Why dogs turn around before laying down

dog 1

Dogs, unlike humans, don’t just plop down in bed when they are tired.They spend lots of time preparing their bed before snuggling in for the night. Sleepy dogs turn around in circles and do kind of a dance before going to sleep. This bedtime ritual is a bit compulsive and sleep evades them until they complete their nightly dance routine.

How does circling help with survival?

Dog behaviorists believe that a dog’s need to perform the bedtime ritual of turning around in circles before lying down is inherited. Canine ancestors like wild wolves did the same thing, and domestic dogs retained this genetic predisposition. Evolutionary behaviors like this one are aimed at self-preservation and are strong influences that persist for generations in the animal kingdom.

Turning in circles before lying down is an act of self-preservation in that the dog may innately know that he needs to position himself in a certain way to ward off an attack in the wild. Some wildlife enthusiasts believe that wolves sleep with their noses to the wind so that they can quickly pick up on a threatening scent. Circling allows the wolf to determine the direction of the wind so that he can best position himself. With a quick whiff, the wolf knows that he may be in danger and is alerted for a potential attack.

Most domestic dogs are pets that sleep in our homes or in another safe, controlled environment. Even though they aren’t subject to attack by wild animals, our canine friends retained this evolutionary protective trait. So, like their ancestors, our dogs turn around a few times before lying down.

How does circling help dogs travelling in packs?

There is another evolutionary explanation for this circling behavior. Wild canids, like wolves, foxes, and coyotes, travel in packs that include many family members. The entire group is protective of the members of the pack and is on constant lookout for stragglers. Turning around helps group leaders assess the pack and survey the area for members that may have fallen behind.

Turning around 360 degrees also provides an opportunity to take one last look for potential predators before bedtime. So, again, this bedtime rotation is actually a form of self-preservation and protection.

Every pack has an established hierarchy. Some members are more dominant while others are submissive. The bedtime turning routine may also be part of a ritual that identifies a wolf’s place in the pecking order of the pack.

 How does circling help with comfort?

Here’s a more basic reason for canine circling. Dogs in the wild don’t have the luxury of manufactured doggie beds and pillows. They make their own “beds” in nature. To make their sleeping quarters more comfortable, dogs pat down tall grass and move prickly underbrush and stickers before lying down. They root out rocks and fallen tree branches. In colder climates, dogs circle to reposition snow banks. This “nesting” procedure also uncovers unwanted inhabitants like snakes or insects. Dogs don’t like to share their beds with intruders. Moreover, changing the format of an area by moving grass, snow, or leaves indicates to other wild dogs in the area that this particular spot is taken for the night.

How does circling help with temperature?

Dogdog2s in the wild had no control over weather conditions and had to survive extreme changes in temperature. They couldn’t turn down a thermostat when it was hot or grab a blanket when it was cold, so they adapted by “denning” to moderate the temperature of their sleeping quarters.

Outdoor dogs in hotter climates scratched at the ground to clear away topsoil and grass that retained and radiated the sun’s warmth. Removing the topsoil exposed cooler soil underneath. Scratching and turning allowed them to find a more comfortable temperature for sleeping.

Wild canids in colder climates circled to wind themselves into tight balls to conserve personal body heat. The tighter the tuck, the warmer the dog. In addition, other pack members gathered together in a tight circle to effectively share body heat. So, the bedtime turning ritual had a biological basis, too.

How does circling help our pet dogs?

These are all good reasons for dogs to circle before lying down in the wild, but how does this relate to our contemporary, domestic dogs that lead comfortable lives within our homes and yards?

The desire for comfort is innate, so one explanation is that our dogs circle before lying down to get their beds just the way they want them. Unlike us, a quick plump of the pillow won’t do. But their bedtime ritual is more than that. It’s a repeat performance of the actions their ancestors took before going to sleep under the stars.

What if the circling is excessive?

While watching our dogs turn around before bedding down is amusing, it can also be a signal that something is wrong. Dogs that are in pain will circle excessively as they struggle to find a more comfortable position. They may also crouch then rise several times before completely reclining.

