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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. 

    More often than not, restless sleep is a temporary issue and can be resolved. For some, 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.

    Some more common considerations include:

    • Canine dementia
    • A source of chronic pain
    • Anxiety 

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    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 that may be affecting your dog’s sleep. We need to consider canine dementia, pain, or anxiety. 

    Canine Dementia

     

    As dogs age, they have the potential to develop canine dementia. This condition is especially common older dogs and one of the first signs can be 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 run blood work, urinalysis, and have a physical examination performed 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 or irritation can come from a number of different things including:

    • Ear Infections
    • Dental Disease
    • Skin Disease such as itchy rashes or hot spots
    • Arthritis or other Joint Disease
    • Cystitis
    • 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, such as wildlife in their garden or a new baby upstairs.

    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 diagnose the underlying issue causing your dog’s restless sleep and prescribe any medication needed to help ease the symptoms.

    The need for more frequent toilet breaks

    Whether it is due to diarrhoea, cystitis or kidney disease, any change in their toilet habits can have a dog getting up more often through the night. Tests such as blood work, urine analysis and stool analysis should point us in the right direction so we can start the most appropriate treatment.

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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 into 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, kidney 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

    Cost of treatment will vary greatly depending on what is going on. If your dog is diagnosed with canine dementia, the expense for therapy and medication may be around $350.

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    Written by a Pugs lover Grace Park

    Veterinary reviewed by: Linda S.

    Published: 06/07/2017, edited: 03/22/2021

    Restless at Night Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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    Zoe

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    Chiweenie

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    4 Years

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    Moderate severity

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    Restlessnes

    Hi, my name is Hannah and I have a little chiweenie named Zoe who is 4 years old. About a week ago, she broke three of her toes and is in a giant cast on her left hind leg. The first three days, Zoe would sleep normally and not move much (which is what we expected). However, four days in and she will not stop running/walking around on her cast. It is great she can walk, but she has not sat down by herself in four days. It has now been 8 days she has had her cast on. We’ve taken her to vet twice to make sure she is okay, all they’ve done is given us new casts to hopefully be better fit to her leg and more comfortable. Throughout every single night though, Zoe will not sit or lay down on her own, nor will she sleep. If we pick her up and lay her on us, then she will fall asleep. I’m becoming very worried about my little pup, she is a tiny dog and I now she needs to be getting more sleep than she is. Her cast must be on for 5 more weeks and I don’t know how we can do this. Help! Is it the medicine? Is it insomnia from a triggering event or the medication? The vets seem to think nothing of it, but I need my baby to be getting sleep.

    Sept. 18, 2018

    Zoe's Owner

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    Poppie

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    Bichon Frise

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    12 Weeks

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    Serious severity

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    Serious severity

    Has Symptoms

    Crying Barking And Scratching

    Poppie is my 12 week old Bichon Frise, I have had her since she was eight weeks old. She is very active and vocal and snappy. She is much worse at night I try wearing her out and are usually up until midnight doing this. She sleeps on my bed but spends hours running from one end to the other crying and barking then scratching at the covers. I don't know what to do to settle her it is frustrating for us both.

    Sept. 10, 2018

    Poppie's Owner

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    Zeus

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    Pomeranian

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    5 Years

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    Moderate severity

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    1 found helpful

    pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

    Moderate severity

    Has Symptoms

    Panting
    Restlessness
    Digging

    For the past several days, my dog has come into a very strange habit. In the middle of the night around 2AM or so, he would go into random fits of digging into not only the bed but into my arm, my head, etc. At first I thought he wanted something but after attempting to take him potty, give him water, even give him food, he is inconsolable. He would keep up this hard digging for at least a couple of hours not letting us sleep. I took him to the vet and they had no idea. They told me it might be anxiety for which they prescribed trazodone but it didn't seem to help at all. He used to sleep soundly through the night and not even get up in the morning when we get up for work. He'd sleep through lazily until we come home for lunch around 12PM. He is a Pomeranian Mix, 5 years of age, at about 14 lbs. Any help would be appreciated as my wife and I have not had a good nights rest in a while! Thank you. ps. we did try crating him at night and he freaks out. I'm sure he'd get used to it eventually but I wanted to figure out why all of a sudden he wakes up in the middle of the night in random bouts. Read more at: https://wagwalking.com/symptom/why-is-my-dog-restless-at-night

