Vargas: Insomnia in pets can cause stress

By Mitsie Vargas, Ledger correspondent

Have you ever shared your home with a pet insomniac? It might be hard to believe but some pets have difficulty getting a full night’s sleep, just like humans. Some pets pace all night or wake up to go out to potty five times during the night. This is definitively abnormal pet behavior. Although insomnia is not a disease, it might be a symptom of an underlying disease. In any case, it is detrimental to the health of the animals and causes cumulative stress to the pet owners.

In a recent lecture at the TCVM World Congress, Dr. Ron Koh spoke about this frequently ignored condition and I intend to share some of his findings with pet owners. First of all, the definition of insomnia varies, but most agree that it is a difficulty to fall asleep or to stay asleep for long. Why is this a relevant issue? Many pets that suffer from this condition end up euthanized because the owners cannot get any decent sleep either. Even the most well-intentioned pet owner will suspect that the quality of life of a dog that won’t sleep through the night is poor.

The causes of insomnia are varied and include:

– Anxiety which could be caused by thunder or separation from owner or people. In some elderly pets losing the eyesight or hearing could cause them to be insecure and anxious.

– Stressful situations like adjusting to a new home or a new pet or baby in the household.

– Underlying diseases like a brain tumor, organ failure (heart, kidney, liver), hyperthyroidism or cognitive dysfunction (senility).

What can you do to help your insomniac pet? First of all, a good physical exam is necessary to assess the health of your pet. Your veterinarian will need to send a senior blood panel out to a laboratory to rule out thyroid issues, look for cancer markers and signs of organ disease. Once a disease process is identified, treating it more likely will restore a good quality sleep. If all diagnostics are normal, then a behavioral analysis is needed. If dealing with cognitive dysfunction or anxiety, then your veterinarian will probably prescribe anxiolytics and other calming drugs.

I recommend walking your dog for a half-hour to 45 minutes every evening so that you can help them get rid of their excess energy. Feeding a better quality food and restricting the water past 8 p.m. might also help cut down on the potty trips.

The holistic approach to insomnia include supplementing with the sleep restoring melatonin and L-theanine. There are many over-the-counter calming supplements that include these. Among them are composure treats and Solliquin. Many pet owners try pheromone sprays and collars, aromatherapy using lavender essential oils and calming music. The herbal formula Shen Calmer is another supplement that has helped many dogs to calm down. Acupuncture at the anxiety points is also an effective way to treat. In most cases an integrative approach combination medicines with supplements and acupuncture is the winning formula to restoring sleep.

— Dr. Mitsie Vargas is at Orchid Springs Animal Hospital in Winter Haven. She can be reached at

Popular Pet Supplies Now Include Pot Products

Christine Noel, KVUE

KUSA – Medical Marijuana for pets.

It’s become the latest trend – with more and more dog owners turning to Cannabis to help treat everything from their animal’s pain to anxiety.

Littleton resident Leslie Padzick is one of them.

For the past few years, her aging Schipperke, Luca -now 12- has suffered from anxiety.

This spring, Luca’s vet found a large tumor growing in his body.

Padzick contemplated an expensive surgery but worried Luca wouldn’t make it through such an invasive procedure at his age.

“I really wanted to find another option to help him,” said Padzick.

She hopped online and began researching alternatives to help with Luca’s discomfort. She found a growing trend inside of medical marijuana shops: pot marketed towards pets.

They’re In the form of Cannabidiol or CBD oil–which is derived from both Cannabis and Hemp, but don’t include THC, the ingredient that produces the high.

“When I get woken up at midnight by Luca, and for two hours I just try and calm him down, it’s hard. I feel like I have a sick kid and I just want to help him,” said Padzick, “And why go through all of that when we have another option? Pot is in our news every day so obviously more and more research is going into it—so why not try it?”

It’s a growing mindset among pet owners.

