Animated Image of a Restless Dog at Night

Why is My Dog Restless
and Anxious at Night?

Disclaimer – Nothing on this website is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment… Read more here

Dogs make wonderful and loving companions, but that doesn’t mean they don’t come without their challenges. An anxious dog could easily become the cause of many sleepless nights. Just as the dog’s restless behavior can be disruptive, you may also develop anxiety yourself out of concern for your pup.

 

If you are currently wondering why your dog is restless and anxious at night, we are here to help. We will review different methods to help your dog sleep soundly through the night while also examining the different reasons why your dog may be restless.

Section 1

Why Is My Dog Restless at Night All of a Sudden?

Section 2

How to Calm a Restless Dog at Night

Section 3

Frequently Asked Questions

Section 3

Sleep Drunkenness Symptoms

Why Is My Dog Restless at Night All of a Sudden?

Whether you have noticed an uptick in nighttime restlessness or your dog has always been anxious at this time, the following reasons could explain your pup’s behavior.

Fear

Illustration of a Man and Dog Co-Sleeping

Like humans, dogs can experience fearful feelings from time to time, and the reasons they get scared can vary too. For instance, dogs have very sensitive hearing, and as a result, they can become easily restless at night from loud noises. Thunderstorms and fireworks are several examples of loud noises that are known to exacerbate a dog's anxiety.

 

Exposure to different environments may also cause them to be fearful. For example, a dog spending the night somewhere new may be extra intimated by their new surroundings and have trouble relaxing.

Separation Anxiety

Sometimes dogs can develop separation anxiety when they are not around their guardians. For instance, a dog's anxiety could arise at night if they stay overnight somewhere without their guardian or have to sleep in a different room than where their guardian sleeps. Other separation anxiety[1] causes could be that the dog was surrendered or abandoned, adopted by a new family, changes to the dog’s routine or schedule, moving to a new home, or changes in the family such as a member dying or moving away.

 

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA[2]), senior dogs may experience nighttime separation anxiety because they view sleeping as a way of being isolated from their guardian. However, they add that senior dog anxiety from separation could be due to an underlying issue such as a medical disease.

Separation Anxiety Symptoms

illustration of a woman having mood swings

Pain

Also, like their human counterparts, pain can prevent dogs from sleeping through the night. Although they can’t describe their pain by speaking, dogs may try to share that they are in discomfort through various signs[3].

Signs a Dog is in Pain

Dogs of all ages could experience pain due to medical issues, general wear and tear, or an injury. However, an older dog is at an increased risk for health complications or chronic pain. If you suspect your dog is in pain, you should consult with a veterinarian immediately.

Conditions That Could Cause Pain in Dogs

Infection or illness
Like humans, dogs are vulnerable to infections and diseases[4]. Lyme disease, ringworm, and giardia are a few examples of the types of illnesses that can affect canines.
Injury

Some of the more common injuries a dog could experience include ingesting foreign objects, scratches and scrapes, eye injuries, and ligament tears.

Surgery

Whether they are elective or a medical emergency, dogs can also experience discomfort following surgery. Many dogs will inherently want to lick or bite at their post-surgery wounds, which is why you will usually see dogs wear special collars to prevent them from doing this.

Dental Problems

Dogs are also vulnerable to dental problems, such as Gingivitis and Periodontitis, that could become uncomfortable.

Arthritis

Canines can also develop osteoarthritis[5] that causes inflammation and pain in the joints. A veterinarian will be able to formally diagnose if a dog has arthritis.

 

Experts say there is not one specific reason why a dog develops this condition. Instead, they can develop osteoarthritis over time based on a variety of factors such as their build, being overweight, abnormal joint development, how active they are, previous injuries, orthopedic surgeries, and nutrition.

Bone Disease
Different types of bone diseases can impact young dogs still growing into their full size.  According to VCA Hospitals[6], younger dogs can experience specific bone diseases that include Osteochondritis Dissecans, Panosteitis, Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy, Elbow Dysplasia, Hip Dysplasia, and Luxating Patella. While some of these can lead to limping in the front and back legs, others can cause limping in just the front or back.
Cancer

Unfortunately, dogs may also develop cancer during their lifetime. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA[7]), over half of pet deaths over the age of 10 are due to cancer.

