Dog Narcolepsy

Dog narcolepsy is the medical term for a condition in which a dog falls asleep suddenly and without warning. This condition is characterized by the sudden loss of body control and paralysis while asleep. It is not uncommon for a dog with narcolepsy to collapse suddenly in his tracks, fall asleep and lose complete body sensation.

Research has determined that dogs with narcolepsy are actually aware of their surroundings during a sleep attack. The eyes of the dog will remain open and will move around the room, even though the dog will not be able to move. The dog may attempt to rise but will likely collapse until the episode has passed in its entirety. Most episodes of narcolepsy will not last more than a few seconds, but more severe conditions have been known to produce episodes that last for several minutes.

Risk Factors and Breed Predilection

Dog narcolepsy appears to be a genetically inherited condition. Most dogs that have the gene predilection somewhere in their blood lines will either develop the condition or are at a much higher risk of developing narcolepsy at some point in their lives.

While narcolepsy appears to be genetically inherited, there are also some other risk factors, including obesity and lack of activity, and breed tendencies which can make a dog more likely to develop the condition. The Doberman pinscher, Labrador retriever and the poodle are the most common breeds affected by narcolepsy.

It has also been thought that a deficiency in the brain chemical known as hypocretin could be the true cause of narcolepsy in dogs. It appears as though when a dog is deficient in this brain chemical, there is a rapid pattern of the development of narcolepsy. The deficiency of hypocretin is still genetically inherited.

Signs of Dog Narcolepsy

Narcolepsy in dogs is usually very easily identified based on the symptoms alone. Most dogs that have a narcoleptic condition will suddenly collapse to the floor and become immobile. They may also appear to be sleeping or lying down, but will be unable to move if they attempt to rise. While they appear to be unresponsive, they are certainly aware of what is going on around them.

The symptoms of narcolepsy are often confused with the condition of epilepsy. The difference is that the behavior exhibited by a dog affected with narcolepsy actually occurs because the dog is asleep, even though his eyes will be open and he won't appear to be sleeping.

Diagnosing Dog Narcolepsy

Most of the time, the symptoms produced by a dog will either warrant inspection of narcolepsy or epilepsy. The only way to determine the difference is to perform a procedure known as an electroencephalography. This procedure monitors the brain waves at different times, such as during normal activities and during the presence of an attack. This in combination with observance of the symptoms will usually indicate that a dog is narcoleptic.

Treatment of Dog Narcolepsy

While there are treatment options available for dog narcolepsy, they're not foolproof and can't accurately predict whether or not the attacks will continue. Antidepressant and hyperactivity medications may be prescribed to help eliminate excessive excitement in the dog, which can lead to narcoleptic episodes.

Even when medications are not completely effective at eliminating the condition, narcolepsy does not appear to hurt a dog or hinder any of his abilities to live a normal and happy life.