If your dog has difficulty settling down even after making several revolutions, consult your veterinarian. Orthopedic disorders like arthritis and neurological disorders like spinal cord or back problems can “turn” the routine nighttime “turning” into a painful experience. With proper evaluation and therapy, bedtime can once again become a comforting “turning” into a painful experience. With proper evaluation and therapy, bedtime can once again become a comforting AND comfortable ritual.

This client information sheet is based on material written by: Lynn Buzhardt, DVM © Copyright 2015 LifeLearn Inc. Used and/or modified with permission under license


Senior pet ALERT!!!

Is MY pet a senior?

Probably yes.

Many people don’t realize how early our pets become what’s called a senior. In our society, at the age of 60, we are considered seniors. Although we eat healthy, exercise and maintain our cognitive brain function, many changes may be happening in our own bodies. We may be a little slower getting up in the morning, or feel sore muscles more often. We may be able to not lift as much as previously or feel we need more or less sleep. We may have some slight memory loss or be a little more forgetful. We may have more gum recession or start actually losing teeth. We may find our skin a little thinner and more sensitive to the sun. Our eyesight might be slowly deteriorating and our hearing not as accurate. All of these signs may be subtle but the changes are still there.

So, what do we do?

Well, we go to the dentist twice a year. Have a physical done at the doctor’s office at least yearly. We go to the optometrist yearly. We have yearly blood drawn and reviewed by our doctor. We wear more sunscreen, hats and sunglasses. We watch what we eat and increase our fiber. Lower our sodium, fat and sugar intake. We may even take anti-inflammatories more often for sore muscles and arthritis. i.e. Tylenol, Advil, etc.

So, why is it that we ignore these issues in our pets??

Did you know most cats never even see a veterinarian, except as a young kitten to get fixed and then as an older pet, when problems are so advanced it is hard for us to treat them back to health?

A cat reaches the equivalent to our age 60 by the age of 11!! A dog anywhere from 8 – 11 years of age!! The larger the dog, the quicker they age.

So, what do we do?

We start with feeding them an age appropriate food. Lower calories, lower sodium, less protein and higher fiber.

We exercise them regularly keeping their comfort level in mind. Oakley, 15 years old and pictured below, still goes on 3 walks per day. Although they may be shorter than when he was younger, it is still beneficial to get out and about. Bike rides he tends to sit out. LOL



We maintain their cognitive function by stimulating the use of their brain with puzzle and treat-releasing toys. Omega fatty acid supplements also help with brain health.

We take care of their oral health. We brush their teeth. Use plaque reducing water additives and other VOHC approved oral health treats.

Friends help you stay young, so, if your dogs gets along with other dogs, be sure to keep up that interaction.

And at the very least, we take them to see the vet yearly.

For any further questions or tips, be sure to call us at Snelgrove Veterinary Services 905-846-3316, visit our website www.snelgrovevet.com and like us on Facebook.


The importance of a physical exam

 What are we actually doing?


Okay, so you bring your pet in for a physical exam and the veterinarian runs their hands over your pet and uses some tools.  What is happening and what kind of things are being discovered?

First of all veterinarians get a lot of information from physical exams.  The physical exam is one of the best diagnostic tools we have to determine whether an animal is sick or well.  Unfortunately, animals can’t talk to us with words so we use what they show us.   We watch how the animal moves around the exam room and assess whether there is pain – sometimes it will materialize in the form of a limp or they may favor one leg over another, sometimes they will hunch their back or be more quiet than usual.

