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What is Restless at Night?

Although sleepless nights are common when it comes to new puppies or younger dogs, the restlessness will usually die down once the dog matures. However, if you notice that your dog is no longer sleeping through the night, constantly changing positions, and pacing around the room then there may be a more serious underlying issue that needs to be addressed. 

  • Dementia
  • Pain
  • Anxiety 

More often than not, restless sleep is a temporary issue and can be resolved easily. Often, it can be a case of excess energy which can be addressed by providing your dog with more exercise opportunities. Sometimes the restlessness will be due to environmental changes and the restlessness may cease once your dog has adjusted to them. However, if you notice that the behavior persists, you will want to visit a veterinarian in order to diagnose the underlying problem.

Why Restless at Night Occurs in Dogs

Restless sleep is most commonly seen in puppies and younger dogs, especially after a big change or if sleeping arrangements are in a hot room. However, there can be more serious medical conditions, like kidney disease, that may be affecting your dog’s sleep. Other causes may be dementia, pain, or anxiety. 

Dementia

 

As dogs age, they have the potential of getting dementia. This condition is especially common in middle aged to much older dogs and one of the first signs is restless sleep. When sleeplessness from dementia occurs, it is categorized as a behavioral issue, meaning that diagnosis of the problem can be somewhat difficult. A trip to the vet will be required in order to receive blood work, urinalysis, and a physical examination in order to determine the best course of action for helping your dog. If the diagnosis is dementia, medication can be used to help ease the symptoms, but there is no cure. 

Pain

Just like with humans, restless sleep can occur when the dog is in pain and no longer has the distractions of the day to take its mind off the issue. Pain can come from a number of different things:

  • Bug bites
  • Hot spots
  • Itchy skin
  • Arthritis 
  • Cancer 

It is important to get your dog to the vet for a checkup in order to rule out any of these issues. Once the source of the pain has been taken care of, a more peaceful night’s sleep may be achieved. 

Anxiety

 

An anxious and stressed dog will have an extremely difficult time falling asleep. Pacing and frequent repositioning will most likely occur, especially in older dogs. There are many reasons why your dog may feel anxious, perhaps a big change in the home or a medical issue that has drastically affected it’s life. Even relatively non stressful events can cause anxiety in an older dog.

Additionally, as a dog ages, his bladder may become less able to function as it once did. Take your pet out for his last bathroom break as late as you possibly can. This may serve to provide a better sleep for your companion who will feel less anxious without the need to urinate. 

With any of these issues, it is important to get medical assistance from a trusted veterinarian. They will best be able to diagnosis the underlying issue causing your dog’s restless sleep and prescribe any medication needed to help ease the symptoms.

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What to do if your Dog is Restless at Night

Whether your dog is experiencing a restless night at a young age or an old age, it is best to ask your vet for a thorough examination to rule out any harmful underlying issues. All medical issues should be taken care of first, and after everything else is ruled out, you can then work on retraining your dog to a proper sleep cycle. 

Often, sensory changes affect a dog’s ability to sleep well, such as eyesight failure or hearing disorders. By creating an environment for your dog that is dark and quiet, it may help to set the sleep cycle back to normal. If your dog is a puppy, using devices such as running water or a ticking clock can help to soothe the restless pup and provide a comforting environment in order to promote sleep. Getting plenty of exercise throughout the day will also help ensure a sleepy and happy dog.

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Prevention of Restless at Night

One of the best ways to ensure your dog gets a full and restful sleep is to get plenty of exercise. Too much left over energy at the end of the day will make it difficult for your dog to get to sleep quickly. Provide a quiet, cool space for your dog to sleep in. 

If a more serious medical issue is causing the restlessness, be sure to follow your vet’s instructions accurately according to whatever the diagnosis may be. 

Never assume that age is the underlying issue for restless sleep. If you notice a constant issue with your dog’s sleep cycle, get your pet to the vet as soon as possible in order to determine the cause. Problems such as cancer, liver disease, and dementia can be truly detrimental to the overall quality of your dog’s life and will need to be addressed immediately.

