suddenly asleep: narcolepsy in pets

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Is your dog up on minute and collapsed the next? | Narcolepsy in pets
Posted by Dr. Kim Smyth on Aug 29 2014

If you’ve ever had a new little one in the house (be it four or two legged), chances are you’ve had more than a few sleepless nights. When you’re in the thick of raising an infant or a puppy, night time can seem to last forever. And when the sun finally comes up, you feel like you could fall asleep standing up.

Some dogs have this problem, too. Though they sleep soundly all night long, a condition called narcolepsy will have them catching cat naps all day long or falling asleep in their dinner!

Symptoms of narcolepsy in pets

Is your dog up one minute and collapsed the next? Narcolepsy could be to blame! Narcolepsy is an inherited condition that is almost always present at birth. It is disorder of sleep with a rapid onset, but luckily it usually has a short duration.

Affected dogs will have sleep episodes that last from seconds to minutes, and they are usually brought on by excitement, such as eating, playing, greeting their owners or playing with other animals.

Picture this: one minute your dog is chomping away at her breakfast, the next minute she is collapsed on the floor, asleep, with no muscle movement—this is narcolepsy! Don’t take my word for it, though—there are plenty of video examples on the internet.

Symptoms will vary from a full on sleep state to limb weakness and body bobbing, and most dogs can be awakened by loud noises or petting.

What dog breeds are prone to narcolepsy? 

Cats can have narcolepsy, but it is very rare. Dog breeds that we see narcolepsy in more often include the Doberman Pinscher, Labrador Retriever, Miniature Poodle and Dachshund, though it can appear in any breed.

The good news is that usually the sleep episodes aren’t severe enough to warrant treatment. Narcolepsy isn’t progressive, and it is not life threatening. However, dogs with narcolepsy should be watched carefully when engaging in activities that bring on sleep episodes. Swimming and other kinds of exercise can be dangerous for narcoleptics, and appropriate safety measures should be taken.