Damien took a lot of naps. I mean, a lot! It’s true; he was a very active Doberman Pinscher. He fetched everything—tennis balls, Frisbees, shoes that hadn’t been put away—you get the idea. When he’d suddenly drop whatever was in his mouth and lay down for a nap, I just figured he was recharging his batteries.
Now, as I read this online article from PetWave, I feel certain he was struggling with narcolepsy.
Narcolepsy? Sure, I’d heard of it—in TV sitcoms and crime dramas from time to time. A character might be engaged in the middle of a conversation when they randomly “check out,” falling asleep for minutes to hours at a time. Then they “check back in” as if nothing happened, sometimes completing the sentence they had been in the middle of.
It’s a script-writing gag of sorts, but narcolepsy is a serious and rare condition for humans and our beloved pets.
Researchers found that narcolepsy in Doberman Pinschers (and humans) is inherited. It’s a defective gene that causes the death of brain cells that produce hypocretin, a peptide that controls the sleep/wake cycles. Once hypocretin is gone, it can’t be replaced, and there is no cure for narcolepsy. Treatments are similar for humans and dogs. The symptoms of narcolepsy are managed with medications, lifestyle changes, and other therapies.
After more research, we learned the actual medications tend to make dogs hyper, so we decided to let Damien nap when his brain told him to.
For me, as a human, short nights with limited sleep can turn me into a beast in the morning. I need my REM sleep, and the same has proven to be true for dogs. When dogs don’t get that quality sleep, their furry bodies will try to catch up throughout the day.
For Damien, his episodes seemed to be triggered by pleasant events—a new butcher bone, meals, or when we came home after being gone a long time.
Whenever Damien was extremely happy, he would exuberantly run and jump around and then crash to the floor snoring.
It made for some interesting explanations when friends met Damien for the first time.