Dog Pacing at Night – 6 Solutions for Better Sleep

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Unfortunately, many dogs are restless at night and pace around the house instead of just going to sleep. You might wonder if your dog is not getting enough physical exercise during the day or if they are up all night suffering from anxiety and stress.

Fortunately, there are many solutions you can follow to help calm your restless pooch down and help them sleep throughout the night. 

Not only will we explain what causes dogs to begin pacing at night, but we will also offer six of the best solutions you can follow to make your dog’s nightly pacing a thing of the past!

Table of Contents

Why Do Dogs Pace at Night?

Like humans, dogs can experience restlessness and sleep disruptions for various reasons.

Physical ailments, like digestive issues and joint pain, can make it difficult for a dog to sleep. Stress and anxiety can also have your dog tossing, turning, and pacing throughout the night. 

Senior dogs are even more prone to night pacing, which can be a sign of the early stages of canine cognitive dysfunction, an age-related form of dementia.

How Can We Help?

As you can see, there are many reasons your dog could be pacing around the house at night, so there is rarely a single solution that will work for every dog. To figure out how to help your particular pooch achieve undisturbed sleep during the night, you need to narrow down the cause of their insomnia. 

This is why we have broken down each potential explanation for your dog’s pacing into six categories. Each category will explain why the particular condition causes insomnia and pacing. From there, we will provide a straightforward solution that you can follow to help your dog get a full night’s rest!

Carefully read through each reason why dogs do not sleep and look for similarities between the symptoms and your dog’s behavior. Once you have determined the cause of your dog’s night pacing, you can follow the recommended solution and see how your dog responds.

If you have tried the solutions outlined in this guide, but your dog is still struggling to sleep, you can always consult with a veterinarian. A veterinarian can consult with you about a sleep plan tailored to your dog’s needs. They may even be able to prescribe canine-friendly sleeping aids.

6 Reasons Why Dogs Pace at Night and What You Can Do About It

1. The Dog Is Experiencing Physical Pain During the Night

If your dog appears restless and like they cannot sleep for long durations, it could be a sign that they are experiencing some form of physical pain.

Physical pain can be triggered by a wide range of injuries and medical conditions, but regardless of the cause, the experience can make it difficult for a dog to sleep.

In addition to an inability to sleep without disturbance, your dog may display other symptoms, like excessive panting, whining, a tucked tail, limping while walking, and they may even appear somewhat panicked while awake.

While there are far too many potential explanations for your dog’s physical pain, the following are some of the most common causes:

  • Arthritis and other joint pain-related issues. These are particularly common in senior, large breed dogs. Canine arthritis can be debilitating and can become particularly painful at night, as the strain the dog puts on the joints throughout the day can catch up to them when they lay down for the night.
  • Anal gland issues. Impacted anal glands can also cause dogs to feel restless. The dog’s rear will be highly irritated and painful, which can cause them to pace and attempt to lick their hind quarters. You may also notice other symptoms, like difficulty while sitting and trying to defecate.
  • Disc issues. Disc issues can cause a dog to experience severe pain and discomfort whenever they attempt to lie down for the night. If you notice that your dog’s movements seem strained and they struggle to sit and stand, they may suffer from a neck or back disc injury, which would require assessment from a veterinarian. 

What is the solution for pain-related sleep issues?

If you suspect your dog’s sleep is being disturbed by chronic pain, you should book an appointment with a veterinarian as soon as possible. The veterinarian will be able to assess the cause of the pain and determine a treatment plan that will help your dog experience less discomfort.

Once your dog’s pain has been diagnosed and treated, it should be able to sleep without disturbance. If your dog’s physical ailment takes a long time to recover from, purchase a more comfortable bed, which may help ease their nighttime pain.

2. The Dog Is Suffering from an Ongoing Digestive Disorder

Suppose your dog seems to be panting, struggling to sleep, and constantly experiencing general discomfort. In that case, there is a reasonable chance they are suffering from some sort of digestive disorder.

