then your vet will look at blood work and additional diagnostics to determine a cause for the anemia, such as intestinal parasites and immune-mediated disorders.

Anemic dogs will need treatment specific to the cause, and supportive care ranges from high-calorie foods, an iron supplement, and a blood transfusion in cases with severe anemia. Dogs with gastrointestinal issues may also have intestinal parasites, and health problems with other organs can mimic signs of gastrointestinal disease.      

If your dog is experiencing shorter sleep cycles, then your vet may recommend diagnostics based on your dog’s medical history and physical exam findings. Dogs with panting and coughing due to heart disease will need chest x-rays and to be tested for heartworm disease.

Baseline blood and urine testing can help rule out diabetes and other endocrine disorders that can cause panting and pacing. If your dog has anxiety, then your vet may have multiple recommendations like pheromone-based calming products, CBD oil, behavior modification training, and anti-anxiety medications.

Some of the tenets of treating anxiety can also be applied to cases where senior dogs are showing signs of canine cognitive dysfunction.

If you’re not sure about where your dog’s sleep patterns stand, then try to keep track of his sleep-wake cycles in a journal or notebook. It is helpful to make notes about your dog’s behavior throughout the day when he naps and for how long.

If he is pacing around at night, then be sure to keep track of that as well. For example, older dogs with canine cognitive dysfunction may be more likely to pace back and forth at night, moving from room to room.

Once you’ve tracked a week or two in this book, you will be able to see how your dog’s sleep patterns compare to the average 12 to 14 hours of sleep that most dogs experience.


When is the last time that you’ve thought about your dog’s sleep patterns? It turns out that keeping track of your dog’s sleep-wake cycles can say a lot about his overall health, and many of the things that can affect humans can also affect your furry friend.

If you ever feel that your dog is sleeping too much or too little, then be sure to contact your veterinarian for more information. If you’ve taken notes, then bring them with you. There’s no such thing as too much information when it comes to helping your dog!


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Meet The Author

Dr. Erica Irish author of how many hours a day do dogs sleep

Dr. Erica Irish

Erica has worked in the veterinary field since 2006, starting out as a veterinary technician before graduating from the UF College of Veterinary Medicine in 2013. As a general practitioner in an animal hospital, she has many interests and is especially interested in dermatology, cardiology, internal and integrative medicine.

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