Updated: Aug 15
Why is My Dog Restless at Night?
Often, senior pets tend to struggle with anxiety, confusion, and restlessness at night. This can manifest in pacing, panting, vocalizing, and accidents. It is heartbreaking to see them go through this but there is plenty you can do to help, as we outline below! Just be sure to remember - each dog is unique and often requires a combination of solutions to help them get to sleep more easily!
Solutions for Separation Anxiety or Confusion
Providing some extra comfort can go a long way for a pet struggling at night. This can mean providing particular comfort items or adjusting their environment. Some ideas to create this comfort include:
Installing a night light near the sleeping area
Sleeping with some of your unwashed clothing for familiarity
Shutting the bedroom door to prevent wandering
Buying the most comfortable bed if they have joint pain
Keeping a water bowl close by
If you can, letting your dog sleep in bed with you or in a set space nearby can be a big help. It can also reduce the amount of time you may be awake to help them if they need assistance.
Tucker them Out
Try to provide plenty of stimulation and exercise for the best chance at a night of more restful sleep. Be sure to keep in mind your dog's abilities and condition so that you only wear them out as much as is healthy. You will want to combine practices of both mental and physical stimulation to best help your senior dog!
Taking your elderly dog out on gentle, evening walks when the weather is cooler can be a fantastic source of exercise.
Keeping up with playtime (even if it is more gentle these days) can help you and your dog bond while also providing exercise.
Swimming is an amazing exercise solution for senior dogs as it is low impact!
Mental stimulation is just as vital as physical stimulation for helping your pup at night! You can provide mental stimulation by using:
Puzzle toys to keep cognitive skills sharp
Easy training routines to break up brain fog and bond
Food games to keep them curious and sharp
Keep up Routines
In general, dogs thrive and tend to be less anxious when provided with routines. When dogs age they tend to cling to these routines even more strongly to help guide them. You will want to keep established routines to help your senior pet feel less anxious and confused. Be sure to try to stick to a regular timing for things like feeding and walking as much as possible. This can help them sleep a lot easier at night!
Many pets that have trouble at night tend to have issues with toilet accidents. Be sure to take them outside as close to bedtime as possible to try to prevent these. You may also want to give your pet extra cues like non-slip rugs or a noise machine to help guide them toward their bathroom area.
Going back over the toilet training basics that you introduced to them as a puppy can be a huge help to keep them fresh. It will also simplify things for you as it is training you have already done before.
With all of these tips in mind, you can also create a relief area near your dog's bed. You can introduce disposable training pads or pet grass in this space for fast relief. Just be sure to work with your dog first to them understand they can utilize these.
Often, senior pets are more aware of or disturbed by noises at night. Research has shown that music and sound machines are very calming to dogs! Use one of these tools to create a peaceful and reliable soundscape for your dog.
Reducing Visual Stimuli
If you notice that your dog is having a difficult time reacting to visual stimuli or if they struggle with confusion from vision loss, you can help by providing a blanket over their crate or safe space.
Elderly pets usually have a more difficult time regulating their body temperature than what you would see in their younger years. Check for temperature changes that could be added to your older dog's discomfort and be mindful of fluctuations. During the winter months, make sure they have plenty of blankets and heat. In the warmer months, keep temperatures cool and provide a fan when needed.
Did you know your pup's weight can play into their sleep? If your pup is a bit overweight, as often happens at first in their twilight years as their metabolism slows, this can cause discomfort while sleeping or even cause an arthritis flare-up. Be sure to work on a diet and exercise plan to ensure they are maintaining a healthy weight for their age and breed!
CBD and other Additions
CBD - CBD can help a pet feel calm and secure enough to sleep better through the night. This same ability to provide a feeling of safety can ease the confusion many pets face. CBD is also a great option if your dog is in any pain or discomfort. CBD can provide relief in this arena as well.
Omega 3 Fatty acids for Dogs - introduce more essential fatty acids that the body needs for brain health which can help with confusion and creating routines. Fish oil, cod skin, and ground flaxseed are all great ways to provide these vital fatty acids.
Melatonin - If your vet recommends using melatonin, this can be another addition to help your pet sleep. Melatonin can be useful in creating healthy sleep patterns in dogs that are active at night and struggle to fall asleep when they should.
Calming aids- You may also want to consider utilizing calming aids such as DAP diffusers, calming collars, or Bach flowers.
It’s important to note that you should see a vet if you see these behaviors, even if you suspect it’s the result of aging. You will want to know the cause of the restlessness to best alleviate it. Nighttime restlessness can be associated with cognitive dysfunction, pain, infections, or other conditions. You also want to maintain a schedule of regular checkups, blood work heartworm testing with your vet to make sure your senior pet is in the best health possible.
We know how hard it can be to watch your friend undergo some of the difficulties of the aging process. However, do not feel it is out of your hands or that you have made an error along the way! It can be very normal to see the signs of restlessness and confusion at night with senior dogs, but with your care and patience, you can find many ways to help.
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