 

However, the good news is that preventive care, emerging treatment reserach, and early diagnosis can help pets live longer.

 

Experts say pet owners should be mindful of certain warning signs that a pet may have cancer. Look for lumps or bumps, wounds that do not heal, swelling, and abnormal bleeding. Additionally, changes in how they eat, sleep, drink, and go to the bathroom could also be cause for concern.

Old Age

As mentioned, our furry companions experience an increased risk of health complications as they age. One of those issues is Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD), a behavioral syndrome affecting senior dogs. Several cognitive dysfunction symptoms could explain why an older dog might be restless at night. 

 

The first is changes to their sleep-wake cycle. For example, the dog may become more fidgety at night when they’re supposed to sleep, or they begin to sleep more during the day instead. Dogs may also display repetitive behaviors such as pacing and an overall increase in anxiety and restlessness.

Other Signs of Cognitive Dysfunction in Older Dogs

Not Enough Physical Activity

Illustration of a Man Playing with His Dog Outside

Many dogs can develop a lot of pent-up energy, and when they do not get enough exercise during the day, this could cause them to become restless at night. So while a walk or two around the block to go to the bathroom is some activity, it likely may not be enough to expel their energy, particularly if the dog is larger.

How to Calm a Restless Dog at Night

Create a Calm Environment

Animated Image of a Dog Wanting to Sleep in a Human's Bed

If your dog is extra skittish at night, try creating a quiet and dark environment where they can sleep. The dog could be easily startled by loud noises or lights, which may be why they appear restless during the night. 

 

In the event of thunderstorms or fireworks, keep the windows closed to help muffle the sounds as much as possible. You could also try putting on some calming music to help further drown out the noise outside. 

 

If you have a den or finished basement that is quieter, you could try letting the dog sleep down there. However, be sure that your dog is okay to be left alone, as this could exacerbate separation anxiety if they have that as well.

Provide Comfort

Sometimes, providing extra comfort for your pup could do the trick when it comes to helping them sleep better.

Good Dog Bed

Just as a new mattress can work wonders for improving your sleep, dogs may also benefit from a cozy bed. For instance, orthopedic dog beds could help relieve pain in dogs with arthritis. Furthermore, a cushiony bed is likely more inducive for peaceful sleeping than a cold hardwood floor.

Illustration of a Dog- Sleeping in Their Bed

Stuffed Toys or Blankets

Puppies recently separated from their siblings or mother may need extra comfort as they adjust to their new environment. To help them in this process, consider purchasing one or two stuffed toys and a blanket they can cuddle.

Soothing Noises

Playing soothing sounds at night could also help restless dogs feel more relaxed. You can find multiple playlists catered to calming down dogs on Spotify and Youtube.

Daytime Exercise

As mentioned earlier, not getting enough physical activity during the day could cause a dog to feel restless at night. Therefore, you should allow your pup adequate time for daytime exercise, particularly if you notice they are restless at night. 

 

If you have a backyard, this is an easy opportunity to let the dog run around. However, those who live in apartments or condominiums will need to make time to take their dog out. 

 

Dog parks, walks, the beach, and hikes are just some of the ways you can provide your pup with physical activity. If they are extra playful, consider bringing along a frisbee or tennis ball to play a game of catch.

Illustration of a Girl Taking a Dog for a Walk

Last Minute Bathroom Break

In some cases, a dog could exhibit signs of restlessness because they need to relieve themselves. Taking your canine for a last-minute potty break right before bed could help prevent this from happening, allowing them to rest more comfortably until morning.

Calming Aids

If you have tried multiple tactics but still have no luck, consider giving your pup calming aids. The good news is that calming aids for dogs can come in various forms, such as supplements, vests, collars, oils, and sprays. Although these aids are relatively easy to find, either online or in pet supply stores, you should get one that your dog’s vet approves of since they could affect certain dogs differently.

Illustration of a Sleeping Dog Dreaming

Speak With Your Dog’s Veterinarian

In general, your dog’s vet will be an excellent resource if your pup is anxious at night. A veterinarian can help determine if an underlying medical issue is causing the restlessness, or they can provide more specific solutions to help your dog rest better. Before the appointment, try to keep a journal of your dog’s nighttime symptoms, so the vet has a clear understanding of how the dog is behaving.

Frequently Asked Questions

What if I’m trying to crate train my puppy?