    Aug. 23, 2018

    Zeus' Owner


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    Dr. Michele K. DVM

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    That is very odd behavior all of a sudden, I agree. There may be a few more things that you can do in addition to the Trazadone to help. Walking him right before bed may help, as he will be more tired and prone to sleep. If there is something that he can hear that you can't, it may be agitating him, and having some white noise in the background at night might make a difference. I hope that those things help, and that he is back to his normal schedule soon.

    Aug. 23, 2018

    Happy to report he hasn't had any episodes this weekend. I think going to the dog park and giving him plenty of exercise before bedtime as you mentioned definitely helps! Thanks again.

    Aug. 26, 2018

    Zeus's Owner


    Thanks for the suggestions. I will try the white noise as he does seem to react to random noises such as the house settling when he's in that mood. I will say that he's had another "episode" but this time during the day and 20 minutes after I took him on a run. As he was napping after the run, he gets up and starts pawing/digging at me again as he's panting heavily (not sure if he woke up panting heavily or started panting heavily after the digging). I really hope this is nothing more serious than anxiety.

    Aug. 24, 2018

    Zeus's Owner

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    Shirley

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    Chihuahua

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    13 Years

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    Serious severity

    Has Symptoms

    Clingy
    Anxiety
    Barking
    Pica
    Restlessness

    My 13 yr old chihuahua/yorkie/dachshund mix seems to have developed separation and/or crate anxiety and has been barking and "digging" in her crate when we are away (based on dog cam) and even when she is in her crate with us in the bedroom at night. She is used to being crated when we are away or sleeping since she also has some issues with pica and will chew/eat almost anything. She is generally a bit of an anxious dog (sound phobia, etc.), but when she's restless she will usually calm down after turning on the radio or tv. She is calm if she's out on the couch with us, but she does not feel the need the follow us around the house if we go to another room. We did move to a city apartment after living in a suburban house about 6 months ago, but the transition was going well...she stopped barking when we left after a few weeks and was calm when she slept in her crate in our bedroom. Now it's like we're starting all over again. I've tried long walks, calming treats, benadryl, pheromone plug-ins, placing her crate directly next to our bed with my arm resting on it so she knows I'm there...nothing seems to work more than 1-2 nights. The vet confirmed it didn't seem to be a health issue and prescribed xanax which worked for 4-5 nights, but we're back to barking. The vet said we could try prozac as well, but I'm really hesitant to add more drugs to the mix. We're not sure what caused the sudden change...We don't seem to have any new neighbors around our apartment, no new sounds, and no new pets(same 2 dogs she's grown up with). Not sure what else to do and the household is stressed due to lack of sleep. I think she may sleep fine at night if we let her out, but we will for sure wake up to damage. Any advice?

    Aug. 16, 2018

    Shirley's Owner

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    Dr. Michele K. DVM

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    It seems that you have covered most of the bases for Shirley, and I'm sorry that she is having those problems. The only thing that I can think of that may help might be to increase the white noise in the house so that she can't hear outside noises, as those might be bothering her after the move. Increased exercise might help as well, as she will be more tired and less prone to upset.

    Aug. 16, 2018

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    Custard

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    miniature poodle

    dog-age-icon

    10 Years

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    Fair severity

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    Diarrhea

    Hello my dog of 10 years old who sleeps during the night all of the sudden since yesterday has been waking up around 1:30am to use his bathroom, after although he starts to pace and doesn’t know what to do. I usually let him up the stairs but without me actually lifting him to bring upstairs his tail goes down as if he’s scared of something upstairs? I don’t see what could freek him out. After I bring him upstairs he goes to sleep right away in his bed as if nothing happened. Today we noticed a watery stool and bum scooting. Is this just a passing virus or something else?