Digestive disorders can cause significant problems for dogs, but one of the many symptoms of these issues is an inability to sleep throughout the night. The discomfort can wake your dog up during the night and make it difficult to fall asleep in the first place.

Other symptoms of digestive disorders in dogs can include the following:

  • Frequent licking of the lips
  • Vomiting and an inability to keep food down
  • Refusal to eat food and drink water
  • Excessive drooling
  • Heavy panting and whining
  • Restlessness throughout the day and an inability to sleep during the night
  • Diarrhea

If your dog displays a combination of the symptoms mentioned above, there is a good chance that their pacing and inability to sleep could be due to a digestive issue.

For more information, consider reading Animal Wellness Magazine’s informative article – Common Digestive Problems in Dogs.

What is the solution for digestive disorders that impact a dog’s ability to sleep?

Unfortunately, many digestive disorders can be severe in dogs. What may seem like just an upset stomach could be a life-threatening issue, like Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (GDV).

This is why the best thing you can do is monitor your dog’s daytime behavior. If they display any of the symptoms outlined above alongside their nighttime pacing, you will have to track how long they seem to be suffering from these issues.

If the dog’s symptoms do not improve after 24 hours, you should take your dog to a veterinarian immediately. In the meantime, you can try to offer your dog a more digestible food, like soft dog food or a blend of unseasoned, baked chicken breast and white rice.

3. The Dog Cannot Sleep Due to Anxiety

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Just like it can for humans, anxiety and stress can interfere with a dog’s ability to sleep properly. Various forms of canine anxiety can also cause pacing and whining, which may explain why your dog is pacing throughout the night rather than sleeping.

A wide range of causes can trigger canine anxiety, so it can be tricky to narrow down why your dog is experiencing chronic anxiety and stress. That said, the following are some of the most common reasons why dogs experience ongoing anxiety:

  • The dog is suffering from separation anxiety. Many dogs not adequately socialized will panic when they are left alone. Since many dog owners will shut their dogs out of the bedroom at night, it is not uncommon for dog owners to complain that their dog is pacing and whining throughout the night.
  • Dogs can also experience anxiety when exposed to environmental changes. If you have recently moved to a new home or even welcomed a new dog or baby into your house, your dog could feel anxious due to the changes to their environment. Your dog can display this form of anxiety during the day, but it also tends to emerge at night when the dog should be sleeping.
  • Loud noises can also trigger anxiety in dogs. If you live near a busy road or in an area with frequent storms, your dog’s nighttime pacing could be due to noise-related anxiety.

For more information about canine anxiety, consider reading the American Kennel Club’s guide – Understanding, Preventing, and Treating Dog Anxiety.

What is the solution if your dog cannot sleep due to anxiety?

Unfortunately, canine anxiety can be challenging to treat because it is difficult to narrow down the exact cause. Where a human can simply explain why they feel anxious at night, all we can go off of is a dog’s behavior.

Luckily, there are many ways we can help a dog overcome anxiety. Physical exercise and plenty of mental stimulation during the day can help a dog feel less anxious at night. If your dog feels uneasy due to a particular trigger, you can also desensitize the dog to the cause of their anxiety with gradual exposure.

Suppose your dog’s anxiety is severe and your counterconditioning efforts are not improving their anxiety or ability to sleep. In that case, you may want to speak with a veterinarian about dog-safe prescription anxiety medications.

You can give these calming aids to your dog at night so they feel less stressed when they lay their head down to sleep.

4. The Dog Cannot Sleep Due to Age-Related Mental Decline

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Many senior dogs struggle to sleep at night because they are experiencing an age-related mental decline. As mentioned above, older dogs can develop canine cognitive dysfunction, a term used to describe dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in dogs.

These disorders can cause confusion, anxiety, insomnia, and other cognitive issues. Unfortunately, one of the most prominent symptoms of canine dementia is an inability to sleep at night.

Unfortunately, no specific test can determine if your dog is suffering from canine cognitive dysfunction, so a diagnosis can be difficult. With that said, there are additional symptoms, like incontinence and general confusion.

