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What are Restless?

Sometimes, your dog will pace or seem restless to get your attention.  Excitement usually accompanies this type of restless.  As a pet owner, you know what your dog’s normal behavior is like so you can spot his out of character restlessness when it occurs.  Restlessness in your dog may include pacing or circling, repeatedly adjusting his position and changes in sleep patterns.  You will want to know the cause of your dog unsettled behavior.  There are several potential reasons for restless from behavioral to medical conditions.  Some of the more common reasons include:

  • Separation anxiety (behavioral)
  • Phobias (behavioral)
  • Fleas and ticks
  • Tapeworms
  • Poisoning
  • Cushing’s Disease

While some restlessness is behavioral, it is important to rule out any medical reasons for your dog’s unsettled behavior.

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Why Restless Occurs in Dogs

Out of the ordinary, restless behavior in your dog may indicate some levels of pain, health issues, or anxiety.  Most people can determine if the nature of the problem is behavioral or medical.

Separation Anxiety

Dogs sometimes develop overly attached bonds to their people, and when you leave your dog, he may become restless.  Separation anxiety can lead to destructive behaviors, over vocalization, or house soiling and typically manifest with the first 15 to 30 minutes after leaving your dog.    

Phobias and Fears

Phobias and fears as the cause of restless behavior are easier to spot because something usually triggers your dog’s restlessness.  Phobias are an exaggerated fear, and your dog may tuck his tail under, pant excessively, pace, or cry when his phobia is triggered.  Loud noises, such as thunder, fireworks, or gunshots usually trigger phobias.  

Fleas and Ticks

Fleas and ticks are small parasites that bite and feed on your dog’s blood and can be very uncomfortable for your dog.  If your dog has a flea infestation, he will intensely scratch and lick his skin to help relieve the itching.  Ticks, on the other hand, use their mouths to attach themselves to your dog and draw blood from him.  Ticks may carry infectious disease and further harm your dog beyond the irritation that leads to restless behaviors.

Tapeworms

Tapeworms are intestinal parasitic worms with flat heads and are common in dogs of all ages. Tapeworms are not a serious threat to your dog but may lead to intestinal blockages.  Puppies are more susceptible to the harmful effects a tapeworm as it can result in slow growth and anemia in your puppy.  The most common tapeworm in dogs is a flea tapeworm and may develop after your dog ingests fleas.  

Toxin and Poison Ingestion

There are potential toxins and poisons your dog may have an opportunity to ingest throughout his day, and some may not seem likely. A common poison for dogs that we often forget is chocolate. Consuming chocolate can lead to restless behavior, excessive panting, and agitation in your dog.  The clinical signs of chocolate poisoning can occur within the first few hours of ingestion and can last for days.  You will usually know if your dog has eaten chocolate because he leaves the evidence behind, such as candy wrappers and boxes.    

Cushing’s Disease

Cushing’s disease occurs when the endocrine glands can no longer produce the correct levels of cortisol in your dog.  Cortisol production occurs to help suppress inflammation and can trigger during moments of stress in your dog’s life.  Cushing’s is an overproduction of cortisol and can be triggered by pituitary gland (grown gland) damage, adrenal tumors, or over treating with anti-inflammatory corticosteroids.

What to do if your Dog is Restless

If your dog’s restlessness is abnormal, you must determine if the response is behavioral or medical and you should seek a veterinarian’s advice.  You can lessen anxiety and fear over time with reinforcement-based training and should ask for help from a trainer or your vet for the best course of action.  Sedative and anti-anxiety medications can also be administered to help an adjusting pet but will not solve your dog’s behavior-related restlessness.    

If your dog is in pain or his restlessness is due to a medical condition, your veterinarian will be able to determine the cause.  If fleas or ticks are the cause of your dog’s unease, you much follow your vet’s instructions with care to get rid of the parasites.  Tapeworm treatments are very effective if your dog is diagnosed with a worm parasite and your veterinarian will prescribe a dewormer medication.  

The treatment for ingesting a toxin or poison, such as chocolate, will depend on how quickly you catch the ingestion and get your dog to the veterinarian.  At the vet, your dog may be induced to vomit to remove the chocolate from his stomach.  Absorbents, such as charcoal, may also be used to help absorb the toxins.  Many times other treatments are given to support the removal of toxins, such as interventions fluid therapy and beta-blockers to help reduce the heart rate.  

For more severe conditions, such as Cushing’s, your dog may have to undergo surgery or radiation therapy as well as use medication to help control the adrenal glands.

Prevention of Restless

Training and positive reinforcement can go a long way in preventing anxiety and fear from developing in your dog.  A loving and comfortable home is always the best environment for your dog to grow and be happy.  You can prevent medical-related restlessness caused by fleas and ticks by proper grooming techniques and learning how to spot and remove ticks.  Avoiding tall grassy areas will also prevent ticks from coming into contact with your dog.