    July 23, 2018

    Custard's Owner

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    Dr. Michele K. DVM

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    Custard may be having a problem with his anal glands if he is having soft stools, and the watery stool may be why he is having to get up in the middle of the night - it would be a good idea to have him seen by a veterinarian, have them check his anal glands, and get treatment fore the watery diarrhea. That will hopefully get everything back to normal again.

    July 23, 2018

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    Snowball

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    Miniature American Eskimo

    dog-age-icon

    7 Years

    pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

    Mild severity

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    pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

    Mild severity

    Has Symptoms

    Anxiety
    Overly-Affectionate

    It’s currently four AM. my dog refuses to leave me alone. i’ve taken her outside, even made the movement to take her out a second time though she didn’t want to. she’s climbing all over me and the pillows, moving from place to place, laying on top of me. she’s never been a cuddly dog, and after the rest of the night going smoothly, why would she start now?? she’s already been diagnosed as having anxiety, but this kind of thing has never happened before. usually her only mid-night restlessness is because she has to go outside, but clearly this isn’t the case.

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    Lily

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    Maltese

    dog-age-icon

    2 Years

    pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

    Moderate severity

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    pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

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    Has Symptoms

    My dog sleeps with me and has always been a great sleeper until the past two nights. Suddenly she wakes up after about two hours sleep and starts getting in my face, licking me. She travels constantly around me on the bed, climbing over top of me, panting heavily part of the time. This goes on the remainder of the night. The only thing that calms her is to be petted which I have to stay awake to do. If I stop, she gets in my face again and continues with the irratic behavior. I am so worried about her. I do notice that her breathing is rapid and shallow even while she sleeps.

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    Molly

    dog-breed-icon

    Boston Terrier

    dog-age-icon

    11 Years

    pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

    Moderate severity

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    pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

    Moderate severity

    Has Symptoms

    Shaking
    Pacing

    My Boston Terrier Molly is 11, almost 12. I got her when she was 6. Recently, she’s been waking up at night and pacing nonstop. She’s also shaking and her eyes are enormous. We’ll go to sleep like normal and she’s completely fine and cuddled, but then about 2 hours later she’s pacing the apartment. This goes on for hours. She’ll lay on the floor and shake. I try to bring her back up into the bed and she panics and jumps down immediately. I’m spending a fortune in vet bills and for the most part she is healthy. She does have some lumps on her but the vet thinks they’re all benign. She has IVDD (intervertebral disc disease) which she’s being treated for with Gabbapentin and cold laser therapy. She’s eating, drinking and going to the bathroom normally. Her blood panels show she’s healthy. Still, she’s pacing nonstop all night every night. When she hears I move or wake up, she runs to be right next to me, but then she refuses to lay with me in bed. If I go lay on the sofa with her, she won’t lay with me which she normally does but she’ll sit and shake next to me on the floor. I’ve tired to take her outside and we go for almost a mile walk at 1 am. She goes to the bathroom and she’s totally fine but the minute we get back into the apartment, she starts the restlessness again. Her shaking doesn’t seem to be out of pain but maybe fear/confusion. I have discussed with my vet the fact that it may be cognitive canine disorder. But I am so tired. It’s been 4 days and I have only slept about 4 hours in those days. Any help would be so greatly appreciated.

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    Buddy

    dog-breed-icon

    Jack Russell Terrier

    dog-age-icon

    12 Years

    pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

    Mild severity

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    0 found helpful

    pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

    Mild severity

    Has Symptoms

    Growling
    Restlessness

    MY dog paces for no reason at night, he will growl and then jump up all of a sudden. He will try to lay down and he keeps doing this over and over again for maybe like an hour or so and then it stops. Im not sure what is wrong with him. It doesn't happen every night.

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    Jackson

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    Labrador Retriever

    dog-age-icon

    8 Years

    pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

    Moderate severity

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    pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

    Moderate severity

    Has Symptoms

    Hello. I am concerned over my dog’s random acts during the late night hours. He will wake up and start knocking things over in our bedroom every 15 minutes. He also barks at times.

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