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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
First of all, to the moderators, I really think a subforum for discussing Senior Dogs and their special needs would be nice. Their issues are quite unique IMHO. That proposed, let me get on to the topic I wanted to discuss. Sorry this is a bit of a read, but I want to convey the entire picture.

I have a 10# rat terrier named Button. She used to weigh 12# but she has lost a lot of muscle mass as she ages. She will turn 16 in January. She has been a delightful, playful, energetic, hilarious, affectionate goofball without a mean bone in her body all her life. :) She has always been a good eater, good with strangers and children, and slept soundly through the night.

HOWEVER............the last 2 years, she doesn't sleep through the night. She'll wake up at 4:45, 5:00, 6:00. She has even awakened as early as 2:30 and 3:30. Just don't know what is going on with this girl. And being the "relentless" rat terrier that she is, will not take no for an answer when she wants to get up and go out (or eat).

We don't really think it is her bladder waking her up. Might be, but she has always been able to hold her urine for 7-8 hours. She was so reliable with her house training we could go off and shop for 6-8 hours and not a thing was disturbed in the house, she having run of the house. She was always sound asleep in a chair when we returned. We walk her at 11pm to see that she goes to the bathroom right before bed.

She sleeps all day long, pretty much, and has since age 13 and got a diagnosis or a heart murmur. Vet said with a murmur, digesting food would zap her energy, so heavy sleeping after meals was to be expected.

To complicate figuring out what is going on, she was also born with what vets call a "sensitive stomach". If she goes longer than 6 hours between meals, she vomits bile. She has had the sensitive stomach from age 1, so mini meals has been a routine all her life. She has been getting 3 small meals every 6 hours for quite some time, but recently increased her to 4xdaily (and not gaining a bit of weight, I might add) as the bile vomiting was increasing in frequency. Thus, the digestion process is effectively going on all day long, consequently causing her to sleep heavily a good bit of the day now. Perhaps she gets too much sleep during daylight and therefore sleeps lighter at night? She might get 15-30 minutes of activity and/or play per day between those 4 mini meals. The sensitive stomach is what I personally think causes her to wake up at almost precisely 6 hours (or thereabouts) from the time she goes to bed. We go to (ant put her to) bed around 11pm. So 5AM early wakeup is exactly 6 hours. I think acid production begins and starts working on her stomach lining and the irritation of the empty stomach causes her to wake up. With the issue all her life, she may even have actual stomach ulcers because of overproduction of stomach acid. That's my personal diagnosis of the situation, anyway.

Of course, once she wakes up (whatever hour that might be) she thinks she is supposed to get breakfast! She is a rat terrier, after all. LOL And being a relentless rattie when she wants something, goes through multiple antics to get her meal at whatever hour, making SURE we don't get back to sleep. So we gave in. We usually feed her 1-2 small treats to get her to go back to sleep and it's working. She then sleep on until 6 or 6:30.

This behavior change in this dog is totally messing with OUR quality and quantity of sleep. I did most of this early-wakeup dog tending for over a year, but my sleep deficit was getting so bad, it was seriously effecting my daytime energy, causing aches and pains in muscles and joints, irritability, and making me not have the desire to go shopping or leave the house. No energy at all. My husband has been dealing with these early wake-ups the last month or so and finally HE understands just exactly what the sleep deficit I have been experiencing is like.

Has anyone else experienced this behavior in a senior dog? If so, did you find any solution(s)? If not, then maybe my diagnosis of stomach acid at the 6 hour mark is the issue and I know the vet said he can medicate that problem. But if it's a senior dog thing, I need to find other solutions.
 

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I would just give it a try treating for stomach acid issues and see if that does the trick. Vomiting up bile on a regular basis can't be good for the lining of her esophagus and throat either.
 

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I had a senior dog with sensitive tummy. He needed to be fed 6 times a day. I used to walk him after each meal. Because he was senior, he wasn’t able to walk too far. So I took him out for ten minutes after he ate just to move him around. Seemed to help improve his digestion. I know when I lay down after eating sometimes I have a regurgitation. So I do that for me also. Short walks.
 

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I would address the digestive issue with something natural; if that doesn't work, consider medication for stomach-related problems.
 

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The night time restlessness might be sundowners. I have an old guy who gets up 1-2 times a night. SOmetimes more sometimes less. He usually needs to pee so I get up and take him out and then he wants a snack so I give him a handful of kibble to tide him until breakfast. He is maintaining his weight well so the extra food is not a problem. The whole process might take me 5 minutes and I just go right back to bed.

I have heard that melatonin can help. I have also found that taking a good walk in the evening before bed helps and he does not get up as much if I do that.
 

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My 16 year old Shih Tzu x Maltese, is the opposite. He sleeps like a log all night, so soundly that I have to check if he is still breathing. He always lets me know if he has to go out during the day and never misses a meal. I am thankful that he has been so healthy all his life. He is totally deaf and can't see too well but still jumps up on the bed at night to sleep with me. I bought a stool so he could jump up on it, then up onto the bed.

If your dog is not too fat, can you leave food down for him. Mine has food available all the time as he does not overeat and is holding his weight good although he has lost a lot of muscle.
 
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