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Dog Bedding: What is Your Choice?

By: Dr. Amanda Landis-Hanna
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Blankets.  Orthopedic.  Memory foam.  Elevated slings.  All of these can serve as appropriate bedding for your dog, but many people don’t realize that each dog may have a “best type” of bed.  Depending on her age, health conditions, and personal preference, your dog may need one, or more, of these bed types.

Blankets:
This type of “bed” is one of the most common at my house.  Comforters, plush picnic blankets, and even thick towels are great beds for many dogs.  Dogs who enjoy digging or positioning their beds may enjoy blankets, because they are easier to move into the ‘perfect’ position.  They are also very easy to wash, since the lining is part of the blanket.  This design means that the blankets may be able to be tossed into a washing machine, with detergent and color-safe bleach as needed.  Heavy blankets, such as moving blankets, can provide nice padding, but keep in mind that they may retain heat; heavy blankets may not be the best choices in summertime.  Also evaluate each blanket for rips or tears.  Some dogs, especially puppies and those with anxiety, may try to shred the blanket, or may ingest the blanket.  These behaviors increase the risk for a foreign body in the stomach or intestines, so blankets are not recommended for destructive dogs.

Orthopedic:
This type of bedding is generally plush, supporting dogs that have painful joints or backs.   Key orthopedic conditions include osteoarthritis, cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) disease, and elbow or hip dysplasia. Senior dogs, or lean dogs (with minimal body fat) may also benefit from having additional padding, especially over the joints.  These beds may be filled with an egg-crate-like material, or may have a thick, downy interior, making them difficult to wash.  Look for beds that have a cover that will zip off to make cleaning easier. 

Memory foam:
These beds are filled with an absorbent foam material, which helps to absorb shock and impact.  Some puppies enjoy these beds, since it “nestles” in against the body.  Dogs who are restless sleepers (as seen on Voyce data) may also enjoy this type of bed, as it remains plush no matter what the position.  Just like orthopedic beds, these may be difficult to wash, so a zip-off cover is helpful.

Elevated or sling beds:
These beds look like the canine version of a hammock.  A resilient fabric is attached to 4 poles, elevated off the ground, usually by several inches.  This elevation provides good air circulation around and under the dog, so she stays cool in hot weather.  The durable material is usually waterproof, so that the sling may be rinsed off, for easy cleaning.  These beds are often lightweight, made out of plastic piping and nylon material, but they cannot be folded due to the firm skeleton.  These beds are great for overweight, obese, or hypothyroid dogs, which have more difficulty regulating their temperature.  Use with caution for destructive dogs; if a small snag or tear occurs in the fabric, destructive dogs will often finish destroying the bed.

Your sofa or bed:
This type of bedding may be very familiar to you.  Sometimes your favorite girl just wants to snuggle during TV time, or she may even sleep with you at night.  Many dog lovers (myself included) let her on the sofa once or twice, thinking that she won’t develop a habit that quickly.  Unfortunately, big sad eyes often win out, and she claims a sofa as her own.  A few important things to note: getting onto and off of beds and sofas may be dangerous for dogs with back problems, such as Intervertebral disc disease (IVDD).  These breeds, such as Great Danes, Doberman Pinchers, Basset Hounds, and Dachshunds, should be given an alternative method to get to ‘their’ bed, such as dog stairs or a ramp.  Also keep in mind that human sleep research indicates that humans sleep less well when sharing their bed with their dog(s).   Your tossing-and-turning may keep her up, and vice versa.  Also remember that this habit may be difficult to ‘maintain’ during travel, if you are staying in a less dog friendly location, or if she is staying with a friend or at a kennel. 

No matter what type of bedding is right for your dog, be aware that her needs may change over time.  In some cases, a puppy may do well with a memory foam bed, only to prefer an orthopedic bed as she ages. All dog beds should be replaced every few years due to dust mite contamination. In my household, we have many different types of beds, and Sophie sleeps on all of them at various points.  Sometimes she even prefers the hard tile to her bed.  But I sleep better knowing that when she is ready for a snooze, she has a nice warm bed, and her own sofa.