Once we have watched the animal from a distance we start using our hands and tools to examine the animal more closely.   We start by looking at the animal’s eyes and look at the shape and symmetry.  We look to see if there is any discharge present, then look for additional folds in the eyelids or extra hairs that may be bothering the animal.  We also look for ulcerations (scratches on the cornea), inflammation, pigmentation changes, and deposits on the cornea.  We use the ophthalmoscope to look at the retina and see if there is any dilation in the blood vessels, which can be an indication there is an issue with the animal’s blood pressure.  Then we move onto the ears.  Looking at the ears with an otoscope lets us know that the tympanic membrane (ear drum) is intact.  We can tell if an animal is tender just by how they respond to the otoscope being used.  We also use our sense of smell to detect if there is an odor present.  Are the ears red?  If so this can be an indication of an infection or allergies.  We usually need a swab to determine what kind of infection is present.  Next we look at the animals mouth and look at the placement of the teeth.  Is there any rubbing or tooth on tooth contact?  If so then the animal may need corrective dental work to prevent further issues from developing in the future.  We also look for gum inflammation and tartar formation to determine if the animal needs to get their teeth cleaned.  An animal that has the start of dental issues, that receives the dental cleaning that is needed, will help to prevent extractions in the future.  We use our sense of smell again and assess if there is halitosis (bad breath)- a sure sign of dental issues.  We look for loose teeth and retained teeth, again determining what the next best course of treatment will be.


We feel all the lymph nodes and determine if they are enlarged or painful.  If they are, this can be a sign of infection or neoplasia.  We listen to the heart, checking for signs of a murmur, extra heart beats, skipped beats and then we listen to the lungs, assessing if there are increased sounds that could indicate signs of pneumonia or a lung infection.  Next, we move on to palpating the abdomen, to determine if it is gassy or if there are any masses present.  If the animal is tense or cries out this is an indication of pain and could be a sign of something more serious such as a foreign body or pancreatitis.

Finally we look at the skin and see if it is red or showing signs of inflammation.  We also feel for any lumps or bumps that may be evidence of infection or neoplasia.  Beyond our looking, feeling and smelling, yearly bloodwork can help us determine the condition of your pets organs and give us signs of hidden infections, anemia and more. Urine samples checks will also be recommended to check for diabetes, infections and bladder stones.

As you can see a physical examination is a very detailed diagnostic tool.  A physical examination allows us to assess an animal and determine if it is well or ill.  That is why it is so important that animals receive a physical examination at least yearly  – more frequent examinations allow for the detection of issues before they become more serious. Older animals should really have a full physical examination, including blood work and urine testing, every 6 months. Changes can occur very quickly and early detection is often the key to treatment.

Animals are very good at hiding things – what is your pet hiding from you?

When did my dog get so old?

Every November we promote our seniors. November is traditionally “Senior Month.” At Snelgrove Veterinary Services, we do this by offering special bloodwork panels for our senior patients, both feline and canine. This helps our doctors determine if there are any changes going on that should be addressed. Liver and kidney functions are looked at, as well as a complete blood count which could indicate possible anemia and thyroid function. After the blood results are reviewed, the doctor will decide if a change in diet or medications should be considered. Our doctors and staff go one-on-one to help educate our clients on how to help our senior’s live a happier and more comfortable life.

As the old saying goes, “If they’re happy, we’re happy!”

I was so honoured that my dog Andy was chosen as “November’s Senior Month” mascot. Her picture was displayed on the monitor in reception and in previous blogs with information on the importance of “Seniors”. Every so often I would glance up and there she was. Awww yes, my beautiful girl!! Then I realized that living with a senior pet is not about just one month out of the year, it is an everyday experience.

Where did the time go? When did she get so old?

Just like everything else in life, time flies by in a blink of an eye. Our pets, both cats and dogs show subtle signs of aging. Most of these signs we really don’t notice until later on when things become more apparent. Then we think back and realize that this had been going on longer than we thought.

We sometimes misinterpret signs of pain/discomfort/illness by thinking they are finally settling down. Everyone loves a dog that is content to lay at your side and just hang out. One that has matured and no longer jumps up, racing around barking at everything and everyone. Cats that no longer walk all over you at all hours of the night, just because they can. Waking you up whenever they please with a case of the “night crazies.”  Racing from one room to another. Again just because it’s fun. We love when they become of an age when all the training and time spent is finally paying off. We now enjoy our “Best Friend” like never before! They have become that “he/she is such a good cat/dog.”

