What does pet health look like?
Welcome to the second edition of our ‘We Are Animal Health’ pet owner blog series for 2019. Throughout the series, we’ll be exploring many facets of pet health, from mental wellness, to the importance of exercise and fitness for pets.
Have you heard that it’s National Bed Month? For pet owners, this is the perfect calendar reminder to check in and see if their beloved pets are getting enough good quality sleep and rest.
As we think about the positive impact that a good night’s sleep can have on our own health and wellbeing this month, it’s important to recognise that a good night’s sleep isn’t just vital for humans, but for their pets too. A survey undertaken by the PFMA reveals that the majority of dogs sleep in their owner’s bedrooms, which might not necessarily be the best place to sleep for pets; particularly dogs, which need a deep, undisturbed sleep. Not having the right home environment can have a significant effect on a pet’s mental wellbeing, as pet behaviourist Dr Peter Neville notes, “factors in the home affecting sleep, mental stimulation, eating and toileting can have a significant effect on a pet’s mood”.
Having the ‘need to be able to exhibit normal behaviour patterns’ such as a good quality sleep in a ‘suitable environment’, are two of the five welfare needs outlined by the 2006 Animal Welfare Act:
- need for a suitable environment
- need for a suitable diet
- need to be able to exhibit normal behaviour patterns
- need to be housed with, or apart, from other animals
- need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease
These welfare needs don’t just apply to our household pets; they extend to horses, ponies and donkeys, and also farm animals such as cattle. As part of their welfare, it’s important that all animals are able to get the rest they need in a comfortable space all year round.
How can you ensure your pet is getting enough good quality rest?
While the overall needs of our pets may be different to ours, the same things such as a cosy, comfortable environment in which we can sleep also applies to animals. Ensuring your pet has a comfortable environment in which to rest will encourage them to exhibit normal behaviour patterns, and in turn make them happier and healthier overall.
The environment can, and should, be altered via what type of pet you own. For example, cats are most active at dusk and dawn, some species like hamsters are nocturnal, and rabbits are 'crepuscular', meaning they are most active at dusk and dawn; all of which are completely normal behaviours. Discover more advice tailored to your pet here.
One of the things owners can do to ensure their pet is getting enough sleep, is to monitor their pet’s routine through a sleep diary. Try jotting down how many hours a day they are sleeping, and whether they look comfortable and undisturbed. You could also try out different bedding such as adding more padding to their dog bed or more straw to their rabbit hutch/cage, and see if this affects how they rest.
Ensuring that your pet gets enough exercise during their ‘active’ hours is also another good way to ensure they rest well when they need to. From taking your dog for a walk to ensuring your cat stays mentally stimulated during its most active hours by providing toys for them to play with, such activities can lead them on their way to a great sleep each day when it’s time for them to rest.
We spoke to Sarah, owner of Harvey, about what she does to make sure Harvey is getting enough quality sleep and rest time to keep him healthy and happy. Read their story below.
How much sleep on average does Harvey get?
Harvey gets around 16-17 hours of sleep per day usually.
How do you make sure Harvey is getting the right amount of sleep?
I placed his bed in the corner of our bedroom on the third floor where it’s quiet and warm and he won’t be disturbed.
How do you think exercise relates to Harvey's sleep routine?
Exercise and stimulation are very important to me with Harvey. By being active and having lots of play time, it makes him more tired and as a result he has better sleep quality. I try to ensure I engage in play at least a good hour before we all go to bed so that he is not too hyper at night-time, and he settles easier
What are the things you look out for to see if Harvey is getting enough sleep, and why is it important?
Cats can seem restless or lethargic if they don’t get enough sleep. I always ensure his bed is in a nice quiet area and kept clean and cosy. I also ensure he has a meal later at night as part of his routine after interactive play to ensure he doesn’t have excess energy at bedtime. Getting Harvey regular check-ups with the vet ensures he is nice and healthy too.
How do you make Harvey’s sleep comfortable and warm?
Harvey is fussy about his bed and prefers an enclosed, igloo style bed. I place this in a quiet corner in the bedroom a couple of feet away from the radiator so it’s nice and snuggly. I also clean it regularly to keep it fresh.
Do you alter anything to make Harvey get a better sleep/ rest during colder months?
I add an extra snuggly blanket into his bed for winter and I also pop a radiator bed in the room with the heating on low in case he wants a change or extra warmth.
Do you have any other top tips for caring for Harvey’s sleep routine in general which other owners could follow?
Try to stick to a fairly regular night-time routine, keep the sleeping environment the same, have lots of interactive play to get rid of unspent energy and get them health checked by your vet in a regular basis. A good quality, healthy diet is also very important.
A guide to pet’s sleep routine
If you would like some more information on how to make sure your pet is getting enough good quality rest, check out our site here. You can also visit your vet or pet store to seek independent, expert advice on how best monitor your pet’s rest routine.
With the arrival of National Pet Month in April, next we will be discussing the mental health benefits of pet ownership. This blog series will include a range of topics common to pets and their owners, including exercise, joint problems, skin conditions and much more.