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What is Pacing?

When you notice your dog pacing, stop and watch them to see if they are exhibiting other symptoms that could point to an underlying cause that may require medical treatment. Some dogs are simply more nervous or anxious and will use pacing as a way to relieve their anxiety. Others will pace when they are agitated about something or someone in or just outside the home. Some dogs may pace because they simply want your attention. You know your dog better than anyone else and if their pacing seems unusual, speak with your veterinarian about the possible causes and how to stop or minimize the behavior. 

There are certain medical conditions that can cause your dog to pace and act unsettled. You should speak with your veterinarian if the pacing is persistent or is accompanied by other symptoms such as refusal to eat or drink, sudden weight loss, discolored urine, excessive drooling, whining or crying or excessive thirst. 

Possible reasons your dog is pacing include:

  • Anxiety
  • Liver disease
  • Cushing’s disease
  • Dementia
  • Brain tumors

Why Pacing Occurs in Dogs

Anxiety

Anxiety can include several different things from separation anxiety to fear. Anxiety is when your dog becomes overly stressed and cannot emotionally deal with these stresses. It can be triggered by past trauma or bad experiences. Most dogs that experience severe anxiety can be given medications, either natural or prescription, to help alleviate their anxiousness. In some cases, a professional dog trainer may also be able to help you work with your dog to ease their anxiety. 

Liver Disease

It may seem odd to include liver disease as a potential cause of your dog’s pacing, but damage to the liver can cause abnormal neurological behaviors which include pacing and sudden changes in behavior. When the liver is not functioning right it cannot filter toxins out of the body. These toxins can then invade the bloodstream and affect the neurological system of your dog. 

Cushing’s Disease

Cushing’s disease is the overproduction of the hormone cortisol. It is most common in older dogs, but can still affect dogs of any age. The most common symptoms of Cushing’s disease include pacing, wandering and restlessness. Cushing’s disease can cause pituitary tumors that can press against the brain or brain stem and cause neurological damage. This is a serious condition that will require on-going treatment.

Dementia

Dogs can develop dementia or even Alzheimer’s disease. These conditions occur when your dog has low dopamine levels and deposits on the brain. The symptoms of dementia will come on slowly and you may not notice them at first. Your dog may become disoriented or confused and this can cause them to pace, wander or circle aimlessly. This is a degenerative disease.

Brain Tumor

Cancer rates in dogs, just like in humans, have skyrocketed and dogs can easily develop tumors in the brain or along the brainstem causing abnormal behavior. These tumors will affect the neurological system and cause your dog to pace and seem unsettled.

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What to do if your Dog is Pacing

Sometimes dogs will pace when something upsets them or there is environmental stress. When the behavior persists beyond a few hours, you need to assess your dog and try to determine if they are seeking attention, suffering from anxiety or if there is a medical condition causing them to pace. 

Dogs that are anxious may still need to visit their veterinarian. An overly anxious dog may need medication to calm them. There are also natural remedies that can be given to alleviate some of their anxiety. Past experiences or trauma can also play a role in your dog’s anxiety and reassurance will help them. Sometimes, therapeutic treatments such as massage can help your dog’s anxiety as can working with a professional dog trainer. 

Dogs that have been diagnosed with a health condition that is causing them to pace, such as liver disease, Cushing’s disease, dementia or brain tumors, will require specialized veterinary care. Treatments will vary depending on the exact cause and the severity of the condition. Medications and/or surgeries may be advised by your veterinarian. On-going care and treatments should be expected.

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Prevention of Pacing

It can be difficult to prevent a medical condition from occurring. Keep your dog active and feed them a quality food to ensure that they are getting the exercise and nutrients they need to maintain a healthy body. Be sure to schedule regular visits to your veterinarian to ensure that your dog is in optimal health. 

Dogs that are suffering from anxiety can become problematic and may require a professional dog trainer that specializes in anxiety in dogs. Take some time and research natural remedies for anxiety that will calm your dog and allow them to relax and not be so anxious.  Speak with your veterinarian about what you have researched and ask their opinion on the subject.

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Cost of Pacing

Your dog’s health is very important to you but it can be expensive to treat certain conditions. Liver disease can cost around $5500 to treat. Cushing’s disease can cost around $2000 to treat. Dementia and other cognitive disorders can cost between $300 and $500 for treatment. Brain tumors can be very costly and treatments can range between $5000 and $12000.

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Pacing Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Shih Tzu/Rat Terrier

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6 mos

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Unknown severity

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Has Symptoms

Pacing/Drooling

Our puppy began pacing a couple weeks ago and have noticed her behavior changing more and more. Now she is drooling a lot. She is fine until about noon. She eats and drinks first thing in the morning just fine. She is a little pig! lol She is thin and I can’t get her to eat once the pacing starts!! ☹️ This goes on for hours until she finally goes off to sleep. When morning comes and we uncrate her she seems fine for about 6 hours and then the pacing starts again!! Please help! 😢

July 18, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. If she is pacing and drooling, that may be a sign of nausea or anxiety. It would probably be best to have an examination done with your veterinarian, as it is difficult for me to assess what is going on without seeing her. If it is something that has happening very regularly, there may be something that is upsetting her stomach with her food, or something in her environment. You could try feeding her a bland diet of boiled white chicken and boiled white rice for a day or two and see if things get better, otherwise I think it would be best to have her seen by your veterinarian. I hope that all goes well for her.