Several common household products and plants may affect your dog’s health and make him restless. Knowing what is unsafe for you dog and keeping it away from him will help prevent potential poisoning.

As your dog ages, he may develop diseases that lead to restless behavior; however, you can prevent chemically induced physiological responses by limiting unnecessary medications.  Overuse of anti-inflammatory medications are one such drug that may lead to Cushing’s disease; therefore, you should always consult with your veterinarian before administering any medication.

Cost of Restless

Treatment cost for restless behavior will depend on the underlying cause.  For example, treatment for fleas can cost $300 whereas treatment for Cushing’s may cost $2,000.

Restless Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Dora
Poodle
3 Years
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

See above description

Why does our three year old tiny toy female poodle (4.6 lbs.) occasionally become restless? Every month or so this has been occurring and lasts about a day. Started
approximately year and a half ago. She seems maybe a little disoriented, pacing around, then trying to lay down and get comfortable, then jumps up and goes in circles before repeating said behavior. She also will
do things that are not her normal behavior like getting in her toy box and standing, in bed at night walking on us and climbing onto night stand beside bed and doesn't want any petting contact with us. Appetite seems normal
most of the time, while some times a little decreased during these episodes.

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1375 Recommendations
Thank you for your email. Dora may be having bouts of pain or discomfort, or she may be having some anxiety. My dog acts like this when it is going to storm, but there may be other things that you don't hear that Dora does, and it might be making her anxious. It would probably be a good idea to have her examined by your veterinarian to make sure that nothing seems painful or out of the ordinary, and they can prescribe an anti-anxiety medication if you feel that that is something she may need.

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Bubbles
Maltese
6 Years
Moderate condition
1 found helpful
Moderate condition

Hi ive got a small maltese that is beeing walking around my lounge up and down from yesturday "sunday" afternoon with her nose up in the air if she can smell something and her tail is down and keeping looking at the lounge seilling if something is fritening her , on saturday i gave my green pepper seedlings some sour milk and water mix on my lounge windowsill can it be that what she is smelling or is there something in the house whats making her scared, im worried about her she acts normal outside like she is always doing but when she comes back in the lounge she is scared. What can it be dr.

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1375 Recommendations
Dogs do have a very sensitive sense of smell, and Bubbles may be smelling the sour milk on the windowsill. If the behavior continues after you move the pepper seedlings to another place, there may be more going on with her, but if she acts very normal outside, I suspect that is what she is doing.

Thanks alot Dr. Michele King ive moved the pepper seedlings to another room in the house and closed the room door where they are in and bubbles started to act normal again , thanks alot Dr. U where very helpful.

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Pal
Maltese Shih Tzu
11 Years
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

restlessness

My dog had bladder stone surgery a few days ago, and has been acting like himself, but he’s been extremely restless tonight. Is that just from the pain?

Also, I can’t keep him from jumping on the couch. How worried should I be that he continues to do this? It’s not a very high couch and his outside incision looks fine. I am worried about the stitches on his bladder though

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2950 Recommendations
The incision on the bladder would have healed much faster than the skin or abdominal wall, but the skin and abdominal wall incision will take five to seven days to heal (or longer since Pal is getting on in years). Discomfort from surgery is a possibility, but you should keep a close eye on him and if you notice any other strange behaviour or if the incision site is discoloured you should visit your Veterinarian immediately. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Honey
Labrador Retriever
7 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

restless, upset stomach yesterday,

My dog is very restless today. Will lay down only to pop up in 5-10 seconds. Jumps up into her favorite chair, only to jump back down. She was not feeling well yesterday. She threw up bile and there were trace amounts of blood in the bile. She did not eat or drink until almost 9:30 PM. We watched her and did not pester her or bother her. She begged for and then had 2 dog cookies and drank some water at teh 9:30 time. This morning she seemed perkier. I made her chicken strips and she ate those and then her kibble. She went on her walk and is urinating. She did have a somewhat normal bowel movement, but it was a bit loose and "funky" at the end. She is not drooling.

She does have some anxiety and has had to have "happy pills" for when other dogs visit. She had an episode of anxiety about 2 weeks ago even though there were not any visitors. Once she had her medicine, she did settle down.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2950 Recommendations
It sounds like Honey may just have a simple tummy upset, feeding some boiled chicken and rice for a day or two then moving over to her regular food may be enough to resolve this; infections, parasites, stress, food issues, foreign objects, poisoning, eating non-food items among other causes may these issues. Make sure that Honey is up to date on worming treatment etc.. if you don’t see any improvement you should visit your Veterinarian. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Flash
Staffordshire Bull Terrier
7 Years
Mild condition
1 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Pacing