Illustration of a Dog Sleeping

We covered earlier that puppies can experience nighttime anxiety after becoming newly separated from their mom and siblings. Many new pet parents will also try to crate train[8] their puppy during this time. Veterinary experts recommend several options to help a puppy sleep through the night while crate training.

The first is to try out a crate cover during summer when the sun sets later and rises earlier. Like humans, puppy sleep patterns can be affected by light and dark. Furthermore, the experts advise turning off additional lights in the room, such as televisions and cell phones.

They also suggest other ways to help the puppy feel secure and cozy inside the crate, such as a dog bed, blanket, soothing scents and sounds, and stuffed toys to cuddle with while they sleep. Pre-bedtime bathroom breaks are also important, but make sure it is relaxed and not an opportunity to play because this could wind them up before bed.

Lastly,  be mindful not to feed your puppy too late or early. If puppies eat too early, they could become hungry during the night, and if they eat too late, they may need to relieve themselves in the middle of the night.

 

Check Out Our Guide: Best Rated Dog Crate Beds

When does canine dementia usually start?

Canine cognitive dementia[9] typically begins when the dog is 11 years or older. Researchers say this neurodegenerative disease affects about 60 percent of dogs.

 

While no specific breed is more affected by this than others, experts say it is usually diagnosed in smaller breeds since they tend to have a longer lifespan than larger dogs. Furthermore, they say that CCD’s similarity to Alzheimer’s could provide helpful insight into the human disease.

Should I sleep with my dog?

Animation of Pets Sleeping in Man's Bed

You might wonder whether sleeping with your pet, either in the same room or bed, could help with their anxiety. Plus, some people sleep with their pets to relieve their own anxious feelings.

 

Sleeping with your pet is not inherently a bad thing. However, there are factors you will need to consider beforehand, in particular your health and the health of your dog. 

 

For example, dogs with arthritis could have difficulty getting in and out of bed. In this case, a simple solution would be to let them sleep in your bedroom instead of sharing a bed. 

 

If you have allergies, sleeping beside your pet could worsen them. Even if you are not allergic to dogs specifically, they can carry other allergens in their fur, such as pollen, dust, and danger. 

 

Furthermore, co-sleeping with a dog could lead to more disturbed sleep if the animal moves around a lot. You may also accidentally irritate or hurt your pup if you roll over on top of them while you are asleep.

Are some breeds more anxious than others?

Different dog breeds are known to have their own unique personalities, and researchers point out that these traits come from their specific DNA patterns[10]. That raises the question, then, as to whether certain breeds are more likely to experience anxiety.

 

To determine this, a research team asked dog owners to fill out a survey about their dog’s personality. Based on the responses, they found that certain dog breeds are prone to anxious behaviors.

 

However, they limited their findings to 14 breeds and 200 responses. In total, the team had received over 13,000 responses covering 264 breeds.

 

They found that Lagotto Romagnolos, Wheaten Terriers, and mixed breed dogs were most sensitive to noises. Secondly, Spanish water dogs, Shetland dogs, and mixed breeds are the most fearful breeds. Lastly, miniature schnauzers were more aggressive and uneasy around strangers.

 

Furthermore, these findings may not be entirely genetic but rather a combination of DNA and environmental factors. For example, mixed breeds are more likely to experience time in a shelter, which could increase their risk of developing anxiety.

[1] “Separation Anxiety”, ASPCA
[2] “Behavior Problems in Older Dogs”, ASPCA
[3] “How to Know if Your Dog Is in Pain: Signs of Discomfort”, American Kennel Club, May 23, 2021
[4] “Infectious Diseases”, VCA Hospitals
[5] “Arthritis in Dogs”, VCA Hospitals
[6] “Bone Diseases of Growing Dogs”, VCA Hospitals
[7] “My Dog Has Cancer: What Do I Need to Know?”, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, July 29, 2021
[8] “Trainer Tips to Help Your Puppy Sleep Through the Night”, Preventative Vet, September 15, 2021
[9] Sonja Prpar Mihevc, Gregor Majdič, “Canine Cognitive Dysfunction and Alzheimer’s Disease – Two Facets of the Same Disease?”, National Library of Medicine, 2019
[10] “Is your dog anxious? Genes common to its breed could play a role”, Science, March 5, 2020
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