July 18, 2020

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Alaskan Husky Mix

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Seven Years

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Unknown severity

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Pacing

We just got this friendly pup yesterday from a past owner. He seems pretty skiddish and he paces a lot. It takes him a minute to lay down. Hes been drinking good. Eating...okay not as much as I expected and he's slept well. I figured maybe anxiety.

July 12, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

If you just brought me into your house yesterday and I didn't understand, I would probably be pacing a lot as well! That is a big change for a dog, and it may take some time for him to acclimatize to you and your house. It's important to be patient in these situations, and not have unrealistic expectations. I hope that he does well.

July 12, 2020

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Cloie

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mixed pom

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13 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

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Pacing

I have a 13 year old blind dog rescued from an animal shelter when she was 11. She has her days and nights mixed up obviously, but normally she will go back to her spot in my bedroom at night and sleep. It seems over the last few weeks, she has been pacing more--2-3 hours at times. It keeps us all up at night (my boyfriend and 2 other dogs). She has had surgery 3 times to remove tumors on her hind legs. The biopsy on those came back as benign. I am at a loss.

Sept. 25, 2018

Cloie's Owner

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Lorelei

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Collie

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9 Months

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

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Seperation Anxiety
Panting
Pacing
Eyes Dilated

I rescued my puppy when she was around 3 months old. I believe she is either a collie or Australian shepherd. She was badly abused, malnourished, and left in the woods for dead. She was extremely terrified when I first brought her home and it took about a month to get her to be comfortable off the couch. She is around 8-9 months old now and still has pretty severe panic attacks. She is better when my other dog is next to her, but you can see that she is still anxious. She will become terrified to go into my fenced back yard unless I am standing out with her. Is there anything I can do to help with her anxiety. I know it is caused from prior trauma so I'm not sure how to help her.

Sept. 15, 2018

Lorelei's Owner

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Woofie

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Labrador Retriever

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9 Years

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Pacing
Pacing Whinging
Pacing Whinging Wagging Tail

Hi! My old boy has arthritis, we have him on sashas blend & that works wonders on him. However over the last 3 nights his stated whinging pacing and panting around the house. His tail is waging and he usually has a toy in his mouth. If i send him to bed he goes for 2 minutes then starts again. His still eating well and drinking. Ive just taken him for a walk to try settle him and his continuing to do it. How concerned should i be?

July 14, 2018

Woofie's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

Pacing and whining may be a sign of pain or discomfort, there are many reasons for a dog to be pacing which may include medical causes and behavioural causes; pain, neurological disorders, liver disease, anxiety among other causes may lead to this behaviour. You should have your Veterinarian check Woofie over to be on the safe side to determine whether the cause is medical or behavioural. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 14, 2018

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Sky

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Whippet

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1 Year

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Pacing

I have a female dog who is one and ever since I got her she paced not to bad but now she's always pacing I have a track in my back yard just from her pacing I have resorted to bring her inside becau sse she would pace for hours on end and because if her pacing she wouldn't keep her weight in since bringing her inside she has gained weight again I'm scared to let her out in the yard I don't want her losing all her weight again

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Missy

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Yorkie

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16 Years

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Serious severity

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Pacing

My yorkie is 16-1/2 years old. She is partially blind and became mostly deaf about a year ago. She is now walking around aimlessly and pacing. Although she is old, she is in very good shape and healthy. Why all the pacing???

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Eva

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Bull Terrier

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18 Months

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

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Anxiety

I have an 18 month old female bull-terrier cross cattle dog. She has started barking at night as soon as she hears other dogs barking. She paces around excitedly and when she is not barking I can hear her "growl" in her throat. Her tail is wagging, she sits up and then paces until she hears a noise to enjoy her barking time. She has a big yard to play in during the day, gets walked and then enclosed (20m2 area with lawn) at night with her bestie dachsie male, also 18 months. He doesn't bark. Sleeping inside is not an option. I've put speakers out with rain noises during the night but she hasn't changed her pattern. I am at my wits end.

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Stella

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American Pit Bull Terrier

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3 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Licking
Jumping
Pacing

We got our dog from the pound about 2-3 weeks ago she acts like a normal dog but she paces around the throughout the day and also licks “too much” meaning she licks her mouth and me and our other dogs ears compulsively. I know she had puppies and lived in a home before us but our other dog doesn’t act like this at all. She recently started to jump up at our fish tank which she never use to do as well.

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Tacoma

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Shepherd mix

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4 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Whimpering
Anxiety
Pacing

This past weekend I took my dog to my boyfriends house for the first time. It’s a 3 hour car ride, and that morning it was storming (she already has anxiety with storms) so I gave her Trazodone 1 mg. She acted fine all weekend until Sunday afternoon, she cried out as she jumped onto the bed and was shaking. The drive home was fine, but she has been constantly pacing in circles around my dining table and whimpering.