“I wish a veterinarian could prescribe it for my dog, I wish I knew just how much to give him,” said Padzick. “It’s not like I’m giving my dog a joint, that’s not what I’m doing. It’s not a big party- it’s another medicinal option. And I want to know more.”

Veterinarian Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald says there is still much research to be done on the impacts and side-effects of pot used on pets before he can get behind the idea.

He’s not alone. The ASPCA and PETA have not endorsed Cannabis for animals due to a lack of research and veterinarians, like Fitzgerald cannot prescribe medical marijuana for animals.

“Can this stuff hurt them? I don’t know. How much should you give? I don’t know. Does it work? I don’t know” said Dr. Fitzgerald, “If it works, I’ll be the first one to get behind it, but until more trials are done and we know, I am not willing to gamble with the health of our patients.”

Meanwhile, Padzick is willing to try it out. She has heard several success stories on CBD oil use on dogs.

“I have a friend who has been using CBD oil on her aging dog and she says it is working, he is sleeping better.”

As for Luca, Padzick just wants to do whatever she can to help him feel better.

“I feel like if it’s not getting him high, there’s got to be other benefits, so let’s give it a try at least. At this point, don’t have very many options.”

Padzick’s goal now is to figure out how to get it. Some people who already have medical marijuana cards are able to buy pet-marketed products at medical marijuana shops.

Some pet-marketed products are sold at recreational pot shops, but products there that contain CBD oil also have THC in them.

According to the Colorado Cannabis Chamber of Commerce, pet owners are able to buy pet-products with CBD’s derived from Hemp online. There are also special boutique stores that sell Hemp products for pets as well.

Copyright 2016 KUSA

How to Pick a Dog

The Why Factor

Have you considered how to choose your dog, or dog breed? Many canine lovers jump into their new or next four-legged friend for one big reason or another, instead of using a balanced framework to handle the question.  Is it just about having a companion (without the emotional complexities of dealing with one of the human kind), or picking the right dog for your family or household? Or for some of you, is it all about the pride, and brownie points you can collect from owning a top breed for trophy, or competition purposes?

The Money Factor

pick a dogYou may discover, once the issue is framed this way, that the “find my perfect dog” project may be fraught with unneeded financial or logistical hazards. Years ago, the release of the movie “101 Dalmations” resulted in a spate of purchases of that breed, as families heeded their children’s desire to have such a cute puppy. However, puppies grow up, as mature Dalmations take up much space, and can be quite cost or labor intensive to manage, as many exasperated households found out. A resulting easy lesson was learned—just watching a Disney movie might not be the best way how to choose your dog.

The truth is, some dogs cost more than others, and are easier to deal with day-to-day. In terms of the question “how to find my dog breed,” hounds such as greyhounds or whippets are not known to cause much hassle and upkeep. Other dogs can end up emptying your wallet, from those that shed too much, or leave wet drool around on surfaces, or have heartworm or similar pet care conditions, to those who never remember they’ve been trained not to urinate on the carpet, etc. These costs may eclipse your concerns about adopting the best canine based on affection.

The Love Factor

If you’re well off, have enough time on your hands, and a big pet maintenance budget is not an issue, however, your main interest can be in simply loving your pet. How to choose your dog, if based on love, can come down to figuring out what is being loved, or why you love it. Several experts in veterinary medicine believe the science of the last few decades supports the theory that dogs display or express many more human characteristics than previously understood. Our furry friends even mimic their owners’ mannerisms in many cases. If dogs are in essence acting like a mirror, could that mean dog owners are merely practicing a new form of self-love?

So, you should ask yourself, does your love of your dog reflects genuine outward feeling, or inward isolation (“the lonely old lady with a thousand cats” syndrome)? Fortunately, experts note that dog owners are actually highly loving, and nurturing people, whose care for their pets reflects an outward generosity and kindness.  In that light, picking the right dog for your family should be about fostering those same caring qualities among all members of the household, and selecting the breed of dog that encourages you to shower love upon the most.