A good night’s sleep is crucial for both humans and pets. As veterinarians, we often get questions from dog owners trying to find ways to help their dogs sleep throughout the night. There are many over-the-counter and prescription options to help your dog sleep at night.
However, the solution very much depends on why the dog can’t sleep at night, so it’s vital to identify the cause. In this article, our veterinarians recommend home solutions, store-bought products, and prescribed medications to help your dog sleep all night.
Why isn’t my dog sleeping through the night? Our vets share 5 things you need to know:
1. Before using medication, try these remedies
There are several home remedies that you can utilize to help your pup sleep at night:
1. Take your dog out for a walk and withhold water before bedtime
One of the most common reasons dogs wake up at night is because they want to use the bathroom. All dogs should be allowed outside to pee and poop before bed. This can ensure they have the opportunity to empty their bowels and bladder, therefore decreasing the need to go overnight. This is especially important in young puppies.
Withholding water before bedtime can also help:
“Picking up the water bowl an hour or two before bed will prevent your pup from drinking right before bed and, therefore, needing to go to the bathroom overnight. This technique is very safe unless your pet suffers from a disease where they need to drink more frequently. Water intake should not be limited for dogs with kidney disease, cardiac disease, or diabetes.”
2. Exercise your dog a few hours before bed
The old saying “A tired dog is a good dog” holds true: a vigorous exercise session a few hours before bed may help tucker your pup out and ensure they sleep soundly.
This should include both mental and physical stimulation. Good options include long walks on which they can sniff and scent, games of Frisbee and fetch or mini training sessions.
3. White noise
Using a white noise machine can help drown out noises in and around the home. This can be a gentle distraction to allow your dog to sleep deeply. Dogs experiencing evening stress or separation anxiety may benefit from a calming thunder shirt or a diffuser with calming pheromones.
Dogs with poor vision may feel more at ease with night lights in the room where they often sleep.
2. Over-the-counter and prescription medicine can help your dog sleep all night
If home remedies are not working, several medications can offer calming effects and help dogs sleep throughout the night. However, note that it is extremely important that you check with your veterinarian before administering any new medication to your dog. Even Over The Counter (OTC) products may not be safe for all dogs.
1. Over-the-counter options
- Melatonin – This is a readily available over-the-counter medication that is frequently used in humans who have a hard time falling asleep. Similar benefits are noted in dogs.
- Benadryl – This is an anti-histamine medication that is most often used for allergic reactions. It has the side effect of causing sedation and is often a safe option to help a dog relax. This medication can interact with others and may not be safe for all dogs.
- L-tryptophan – This is an amino acid supplement that is most famous for causing sleepiness after Thanksgiving dinner. It can help quell anxiety, stress, and fear.
- Calming Supplements – There are many supplements available over the counter to help calm anxious dogs. Most have a blend of herbal ingredients. Read our page about natural dog anxiety remedies.
2. Prescription medications
- Trazodone – This is a medication initially intended to treat depression, but it works more effectively as a sedative. It is commonly used to reduce stress in dogs and can be given before bedtime.
- Gabapentin – This is a pain medication commonly used after surgery in dogs but also has the added benefit of being a mild sedative.
- Benzodiazepines – These are short-term anti-anxiety medications that can be used during periods of high stress. One use is for dogs with thunderstorm fears.
- Long-term anti-anxiety medications – are best reserved for dogs with chronic separation anxiety or fearful behavior. Common options are fluoxetine, clomipramine, and amitriptyline. These must be given long-term to be effective and cannot be stopped suddenly.
- Selegiline – This is a medication used for the treatment of Parkinson’s Disease in humans and may help alleviate signs of canine cognitive dysfunction in senior dogs.
3. Identifying the root cause is essential to come up with the right treatment plan
While most dogs sleep deeply, there can be several reasons why your pup may not sleep all night long. Identifying the cause of a dog’s nighttime waking is essential in determining the best treatment to help them sleep all night.
Here is a list of the most common reasons:
1. Bathroom breaks
Most dogs can hold their bowels or bladder overnight, but young puppies and senior dogs may need more frequent potty breaks. Dogs experiencing urinary tract infections or gastrointestinal problems may also need to go out more frequently. For example, urinary tract infections (UTIs) can cause dogs to urinate more often. Your dog might be waking up at night because he needs to go outside to relieve himself.
– If your dog suddenly needs frequent trips to the bathroom and cannot hold it overnight, you should investigate the cause with your veterinarian.
– Take your dog out for a longer walk just before bedtime
– Pick up your dog’s water bowl an hour or two before bed to prevent your pup from drinking right before bedtime
2. Behavioral reasons
Some dogs are on alert in the evenings while their family is sleeping. If you live in a high-traffic area or a region with wildlife, your dog may be more attuned to noises outside. This could result in your dog appearing restless at night.