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Cost of Restless at Night

Treatment for pain from cancer has an average cost of over $10,000 depending on the severity. If your dog is diagnosed with dementia, the expense for therapy and medication may be around $350.

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Restless at Night Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Labrador Retriever

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Two Years

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Panting

My dog is panting,whining and restless all of a dudden

Sept. 29, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. What you are describing could be as a result of anxiety if there is something going on that is making your dog nervous, or pain. If it is something that is not getting better, it would be best to have your dog seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine him and see what might be causing this problem. If he needs any medication they will be able to help you with that. I hope that all goes well for him and he feels better soon.

Oct. 3, 2020

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Beagle

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Eight Years

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Restless

My dog seams restless lays in one spot readjusts and repeat first time this happens

July 22, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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3 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. You may be noticing the first signs that your dog is starting to have arthritis, or they may have intestinal cramps of another reason for the restlessness. If it is something that keeps happening, it would be best to have your dog seen by a veterinarian, as they will be able to examine your dog and see what the cause might be. I hope that all goes well for your dog!

July 22, 2020

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Shih Tzu

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Eight Years

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Restless At Night And During The Day

My dog is being very restless , He usually sleeps the whole night without issues. Even in the day time he seems restless sometimes , his face looks be stressed. We picked him up from dog boarding yesterday and he’s been acting weird since, at night we put him to bed and he kept waking us up to go poop 4 times at night. We aren’t sure what’s wrong with him. Does he have anxiety from being in a facility with a bunch of dogs ? Or did he pick up something ? Or was he mistreated? Please help. Seems he gets very hot at night and he is panting hard.

July 14, 2020

Owner

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Jessica N. DVM

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It sounds like your dog may be experiencing some colitis. I do not think he was likely mistreated but sometimes when animals go to boarding or daycare they can become stressed and develop diarrhea from that. It is a totally new environment for them. I would recommend feeding him boiled chicken and rice for 24 to 48 hours and if no improvement I would recommend visiting your veterinarian and bringing along a stool sample to check.

July 14, 2020

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Boxador

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Eight Years

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Seizures

Franklin, my Boxer, Black Lab and Putbull mix, is a very active, happy, and healthy dog. he is not fixed, and besides some dust allergies has no conditions or anything. however, for the past few months, at random times during sleep he will begin to violently shake his legs and body, and his eyes roll back and twitch rapidly, and he cannot be woken from this state. it lasts around 1 minute, and sometimes happens right as he falls asleep, which means it can't be from an repeated active dream. he does make movements in his sleep, but none of them are as violent or strange as these events.

July 11, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. From your description, it sounds like he may be having seizures. It would be best to have him seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible. They may want to run some lab work to rule out any other diseases, but will be able to examine him and get medication to help. It will help them quite a bit if you are able to video the episodes for them to see, as well. I hope that he is okay.

July 11, 2020

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German Shepherd

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Twelve Years

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Walk Unevenly

Dog has a hard time getting up and doesn’t make it to poop outside

July 9, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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Hello, So sorry to hear about your dog. If he is having a hard time getting up this can be due to arthritis. Your dog is taking gabapentin which may help. There are also other pain and inflammation medications that your vet can give your dog. If you can get your dog on a schedule of going outside every 4 to 6 hours. This will help him have fewer accidents in the house. I hope your dog starts to improve soon.

July 9, 2020

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Chloe

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Australian Shepherd

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3 Years

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

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Restlessness, Licking, Cuddlin

My female Aussie Shepherd has lately been crawling up next to my head at night and waking me by licking my face. She also at night is going behind my desk scratching the floor and there is nothing there. She is not spayed and is overdue for her heat by about almost a month. She has never done this before and I'm concerned. She's eating well and is urinating and has good bowel movements. Three months ago we got another Aussie Shepherd, he's a male and not neutered yet he is also very bossy with our 3 yr old. As a puppy he gets a lot of attention, and I do give Chloe attention and alone time with me. Like I said, she wakes me up all night long cuddling and licking me, any advice would be appreciated.