Now all of a sudden your dog is reluctant to jump into the car. Hmmm, this is different. They never did that before. After some coaxing and a couple of tries they do it. So, we carry on. We come home from work and that happy face and wagging tail is not there to greet us. We look around and to our surprise find them sleeping. We think, “that’s ok, they’re getting old.” Getting up is more difficult. Some lameness but once they get going they seem fine. At bedtime they stand at the bottom of the stairs, watching us go up, reluctant to climb. Before, they used to charged up ahead of us. We would find them standing on the bed with that big smile as if to say, “hurry up!” Dinner time is not so exciting, and food is left behind. We think, “oh well, they’re not as active so maybe not as hungry?” They no longer sit in their favourite chair looking out the window. They now lay on the floor. Walking through the house was always difficult as they were always under foot. Now we go from room to room without getting tripped up. We don’t see our cats on the counter as often trying to steal the dinner preparations. They are no longer in those high places peering down at us as, now we are searching everywhere for them. They seem to prefer under the bed, behind a piece of furniture or in the basement. Litter box habits have changed. Using the litter box more or not using it at all. They are laying down more than normal. The list goes on and on.

Maybe this is not just “old age.”

Maybe it is something else.

Our “Best Friends” are heroic and never want to disappoint us. They choose not to let us know anything is wrong. They will compensate as best as they can until it becomes so apparent –  YES!  something is wrong. It could be pain or even worse, something more serious.

It is important to do annual examinations and blood work, to ensure that they are healthy. More importantly if they show signs of behaviour changes during daily routines, this may be a sign of  something else and should be looked into.

Getting old is not easy for us. And let me tell you, it is not any easier for them. It is up to us to ensure that they remain healthy and happy. Living with a “senior” is truly a daily responsibility. They are most likely on medications and it is important that we comply. They need our assistance with stairs and getting into vehicles. They deal with hearing and vision loss. It takes them longer to walk from room to room and keeping up with us.

It must get very frustrating for them.

They just get to their destination and lay down to watch what we are doing and we leave and go somewhere else. They get up to follow us and soon all we are doing is passing them back and forth. We need to slow down and be there for them. There is a lot we can do for them. There is a large variety of medications and foods available to help keep our “Best Friends” more comfy and happy.

For dogs there are tools we can use. Like harnesses, floor mats and car ramps. Harnesses are great for grabbing and giving that little extra needed pull up the stairs or guiding them up the ramp into the car. Floor mats on hardwood, laminate and ceramic tiles gives confidence to walk without slipping.  Putting pet steps at the bottom of beds or that favorite chair for easier access. Beds outdoors for support on those ageing limps and elbow calluses. For our felines, we can put chairs near those higher perches to assist them to those places they love to go. Bring a litter box upstairs for them. Lift them up and help them down if we see they are about to jump. Carry them from room to room when we know they are going to follow us.

With a few small changes we now have given them freedom to again enjoy all their little pleasures. They feel better about themselves and truly enjoy being part of the family again. We are all they have and we are truly the center of their existence.

Watching Andy grow old and keeping up with her daily challenges makes me love her all that much more. I am so grateful that I can help her with all the wonderful products and medications that are available. The most important thing to remember is to be patient and wait for them. They are doing their best. Hug and kiss them more and tell them you love them. They believe in you and need that reassurance. Remind them you will always there for them no matter what. That is all they ask from us.

Thank you for reading my blog.

Meet Chelsea

ChelseaThis beautiful girl is named Chelsea. She is a sweet and gentle German Shepherd. Like most Shepherds, she is loyal and athletic. Looking at her, you would never guess that she is actually 8 years old! She is a great traveler, and enjoys spending time at the cottage. And she absolutely loves being free to explore the outdoors.

Unfortunately, she no longer gets to spend as much time outside as she used to. When her elderly owner passed away, she was surrendered to the Brampton Animal Shelter. When she arrived at the shelter, the staff immediately went to work providing her with the medical care that her previous owner was not able to. When she came to see us here at Snelgrove Vet Services, she cast her spell on our team of staff members. We fell in love with her.

