For people that struggle with such problems as insomnia, stress, and anxiety, weighted blankets are a great way to help them find relief. Since these blankets work so well to help alleviate many of these common ailments and many dog owners like to sleep with their best canine pals, it’s only natural to wonder if weighted blankets are safe for dogs.
What is a Weighted Blanket?
A relatively new phenomenon, weighted blankets are exactly what they sound like: blankets that are heavy. Weighted blankets are filled with small beads that help increase the overall heft of the covering. They are highly prized for their promotion of deep touch pressure or deep pressure therapy, a type of treatment that assists with the release of serotonin to produce feelings of calm and peacefulness. Serotonin is linked to the regulation of brain functionality and also assists with the nervous system, helping anxious people to feel more at ease and free from stress.
How Do Weighted Blankets Work?
Heavier blankets have long been in use for swaddling babies, helping them to feel safe and secure. This same concept is achieved through the use of a weighted blanket, helping users to feel a sense of calmness and relief from stress. The effect items such as weighted blankets have on people is known as Sensory Integration.
At its core, Sensory Integration utilizes all five senses in conjunction with the movement of the body, the effects of gravity, and body consciousness to help reveal important information about a person. The pressure applied on the body through the use of a weighted blanket helps to break down nervous tension, anxiety, and feelings of stress. When the body experiences a release from these negative emotions, the brain is then able to relax as well. In this way, Sensory Integration allows for a total mind and body experience.
What are The Benefits of Using a Weighted Blanket?
Here are a few of the benefits you gain from using a weighted blanket:
- Reduced anxiety attacks
Recent research indicates that over 40 million people suffer from anxiety in some form. Of this 40 million, it is estimated that only 30% opt to pursue treatment to help ease their suffering. Weighted blankets have proven to be effective at reducing the amount of anxiety attacks a person experiences as well as helping to lessen the effects of them.
Because weighted blankets have a positive effect on the nervous system, they are particularly effective at treating people suffering from anxiety attacks. When an anxiety attack begins, the person can nestle beneath the weighted blanket, waiting for the pressure to help induce the release of serotonin. Once the serotonin begins to kick in, the person’s anxiety is greatly lessened.
- Assists with insomnia and promote better sleep quality
Sadly, Science Daily reports that every 1 in 4 Americans suffers from insomnia on a yearly basis. There are many different reasons for insomnia; however, two of the top triggers are inability to find a comfortable position and heavy thoughts weighing on the mind. Some people are able to get to sleep but can’t seem to stay sleep while others sleep a full eight hours but don’t feel rested when they wake up in the morning.
Poor quality sleep affects many different aspects of life including the ability to make good decisions, effective thought processes, mood, and even the regulation of emotions. When someone suffers from poor sleep quality, they may become highly emotional or even easily irritated. Weighted blankets can help with all of these things. The pressure from the heaviness of the covering produces a boost of serotonin to help still the mind, unburden the body of tension, and promote a relaxed state conducive to sleeping.
- Enhances focus
Weighted blankets can be of great benefit to people suffering from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder that struggle to find and maintain focus. For people who have difficulty keeping their attention span on track, a weighted blanket’s pressure is a great help, ensuring the focus remains on the task at hand.
Do Dogs Have Anxiety Problems?
Some dogs also struggle with anxiety and can benefit from anything that helps to reduce their stress. But how can a dog owner know when their dog is suffering from anxiety related problems?
Here are some of the most commonly seen symptoms in dogs with anxiety:
- Low energy and excessive sleeping
Though it is quite normal for senior dogs and puppies to sleep a large portion of their day, adult dogs in their prime should not suffer from poor energy levels or excessive bouts of sleeping. When this occurs, it is possible that the dog is sick, anxious, stressed, in pain, or even depressed. Veterinary assistance may be required to help get to the root of the problem.
- Lack of interest in family time
Dogs that are normally very social that now prefer their own company may be suffering from anxiety related issues. Illness may also be to blame for this self-imposed isolation.
If a dog suddenly develops destructive habits, it may be that he or she is suffering from separation anxiety.
- Poor appetite
Much like human beings, some dogs lose interest in their food when feeling anxious, stressed, or in pain. Over time, this will cause the dog to lose weight, and the dog’s body condition will begin to deteriorate, a sure sign of anxiety or stress.
What are Some of the Reasons a Dog May Be Stressed?
There are many different things that can cause dogs to be stressed or anxious. Among the most common triggers for dogs are the following:
- A change of routine
- Separation from family members
- Loud noises
Is a Weighted Blanket Suitable for Treating Dogs with Anxiety?
For owners hoping to use a weighted blanket to assist dogs with separation anxiety, it is a good idea for the owner to sleep with the blanket a few times first before allowing their dog to use it. This will ensure that the blanket smells familiar to the dog, providing an extra layer of comfort to soothe the dog’s fears.
Dogs that tend to chew blankets when anxious should only be permitted to use a weighted blanket under careful supervision. Since weighted blankets are filled with beads that help to increase their heft, the dog can easily ingest these beads as well as fabric if he or she tears the blanket apart. This could be hazardous to the dog’s health, and thus, unsupervised use of weighted blankets is best avoided.
Weighted blankets are particularly effective for dogs that become anxious during storms, fireworks, or at the sound of other loud noises. The weight of the blanket helps to hide some of the external sounds when the dog buries themselves beneath it.
Some owners also like to make use of weighted blankets during car rides to help the dog feel more at ease when on the road.
Are Weighted Blankets Safe for Use with Dogs?
Experts disagree as to whether or not weighted blankets are safe for use with dogs. While weighted blankets can assist with relieving stress and nervous behavior in dogs; whether or not this is a wise choice depends on a few different factors.
For owners planning to try using a weighted blanket to help relieve stress for their dog, there are a few things that should be taken into consideration. These include:
- The dog’s size and weight
Some dogs are simply too small for weighted blankets and may actually suffocate under the heft of them. For these dogs, weighted blankets are not a good idea. As a general rule of thumb if the weight of the blanket exceeds 10 percent of the dog’s body weight, then the blanket is too heavy for the dog.
- Brachycephalic breeds
Short nosed breeds such as French Bulldogs, Shih Tzus, Boston Terriers, and more may struggle to breathe even under normal conditions because of their unique conformation. These breeds are not well suited to weighted blanket use as the extra weight from the covering may further impede their ability to breathe well.
But it is not just the blanket’s weight that can be problematic for brachycephalic breeds. Their unique nasal flares can also make it very difficult for them to properly release heat from their bodies which can lead to extreme overheating and respiratory issues.
- Dogs with skin problems
Any dog that suffers from ongoing skin problems such as contact dermatitis, sensitive skin, open sores, hotspots, or allergies are not good candidates for weighted blanket use. The excess pressure from the blanket can cause rubbing against the skin that can lead to pain and further irritation.
Are weighted blankets safe for dogs? Well, that depends. Under careful observation and under certain circumstances, yes. But for some dogs, alternative ways to alleviate stress and anxiety are a far better choice. If you’re uncertain if weighted blankets are a good idea for your pet, consult with your veterinarian for specific advice pertaining to your dog and his or her unique situation.