Is Sleeping Pills Safe for Dogs?


Most dogs sleep a lot. If you own a bulldog, a Shih Tzu, or a basset hound, then it does not come to a surprise that your pet loves slumber. There are certain dog breeds that sleep more than others. But what if your pet suddenly finds it hard to get some shut-eye? Is it insomnia? Can you treat it with sleeping pills? Read on to know the best treatment for dogs with sleeping issues.

What You Need to Know about Canine Insomnia

Insomnia in dogs is rare but it is possible to happen. It can affect dogs of all ages but it’s more common in younger and senior dogs. In puppies, the difficulty in sleeping has something to do with their adjustment to their new environment. It often happens when they are brought to a new home or if they were taken away from their mother for the first time.

In old dogs, insomnia is usually health-related. Senior dogs suffering from Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS) wake up in the middle of the night and just end up wandering around. Anipryl, the medication used for treating Cushing’s disease, also works for dogs with CDS.

Do Dogs Need Sedative Drugs?

Before you ask your vet about sleeping pills, you may want to observe your pet first. What could be the possible reason why you’re considering sleeping aids? Is it because your pet used to love sleeping but finds it difficult to even take a nap all of a sudden?

A change in a pet’s sleeping pattern often indicates a bigger health issue. Injuries are the most common reasons for canine insomnia.  Keep an eye for signs of pain, such as growling and yelping. A dog in pain will look agitated and will suddenly become ill-tempered.

Sprains and strains are common in dogs due to their active nature. This is the reason why it’s important to never allow dogs to roam free. They might be hit by a car or fall from heights. These kinds of accidents can cause trauma in dogs.

A visit to the vet can confirm if the pet is suffering from an injury. If your pet is physically healthy, it’s possible that insomnia is caused by stress or anxiety. A dog with kidney disease or diabetes will eventually find it hard to rest due to frequent urination during the night.

In case your buddy does not look like he is in pain or he does not look anxious at all, try to inspect his beddings. Is his bedding free from fleas? A dog’s bed should be washed regularly to avoid flea infestation. It should be washed with hot water to kill any flea eggs.

If your pet likes sleeping near you, try to place his beddings in close proximity to your bed. This works for new puppies that do better when they can hear or smell their owners. The first few weeks with your newly adopted dog can be critical. Aside from difficulty sleeping, most rescue dogs don’t eat or will not play until they get used to the new surroundings.

Sleep Aids: Dog-Friendly or Not?

Sleeping pills can harm and even kill dogs. These types of medications are intended to lessen the anxiety of people. In dogs, the effect may not always be the same. Do note that the side effect will differ for each dog. Just because a certain medication worked for other dogs does not mean it is going to work the same for your own pet.

It’s quite risky to administer sleeping aids to dogs without a prescription from the vet. Alprazolam, for instance, can only be given to dogs by vets with a license from the Drug Enforcement Agency. This anti-anxiety medication is rampantly used for treating anxiety but can also be administered to relax the muscles.

Marketed as Xanax, Alprazolam works by sedating the pet as it suppresses the central nervous system. Since it affects the brain, it may not be applicable for some dogs because it has the tendency to make them overexcited instead of sedated.

Xanax should not be given to pregnant dogs or those with liver and kidney problems. Sleep aids can cause mild to moderate toxicity in canines, usually characterized by severe sedation and agitation. Your pet might try to avoid you, he might growl more than usual, and he might even jump as if he was startled.

What To Do If Your Dog Swallowed Sleeping Pills

Some dogs eat their owners’ sleeping pills out of curiosity. A pill might be dropped on the floor or the dog had access to the bottle and played with it. The medicine effect on dogs depends on the amount and the type of sleeping aid they ingested. Zolpidem, which is also known as Ambien, is a very strong hypnotic drug because it acts quickly.

If your pet ate it, call the animal poison control center. This drug can make a dog sedated but it may come with other negative side effects such as drooling, panting, and aggression. The solution for this is to induce vomiting. Forcing a dog to throw up will work if the ingestion took place not more than two hours before.

Natural Alternatives to Sleeping Pills

  • Melatonin – this naturally occurring hormone works by sedating your dog for roughly 8 hours. It can help dogs, especially senior dogs with CDS, sleep better at night. While it is FDA-approved and is relatively safe for dogs, not all canines can take it. Puppies, as well as pregnant and nursing dogs, should not be given this substance. Ask your vet before giving it to dogs especially if they are currently taking other medications.
  • Calming Treats – there are treats especially created for anxious and stressed dogs. One brand of a calming treat for dogs contains suntheanine that stimulates the brain waves so the dog can relax without experiencing drowsiness. They are marketed as chewable tablets so you will not have a problem giving them to your pet. They are usually made of all-natural ingredients and come in delicious meat flavor.
  • Pheromone diffuser – a diffuser kit is useful for dogs afraidof fireworks, who are suffering from separation anxiety, and those who chew destructively. It can also help restless dogs so they can have a sound sleep at night. Pheromone is a chemical substance that mother dogs naturally emit once they give birth to their pups. The diffuser is formulated with 2% of the analog of the dog pheromone. It mimics the effect of the chemical, which makes pups feel secure.

Additional Tips to Help Your Dog Sleep Better

Exercise your pet regularly. As with humans, a regular exercise routine is beneficial for a deep sleep during the night. When we move, we expand our energy, we end up tired and that makes us want to rest. All dogs need to be walked daily so they can have healthy joints. If you have an active or a working dog then he needs more physical activities throughout the day.

Establish a bedtime routine for your buddy. If your pet remains active during bedtime, you might need to set up a routine to calm him down. It can be as simple as giving him his favorite treat. Doing this regularly will make him love bedtime even more. Some dogs also like bonding with their owners as this makes them feel secure.

Create a cozy area for your pet. Even for humans is hard to fall asleep when the sleeping area is not comfortable enough. Some dogs just get used to sleeping on the floor, however, this can be too hard for them especially when they are experiencing any pain or discomfort. If you own an old dog, it may help to let him sleep in an orthopedic bed. It’s very helpful for joint pains since old dogs are prone to arthritis.

Spray essential oils on your pet’s beddings. Essential oils, such as lavender and chamomile, are generally safe for dogs. But if you want a product that is specially created for canines, you can find one in online stores. Spray them on the beddings or on the cushions if your pet likes sleeping on the sofa. Lavender promotes calm feelings and aids in treating insomnia. Chamomile, on the other hand, can reduce stress and ease depression.


Getting a good amount of sleep is essential for your buddy’s overall health. The secret to a better nap time in dogs relies on a cozy bed and a comfortable environment. If your pet still cannot get some rest even after you have tried the natural sleeping aids, have him checked by a vet. Sadly, our dogs cannot communicate how they are feeling and they are very good at hiding pain. Pet parents need to put in a lot of effort to identify the problem.


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