A new sleep study for dogs from North Carolina State University could serve as the basis for research into chronic pain and cognitive dysfunction in dogs and potentially improve the detection and treatment of these conditions.
“The study was necessary because research on dogs and sleep has exceeded our basic understanding of what a ‘normal’ sleep / wake cycle looks like,” said Margaret Gruen, assistant professor of behavioral medicine at North Carolina State University and co-author of the paper .
The studies currently available are over 20 years old, only tracked a small number of dogs or dogs that were not in a home setting, and didn’t really capture data that is now relevant to dog living (and sleeping). We designed the study to update these results and fill the knowledge gap.
“And for me, someone interested in how dogs develop and age, it’s a critically missing gap: we’re talking about a symptom of age-related cognitive dysfunction in dogs as a sleep / wake cycle disorder without really understanding it where the baseline is. ”
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The study tracked 42 healthy adult dogs – 21 males and 21 females – aged 2 to 8 years. The dogs wore activity monitors on their collars for two weeks and their owners completed a questionnaire about the dogs’ sleep patterns. Functional linear modeling of the activity data showed that most dogs had two peaks of activity during the day: a shorter window from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., followed by a lunch break and a longer active period from around 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. All dogs were more active on weekends than on weekdays.
“Since most of the participants were pets of people who work outside of the home, we saw that the dogs were most active when human interactions were taking place,” says Gruen. “There were occasional outliers – we recorded some midday zoomies – but the pattern was correct for each dog over an average of 14 days. These results are not surprising – they agree with many of the assumptions we made, but now the data will be characterized and documented. “
The research found that weight and gender had an impact on active periods; Lighter dogs tended to be more active shortly after midnight, while female dogs appeared to be more active than males during the evening peak. Even in these healthy adult dogs, age had an effect; older dogs were less active during peak activity times.
“We hope this will serve as a foundational study for future work on the relationship between pain, cognitive dysfunction and sleep disorders, and as a study relevant to the way dogs now live,” says Gruen. “By setting standards, we can better identify anomalies and intervene in the process earlier. We can also use this as a basis to assess the development of sleep patterns in adults in puppies. “
The research appears in scientific reports. NC State student Hope Woods is the lead author. Additional researchers from NC State and the University of Toronto created the functional linear models.