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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 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

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.

Michele King
Dr. Michele King, DVM
293 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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1 Year 10 Months
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

scratching door

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?

Callum Turner
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1823 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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