What can you do if your dog cannot sleep due to canine cognitive dysfunction?

Unfortunately, there is not a cure for dog dementia; however, there are ways you can help your dog manage their symptoms, including the inability to sleep at night.

Your veterinarian will be able to discuss options with you. There are prescription drugs and supplements that can help. Your veterinarian may also discuss dietary changes that could help your dog.

An exercise plan could also help your dog sleep at night, as it could help your dog get back on a regular sleep cycle. You can also ensure that your dog is exposed to direct sunlight during the day, and complete darkness at night, as this can help regulate your elderly dog’s sleep-wake cycle.

You should also avoid moving around furniture, as this can further confuse your dog and make it even more difficult for them to feel comfortable enough to fall asleep at night.

5. The Dog Is Restless at Night Due to a Lack of Physical Exercise

One of the most common and, fortunately, easiest to treat causes of canine insomnia is inadequate physical and mental stimulation.

If a dog does not get a breed- and life-stage-appropriate amount of exercise per day, there is a high chance of having too much pent-up energy at night. This can lead to insomnia and restlessness, which can explain why your dog is pacing around the house when they should be sleeping.

Other signs of a lack of exercise can be unhealthy weight gain, destructive behaviors throughout the day, self-trauma, lethargy, and overall anxiety. Physical activity is essential for a dog’s cardiovascular health and maintaining a healthy body weight, but it can help reduce anxiety and stress and improve sleep quality.

What should you do if your dog is pacing at night due to a lack of physical exercise?

The cure for insomnia linked to a lack of exercise is self-explanatory – increase the amount of physical and mental stimulation your dog gets each day!

While the amount of exercise a dog needs per day will depend on their age and breed, an excellent general rule is dogs need at least one hour of exercise per day. Exercise should also be mentally stimulating, especially if you find that your dog cannot sleep at night.

Consider taking your dog on different walking routes each day. You can also find dog-friendly off-leash hiking trails and beaches. Letting your dog have a good run around in a dog park is also excellent for ensuring they get enough mental and physical stimulation in a day.

For more information about dogs’ exercise needs, consider reading the American Kennel Club’s informative guide – How Much Exercise Does a Dog Need Every Day?

6. The Dog Could Be Unable to Sleep Due to General Discomfort

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In many cases, a dog will be restless and unable to sleep because they are experiencing discomfort due to some form of underlying health issue. 

In some cases, this discomfort could be caused by a severe issue that could even be life-threatening; in other situations, it could be a passing illness that will resolve itself in a matter of days.

The following are just some of the common causes of discomfort in dogs that could disrupt their sleep:

  • Allergies – Allergies can cause itchy skin, which can keep a dog up throughout the night. 
  • Uncomfortable Temperatures – If your dog is too hot or too cold, they may struggle to stay asleep throughout the night.
  • Side Effects of Prescription Medications – Dogs can also become restless and unable to sleep as a side effect of a wide range of prescription medications. If your dog cannot sleep and recently started a new drug, it could be experiencing an uncomfortable side effect.
  • Fever – Many dogs have difficulty sleeping when experiencing a fever. If your dog has a cold, their inability to sleep could be a temporary symptom of that illness.
  • Heart Issues – One of the more severe causes of discomfort in dogs is the presence of an underlying heart condition. If a dog’s heart beats too fast, too slow, or at an irregular rhythm, they could be feeling enough discomfort that they would have difficulty sleeping.

What is the solution for discomfort that is preventing your dog from sleeping correctly?

The first step in reversing this issue will always be finding the cause of your dog’s discomfort. While you can observe your dog and look for signs of various ailments, a veterinarian will be able to examine and assess your dog and come up with an accurate diagnosis.

Once the veterinarian has diagnosed your dog, they will be able to recommend an appropriate treatment plan. If, on the other hand, your dog cannot sleep due to discomfort caused by their environment, like a house that is too hot, you can remedy the problem yourself!