Galen Myotherapy

The world-leader in Canine Myotherapy education, treatment, and research
Give your dogs a pillow
By Julia Robertson
May 2019

It is so important to regard how dogs’ daytime exercise patterns do not include too much stress inducing repetitive movements or activities, these, as we know, can have a serious negative impact on their muscular skeletal as well as their overall health. The activities that they participate in during the day are of incredible importance but what about at night?

How important is it to consider if you dog is getting enough ‘proper’ sleep? Dogs appear to sleep so much, in fact they generally sleep for 12-14 hours a day, but like us it is not necessarily the fact that when they have their eyes closed and are recumbent, they are receiving quality sleep. Quality sleep is quantified by a dog being able to go through the different sleep phases but getting sufficient REM sleep (rapid eye movement) is critical. Studies have shown that this is when there is most brain activity but also when the body properly rests and recuperates. So when we see our dogs ‘dreaming’ it could be assumed that they are in a REM sleep. When they are just lying still with their eyes shut, this could be SWS (slow wave sleep) which can be observed by slow deep breaths but they are able to wake from this phase more quickly therefore not fully relaxed. It could therefore be assumed that the percentage of sleep received by dog within the different and distinct phases of sleep could positively or negatively impact on their day.

What might prevent your dog from getting their good night’s rest? For me one of the biggest inhibitors of sleep is pain, or chronic discomfort and one of the primary and most common causes could be considered as muscle pain. As I have mentioned before, I do have a particularly bad neck issue that can flare up for no ‘apparent’ reason and yet if I analysed it properly, one of the biggest reasons for a flare up, is when I have laid badly during the night or my pillow is badly positioned and I have ‘held’ my neck in a bad posture for the duration of the night. When I say ‘held’ my neck, that is exactly what I have done, I have been actively supporting it. It is really important that my neck is properly supported while I sleep, not just for my comfort but to maintain the integrity of my whole vertebrae. A correct pillow for me is in many ways more important than the mattress.

In my opinion the opportunity for a dog to create their own bodily support where they sleep and be able to lie in whatever position they need to is really important, therefore to provide your dog with something they can use to support their neck, in my opinion, is crucial. I can confidently say that every dog I have treated with any form of lameness has a neck problem; so when they sleep especially through the night time, providing them something to support their neck, in my mind, is a critical part of their continued health.

I will never forget a client that I suggested she provide her dog with a cushion, I had just treated her dog and he had demonstrated a particularly pained neck. I asked if he had access to anything that he could use as a pillow, to this question she laughed at me and said ‘he wouldn’t know how to use a pillow!’ At that moment I place a cushion on the floor as it was after his treatment and he was lying supine (sphinx-like) on the floor relaxing. The very moment I placed the cushion on the floor, he got up and lay down next to it placing his neck on the cushion in the most apparent comfortable lateral recumbent position (on his side). The impulse to say ‘I told you so’ was very strong but I resisted!

For dogs, like us to have appropriate support for their body whilst sleeping is paramount but in my opinion and be able to construct their own bespoke support within their bed I believe is also really important.

So therefore, it is important to consider the type of bed your dog lies in or on? Within their bed, are they able to lie and alter their position? It is not about the make of bed you have but what position does that bed afford your dog. Consider if they have a sore aching back and/or neck and they were forced into a foetal position curved bed for the entire night? Does that offer them a comfortable position for their back and neck? For me being given a restrictive bed or one that is not adaptable would be equivalent to sleeping every night in an airplane seat and not one of those expensive ones!

Perhaps these dogs need a bed to stretch out in more? It is not the quality of each bed but its versitility and suitability for each individual dog.

If a dog had muscular issues through arthritis, injury or just general wear and tear, to be restricted and not be able to support themselves through the night would exacerbate their condition but also encourage them to wake up in a bad mood – wouldn’t you?

A soft toy can make a good replacement pillow!
Therefore, it is not necessarily about the type of bed they sleep in or on but the versatility of that bed to provide your dog with the capability for them to find a comfortable and relaxing position so that they can relax their muscles properly and aid their recovery and not aggravate them. I would always suggest to consider giving your dog some form of cushion that is made available to them, they don’t need to use it?

Try and see what happens!

Julia Robertson is the founder of Galen Myotherapy, and has written a number of books on the study of biomechanical function in dogs. Stay abreast of all of Galen Myotherapy's activities by following us on Facebook or on our YouTube channel

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I looked at so many courses that are available, but I'm so glad that I decided to study with you. The difference for me was the way you give dogs choice, and I couldn't imagine working any other way. Since graduating I've been able to support my dogs, and the support you gave me in marketing have allowed me to build a client base in my local town and beyond.

I couldn't imagine not being part of Galen Therapy Centre now, thank you SO much!