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Why can't my pet sleep through the night?

Getting a good night’s rest is important, so it can be frustrating when you are having to wake up throughout the night. There are many possible causes for frequent waking or increased nighttime activities in pets, but it’s important to discuss your observations with your veterinarian to get to the root of the issue. Here are some possible causes for nighttime waking in pets:

Brown dog laying on bed.  Wix Media


They have too much energy

Different breeds have different energy and exercise requirements, and sometimes, if those needs aren’t being met through physical or mental stimulation during the day, it can lead to excess energy at nighttime when the rest of the family is trying to sleep. It’s important to ensure that your dog’s needs are being met through daily enrichment, which may look different for different pets. Mental enrichment such as puzzle toys, slow feeders, or being allowed to sniff and explore on walks can be just as effective as physical activities such as walks, running, fetch, or other high-intensity games with toys.

They just aren’t old enough to hold it all night, yet

Puppies develop better bladder control as they age, but when they are young, it is not unusual for them to need to go out more frequently. Sometimes, having a new puppy or kitten almost feels like having a new baby. Typically, we can expect a puppy to be able to hold it one hour for every month of age. For example, a 3-month old puppy could be expected to hold it for up to 3 hours or so. If your puppy has to go out multiple times a night, it may help to reduce their water intake an hour or two before bed and encourage them to go during the last potty break of the night.

Older pets might become more active at night

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CCDS) is similar to Alzheimer’s disease or dementia and can affect senior pets as they age. The symptoms can include confusion, disorientation, increased activity at night such as pacing, restlessness, and nighttime waking, and even behavioral changes such as agitation or irritability. Pets who experience CCDS may wake more frequently throughout the night, ask to go outside, or just wander around the home.

Urinary or Gastrointestinal issues

If your pet is waking you up asking to go outside more frequently, it can be a sign that something else might be going on. Certain illnesses such as diabetes, bladder stones, or a urinary tract infection can cause pets to drink more and experience symptoms such as increased frequency, increased urgency, or pain/discomfort while urinating. Similarly, pets asking to go out multiple times in one night may be experiencing stomach upset such as diarrhea. If your pet is suddenly asking to go out more frequently, go out with them and try to observe their nighttime potty habits - are their stools loose? When they urinate, is it only a small amount?

It’s hard to sleep when you’re itchy

Just like us, pets can experience seasonal or environmental allergies and it can be difficult to sleep when they are feeling itchy. If your pet is waking you up with constant scratching, head shaking, or licking their paws or body, they may be dealing with allergies. Speak to your veterinarian about allergy treatment options.

They’re feeling painful

If your pet is constantly readjusting themselves, shifting around in bed, or getting up to pace in the night, they might be experiencing physical pain or discomfort. The most common culprit is arthritis, but it is important to have your pet seen by your vet if you suspect any discomfort, as gastrointestinal, abdominal, or back pain can also be to blame. Whenever possible, we recommend providing your pet with a soft and supportive pet bed to keep them off the hard floor as this will be better for sore joints, and give pain medications as instructed by your veterinarian.

They’re feeling stressed out

Stress is one of the main disruptors of sleep in both humans and animals. There are a lot of events that can be stressful to pets, including loud noises such as storms, fireworks, or construction, new additions to the home such as visitors, a new baby, or new pet, being in a new environment after traveling or moving, or not having their favorite people around (separation anxiety). Some pets adapt more quickly than others, so it’s not unusual for your pet to appear a little out of sorts immediately following a stressful life event. Contact your veterinarian if your pet seems significantly stressed or the symptoms do not subside with time.

They wake easily

Whether you have young kids or babies who wake up making noise in the night, or live in a busy area with lots of noise such as cars, trains, or neighboring animals, some pets are more sensitive to sounds and will be on alert at the sound of any potential danger. If your pet tends to get up or bark the use of a white noise machine in the area where your pet sleeps may help reduce the number of sounds they are picking up throughout the night, allowing them to sleep without waking as often.

Please contact your veterinarian to schedule a consultation to discuss treatment recommendations for your pet if their nighttime activities have become bothersome. Please do not give pets any over-the-counter or prescription medications without the instruction of your veterinarian. Please do not give any vitamins or supplements, including sleep aids such as melatonin or CBD without speaking to your veterinarian.

For additional questions, please contact us at 972-347-6100.

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