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Zeus

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Siberian Husky

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8 Months

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Restlessness
Restlessness, Inability To Sleep

I have a 8 month old husky and I have had him since he was 6 weeks old. He is a service dog and he means the most to me. Lately he has been acting crazy at night he won’t stay in one spot it’s making my sleeping problems worse it hasn’t been in the normal for him but he will go to sleep for approximately 5 hours every night starting at around 2 am... he shouldn’t be so hyper as he gets played with a lot everyday and he does everything with me

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Baby

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Shitzu poodle

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13 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

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Whining
Scratching Door
Licking Door

Hi so my dog is about 13 years old she is a shitzu and poodle mix, recently she started to scratch lick and jump on the door to be let in, recently she’s been doing it every night. She usually sleeps outside as my mum doesn’t like to have her sleep inside, and she’s never had a problem up until recently. I can see it being linked to anxiety as she whines and scratches at the door, and gets quite restless, is there a way to retrain her or other ways to help levitate her stress? Because one, she’s not allowed to sleep inside and it’s really beginning to be stressful for me because the scratching starts at around midnight everyday and I can’t sleep. As well as that she’s started to do her business in the house, as if she is no longer toilet trained, we have never once had her do that in the house, there has been no major or drastic changes and everything has been the same for years. Also I’ve tried “retrain” her but the scratching only happens when you are away from the door so it’s harder to catch her before she does it, so it’s hard to do the ignoring technique or stop her. I feel as if it’s more of a separation anxiety towards the night, please I’ve tried a training technique we asked the vet for some advice and they suggested as a temporary reliever to use rescue remedy and it’s helped a little but we try not to use it too much. I don’t want to resort to medication because it’s quite expensive. So please any information on how to stop her from scratching and whining would be helpful, but please keep in mind that she usually sleeps outside in her kennel and has never had any prior issues, besides some scratching during the day to be let inside, but has never done it during the night. As well as practically “unlearning” her toilet training

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Jagger

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Boston Terrier

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11 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

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Frequent Urination

I have an almost 12 year old Boston Terrier who has Cushings Disease. He has started to wake me up between 3 to 5 times during the night to go out to pee. I feel very tired during the day. He does drink a lot of water, should I take away his water during at a certain point during the evening hours, to help avoid these night time trips to the outdoors? And help get a decent night's sleep.

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Chiqui

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Japanese Chin Mix

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9 Years

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Moderate severity

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Insomnia ?
Insomnia ? Labored Breathing

My 9 year old and 11 lb Chin /Chihuahua Mix was a healthy dog until a few months ago she started coughing that 1 day and was diagnosed with Mitral Valve Disease and an enlarged heart. She was hospitalized for a supposed Congestive Heart Failure even though her radiographs did not show fluid in the lungs or anywhere in her body. Anyhow, she got treated for CHF until she developed Kidney problems and pancreatitis due to the medicines most notably ( Lasix ). After a few days of treatment she's all well. Removed all other meds for CHF except for Pimobendan. Her most recent Echo showed her MVD is mild and heart is back to normal size. After her supposed CHF episode, her RRR during the day is 14-36 resting and napping but every evening at around 9 pm she will have labored breathing 48-76 RRR and she gets very restless, walking around our bed ( she sleeps with us ). Her RRR will slow to 36 and lowers to 24 then she will fall asleep at around 12 am. I haven't been sleeping as I am watching her sleep, she would wake up every couple of hours and would fall asleep again. When she wakes up in the morning at around 8 am, her breathing will be normal until evening again. She also has a slight enlarged adrenal gland but her Vet is not worried about it. We've been to 3 different Cardiologist and they have no answer for her labored breathing at night. HELP PLEASE !

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