She is one of the most courageous dogs we’ve ever met. She underwent a nearly 4 hour surgery! Our doctors performed three procedures on her – a lump removal on her abdomen (which was benign), an ovariohysterectomy (spay), and repaired an aural haematoma (fluid build up in the ear flap).  Her amazing recovery proved to everyone, Snelgrove and shelter staff alike, what a brave dog she truly is. Unfortunately, although the lump was benign, it is one that will grow back and potentially need to be removed again in the future.

While the staff at the Brampton Animal Shelter work tirelessly to provide the best care they can for this lovely girl, a kennel is no substitute for a home. After everything Chelsea has been through, she deserves a second chance at a happy life in a forever home, with a loving owner. Wouldn’t it be the perfect ending to Chelsea’s story if she was adopted for the long weekend, so she could run and play outside with her new family? If you, or anyone you know, is interested in learning more about Chelsea, please follow this link to contact the Brampton Animal Shelter.

Chelsea 2

Senior Dog Care


Special Considerations for Dogs

Dogs older than seven years of age are considered senior pets. Senior dogs are in the stage of life in which the aging process is beginning to affect every organ system. Some organs “wear out” faster or are more susceptible to cumulative damage than others, so certain observations are especially important to make. The following is a list of key recommendations that we feel are important for older dogs.

  • Keep vaccinations current. Your veterinarian will determine the proper vaccine schedule for your senior pet’s lifestyle. Most senior pets will receive most vaccines every three years. Some vaccines with shorter duration of immunity such as the “kennel cough,” Leptospirosis or Lyme disease vaccines may be given more frequently (every six to twelve months).
  • Have blood and urine tests evaluated at least once a year. Early detection of chronic diseases such as kidney disease, thyroid disease and diabetes is the key to successful treatment and preservation of quality of life.
  • Brush your pet frequently to prevent matts. This can contribute to skin infections and may hide skin tumors.
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  • Clip toe nails as needed to prevent overgrowth. Long toe nails may cause the dog to stand and walk abnormally and result in pain or accelerate and exacerbate arthritic changes.
  • Keep plenty of fresh water available and monitor its consumption. Increases in water consumption or urination are often associated with conditions such as diabetes, kidney and liver disease.
  • Keep other pets from preventing your senior pet access to food and water.
  • Keep your senior pet indoors most of the time, especially in inclement weather.
  • Weigh on the same scale and record results at least every two months. Changes in weight can be an early indicator of disease.

How often should I take my senior dog to the veterinarian?

“You should take your senior dog to the veterinarian at least once a year for an annual check-up.”

You should take your senior dog to the veterinarian at least once a year for an annual check-up. It is very important to have your veterinarian examine your dog if you notice for any of the following:

1.  Sustained significant increase in water consumption. (normal water intake should be less  than 100 ml/kg/day or approximately 1 ½ cups (12  ounces)/day for a 10 pound dog)

2.  Sustained significant increase in urination.

3.  Weight loss.

4.  Significant decrease in appetite or failure to eat for more than two consecutive days.

5.  Significant increase in appetite.

6.  Repeated vomiting.

7.  Diarrhea that lasts over three days.

8.  Difficulty in passing stool or urine.

9.  Sudden loss of housetraining.


10.   Lameness that lasts more than three days, or lameness in more than one leg.

11.   Noticeable decrease in vision, especially if sudden in onset or pupils that do not constrict in bright light.

12.   Masses, ulcerations (open sores), or multiple scabs on the skin that persist more than one week.

13.   Foul mouth odor or drooling that lasts over two days.

14.   Increasing size of the abdomen.

15.   Increasing inactivity or amount of time spent sleeping.

16.   Hair loss, especially if accompanied by scratching, or if the loss is in specific areas (as opposed to generalized).

17.   Persistent coughing or gagging.

18.   Excessive panting.

19.   Sudden collapse or bouts of weakness.

20.   Inability to chew dry food.

21.  A seizure (convulsion or “fit”).

Ernest Ward, DVM
© Copyright 2009 Lifelearn Inc. Used and/or modified with permission under license.