My dog Flash is very restless lately. He will be turning 8 August 13. He's a Staffordshire mix and he is up to date on shots. Since seeing his vet back in September or October he was fine. He just recently started acting like he can't sit at night. He's always walking and he'll sit for a moment and then get right back up. I know he's super jealous of our Boxer and wants to do everything she does, so I give him extra treatment sometimes, but he's still acting weird with this pacing thing. All I hear at night is him walking back and forth. If I don't want to be bothered, my boxer will just lay down she knows to go to her spot but he's still wanting attention so I'm wondering if it's an attention seeking thing. He's also always licking my husband and I. He licks Phoebe a lot too but she'll walk away if she doesn't want to be bother by him. She does like his ears sometimes and he likes that but it's like he always wants more. What do you think? Just a note, he's eating fine, bathroom fine, playful, and gets plenty of water as well.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2950 Recommendations
It is difficult to say what the specific cause is, this may be behavioural (attention seeks, jealousy etc…) or medical (pacing due to pain or discomfort; without examining Flash I cannot say which one it is or start to say what possible behavioural issues may be going on with Flash. You could try to place Flash in a crate or another room when he is showing behaviour which isn’t desired as a punishment, but it may take time and he may not pick up on it. As for the pacing, you should visit your Veterinarian again to make sure that there isn’t a medical cause for it. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Going to try the crate first and go from there. He's not yelping or anything. He whimpers when he has to go potty but that's normal for him or during the rainy days. Hopefully the crate will work. I have one but never use it, so maybe this will let me know if he's just seeking attention or not. Its just weird it only happens at night when we're all in the living room watching TV.

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Bandit
Chihuahua
3 Years
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

Restless

My dog is acting strange, standing in the hallway staring at me, lays down and then gets up. He usually is settled but tonight he has been restless for the past few hours. About 10 hours ago he managed to snatch the last few sips of my instant coffee when I wasn't looking, about 10mls? But has also started on new food in the past 24 hours. Could it be either of these things? Is there anything I can do to make him settle?

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1375 Recommendations
If Bandit is restless and not settling, it may be due to the coffee that he ate. If he does not settle down in the next few hours, it would be best to have him examined, but if he had a few sips of coffee, I can see that being a reason for him being restless.

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Ranger
Rottweiler
1 Year 10 Months
Fair condition
1 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

anxiety
restlessness
scratching door
boredom

hey, we just adopted a large rottweiler - lab mix, he's been on four mile long walks today, but he's super restless. I gave him a bath, brushed him, did enrichment and training with him, let him in the yard to go to the bathroom, fed him on time, gave him his bone, and gave him water throughout the day. I'm not sure what more I can do. We have a crate and are planning on crate-training him, but I don't want him to see the crate as a punishment for scratching at my door and whining. I haven't had experience with a dog of his size, (85 lbs.) We tried playing today but he got mouthy and started play-biting me. I think he might benefit from playing again, but he left some small marks on me and doesn't know boundaries yet. What do you think?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2950 Recommendations
You have to establish boundaries with Ranger but you need to start small, a quick ‘no’ followed by a pull on his lead will associate the word with unwanted behaviour so do it when he is smelling something he shouldn’t; with time he will associate the word no with unwanted behaviour so if he is over enthusiastic whilst playing, saying no should stop him in his tracks. Unfortunately there is no overnight instant fix for this and you need to be patient, especially since he is not a pup anymore. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Molly
Cross breed
3 Years
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

restlessness, stiffness

Hello. I got a rescue dog (three years old) and she seems, at times, to like she has stiffness in her legs after she gets up - this lessens after we have walked a little way. After a good walk today she become restless and not be able to settle (not sure if she had pain in her legs). Also just now I beckoned her on to the couch and she was reluctant to jump up - like she did't want to put pressure on either the front or back legs. Can you advise what might be wrong please.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2950 Recommendations
Restlessness may be an indicator for pain, however this pain may be from joints or abdominal pain; without examining Molly I cannot narrow in on a specific area nevermind a diagnosis. You should try and keep Molly calm and run your hands over her back, neck and legs to see if she is showing any sensitivity at all. If there is no improvement, you should visit your Veterinarian for a thorough examination to determine a cause. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Pal
Maltese Shih Tzu
11 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Loose teeth

Hello, I just realized my dog Pal has Loose teeth and I feel like a total failure, because I know I don’t rake care of him as well as I should. I brushed his teeth when he was a baby, but I don’t anymore. What can I do to improve his oral health? Will he need the teeth removed, and if so, what does that mean for his condition of life. How much does a procedure like that usually cost?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2950 Recommendations
If teeth are loose you should visit your Veterinarian as soon as possible for an examination to determine whether the teeth need to be removed (most likely) and whether there is another underlying issue. The cost of dental extractions are one of those back end prices which may cost as little as $50 at a charity hospital up to $500 or more at a regular clinic (per tooth) with cleaning, anaesthesia and other costs added on. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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