“My dog used to wake me up often after I moved into a new apartment. She was startled by the evening traffic in my apartment building. This activity caused her wake up at night and bark often. Not only did this result in some sleepless nights, but it was also a stressful time for her.”
Some dogs also experience significant separation anxiety. If you find that your dog cannot settle in the evenings while they are away from you, it may be a sign of separation anxiety.
– One of the best things we can do for our dog is to tire then out during the day, so it’s much easier for then to relax and sleep at night. This may include a game of fetch or a long walk. Another great solution is a puzzle or a Kong toy, which can keep your pet stimulated before bedtime and can help tucker them out.
– When time to settle down for the night, have a solid routine in place. This may mean dimming the lights, turning the volume down on devices and giving your dog a chew or Kong to focus on, in their bed.
– Consider the use of calming products like daily supplements or a calming collar, particularly after a big change like a house move.
– If it’s very bright outside or there are flashing lights, it’s worth investing in some good quality blinds or curtains.
3. Cognitive dysfunction
Around 50% of dogs who are eight years old or older show some signs of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction. Symptoms can range from minimal to severe enough to cause real disruption in your dog’s life and sleep patterns.
“As dogs age, their cognitive function declines similarly to humans. Unusual barking at nighttime is a classic sign of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction. This is similar to Alzheimer’s Disease in humans.”
Possible solutions: Read our article about cognitive dysfunction in dogs with recommendations from our vets.
4. Poor vision
Dogs with visual issues may have a decreased ability to see in the dark. This can lead to stress when lights are turned off. Dogs with poor vision sometimes bark or whine in the evenings or at night. You may also notice that they bump into objects or struggle to navigate at night.
– Use a nightlight.
– Provide a secure space where your dog can feel safe and retreat to if overwhelmed. This might be a specific bed, crate, or a favorite room.
– Let your dog sleep in your bedroom. Studies show that dogs who sleep with their owners are less likely to feel restless (including barking/whining), meaning you can catch up on that much-needed sleep without any disturbance.
A sign of pain may be that your dog has a hard time getting comfortable when trying to sleep. This may be most notable if they are lying on the floor or on a hard surface. Dogs in pain will frequently shift or reposition themselves.
Possible solutions: view our recommendations in our article about Pain Relief for Senior Dogs.
High-energy dogs and puppies may be too wound up to settle at night. You may find that it is time for bed, and they are still in play mode.
– Take your dog out for a long walk before bedtime.
– Use stimulating toys such as puzzle or Kong toys.
4. When home remedies don’t work, contact your vet
Now that you’ve read about multiple options to help remedy sleepless nights, there are plenty of ways to troubleshoot your dog not sleeping. If home remedies are not working, it is time to discuss this concern with your veterinarian.
Any dog displaying signs of pain, excessive urination, diarrhea, excessive thirst, or abnormal cognitive function should be evaluated by a veterinarian right away.
5. Your vet may recommend bloodwork and urine testing to rule out common illnesses
Your veterinarian will perform a thorough examination to assess for any potential causes of your dog being unable to settle at night. This will include an assessment of neurological function, eyesight, and an orthopedic examination. They may recommend bloodwork and urine testing to rule out common illnesses that may cause your pup to feel unwell. If your dog is displaying abnormal cognitive behavior at home, it is helpful to document this behavior with videos and keep a diary of what is happening and any factors influencing the behavior.
Is there a sleeping pill for dogs?
Yes! There are many over-the-counter and prescription options to help your dog sleep at night. These range from calming supplements and anti-histamines to oral sedatives.
Will Benadryl help my dog sleep all night?
Benadryl is an anti-histamine medication that offers sedative properties. It can be used safely in most dogs to help them sleep more soundly. It is important to note that Benadryl can have side effects that include an upset stomach, drooling, panting, and increased heart rate and may not be safe for all dogs.
Can dogs take melatonin?
Melatonin is sometimes an option to give dogs and offers sedative properties that can quell stress and anxiety. It is important to first discuss dosing with your veterinarian, as this medication can be overdosed. You must also ensure products do not contain xylitol.
Should I give my dog a sedative to help him sleep all night?
Sedatives should only be given to dogs after a veterinarian has determined that there is not an underlying medical issue causing their sleeplessness. You would not want to mask signs of illness. Ultimately, sedatives are often very safe for use at night and your veterinarian will help you decide which option is best.
Disclaimer: This website's content is not a substitute for veterinary care. Always consult with your veterinarian for healthcare decisions. Read More.