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Why Is My Dog Whining at Night? 5 Causes & Solutions

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A dog whining at night can be suffering from an injury, illness, a degenerative joint disease, anxiety, dementia, or simply need to go outside to relieve itself. 

Dogs’ occasional whining is tolerable and often understandable, but it’s impossible to ignore a dog’s whining when it keeps you up at night. 

And it’s a good thing you don’t ignore it because whining can mean your dog is in pain or suffering from a potentially fatal illness. 

In this article, we explore five reasons why a dog can cry at night, when you need to call a vet, and how to stop a dog from whining every evening.   

Why Is My Dog Suddenly Whining at Night?

Dogs that suddenly start whining at night can be experiencing pain related to an injury, illness, or an underlying health condition. Dogs suffering from anxiety and dementia are also more likely to whine at night. 

Here are the five most common reasons for dogs whining at night:

  1. Injury and Discomfort
  2. Illness 
  3. Degenerative Joint disease 
  4. Anxiety 
  5. Dementia 

1. Injury and Discomfort 

Dog Injury and Discomfort

Inspect your dog for injuries. Treat with first aid or contact the vet for advice.

Signs of a Dog in Pain include the following:

  • Increased licking of the paws to self-soothe or licking a specific area of the body.
  • Increased sleeping.
  • A loss of appetite.
  • Fast and shallow breathing.
  • Difficulty getting comfortable when laying down.
  • Hiding away or seeking attention constantly.
  • Increased levels of aggression. [1]

Make sure your dog is comfortable in its bed. If a dog is cold, uncomfortable, or needs to urinate at night, it can whine until you intervene.  

2. Illness

Dog Illness

Seizures, gastric dilatation-volvulus complex, and pancreatitis are all medical conditions that can cause your dog to whine at night. 

Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus 

Gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV) complex occurs when a dog’s stomach fills with air and flips, cutting off blood flow and causing the oxygen-deprived pancreas to produce a hormone that can stop the heart. 

GDV kills about 30 percent of the dogs it affects.[2] 

Symptoms of GDV in dogs:

  • Swollen abdomen.
  • Pain and whining if it feels pressure on the abdomen.
  • Restless.
  • Retching and salivation.
  • Increased heart rate.
  • Weak pulse.

Take your dog to an emergency veterinary clinic if your dog’s whining and has a painful, swollen belly. 

Pancreatitis

A dog that is whining, pacing, vomiting, and hunching its back can have pancreatitis. Pancreatitis occurs when the pancreas becomes inflamed. It can be fatal if the inflammation spreads to other organs.[3]

Symptoms of pancreatitis in dogs:

  • A sudden loss of appetite.
  • Vomiting.
  • Weakness.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • A hunched back.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Drooling.
  • Fever.
  • Dehydration.
  • Collapse.

Take your dog to the vet immediately if you think your dog is suffering from pancreatitis. This is a potentially fatal illness and requires emergency treatment. 

Seizures

A seizure is caused by abnormal motor activity in the brain and can cause a dog’s whole body to convulse or milder localized reactions, like a facial tremor.[4] 

Seizures can indicate epilepsy, but they also occur in dogs without a neurological condition. Electrolyte imbalances, low blood sugar, cancer, brain tumors, and poisoning can cause seizures in dogs. [5] 

Here are five steps to take if you think your dog is having a seizure:

  1. Protect your dog from injury: If your dog is lying on a sofa or bed, gently position your dog so that it will not fall off during a seizure. Do not hold your dog down. 
  2. Time the seizure: Use your phone to record the seizure for timing and to show the vet. 
  3. Comfort your dog: A dog can feel scared, confused, exhausted, hungry, and thirsty when it comes out of the seizure. Speak in a reassuring, calming tone and bring food and water close so your dog doesn’t have to walk. 
  4. Let your dog sleep: Seizures are exhausting. It’s common for dogs to sleep afterward. 
  5. Make an appointment with the vet as soon as possible.  

3. Degenerative Joint Disease 

Old Dog Degenerative Joint Diseases

Dogs with joint diseases like arthritis or musculoskeletal conditions like hip dysplasia can feel more pain and whine more at night than they do during the day.

This is because dogs shift their weight almost continuously during the day, periodically easing the pressure on affected joints. This helps maintain joint mobility. At night, laying down in a static position can put painful pressure on affected joints. [6]

Signs of degenerative joint diseases in dogs:

  • Whines when laying down.
  • Avoids sitting or struggles to sit.
  • Lies in unusual positions.
  • Walking circles in bed before laying down.
  • Gets up moments after laying down. 
  • Stiffness and limping
  • Struggles to get into position to urinate or defecate 
  • Loss of muscle mass in limbs 
  • Lethargic[7] [8]

Take your dog to the vet for a check-up if you suspect it has a degenerative joint disease. 

A vet can advise on diet and supplements that support joint health and delay disease progression. The vet can also prescribe natural and medicinal treatments to reduce pain and inflammation. 

4. Anxiety 

Separation Anxiety

If you’ve ever had trouble sleeping before starting a new job or moving into a new town, you have experienced how anxiety can interrupt your sleep cycle. 

Life changes can also cause sleep disturbances for dogs. Moving house, the loss of a family member or another pet, or even a new bed can unsettle your pooch. In some dogs, it can trigger separation anxiety. 

Separation anxiety can affect dogs of any age, but it is more common in puppies[9]. A dog or puppy with separation anxiety whines when you are out of sight. 

Aging dogs are also more prone to suffering from anxiety. A recent study found dogs eight years or older can experience a rapid increase in fears and phobias.[10]

Symptoms of anxiety:

  • Excessive whining, barking, and howling. 
  • Restlessness, trembling, and pacing. 
  • Chewing or digging around doors or windows. 
  • Urinating or defecating indoors. 
  • Excessive drooling or panting.

A regular routine, training, and ensuring your dog gets enough daily exercise can stop an anxious dog from whining at night. 

Exercise is an easy place to start. A study published in 2015 found that dogs with separation anxiety get less daily exercise than dogs who do not suffer from the condition.[11] 

A daily walk helps your dog burn off nervous energy and releases calming, feel-good endorphins. 

Consider working with an animal behaviorist if you are struggling to help your overly anxious dog calm down. You can also ask your vet about medication and natural therapies for anxiety.[13] 

Related: How to Get a Puppy to Stop Whining

5. Dementia 

Dementia in Old Dog

In some senior dogs, anxiety is one of the symptoms of dementia. Dogs with dementia are known to whine and pace. Dementia is a blanket term for conditions linked to cognitive dysfunction often related to aging. 

Related: Why Old Dogs Whine for No Apparent Reason

Symptoms of Dementia in Dogs

When looking for symptoms of dementia, remember the acronym DISHA:

  • Disorientation: getting lost in familiar environments, not recognizing familiar faces, and staring blankly. 
  • Interaction and behavioral changes:  Increased aggression or anxiety and less interest in socializing with other dogs.
  • Sleep cycle disturbances: Whining at night and while sleeping. Frequently waking up during the night and sleeping more during the day.
  • House soiling 
  • Activity changes: A decreased level of play but an increase in restlessness, pacing, and repetitive behaviors like licking.[14] [15]

Take your dog to a vet for a check-up if you suspect it’s suffering from dementia. 

Ask the vet about supplements, dietary changes, and medication that can slow down the progression of cognitive decline, reduce related anxiety and improve your dog’s sleep cycle.[16]

How to Stop Dog Whining at Night

To stop a dog from whining at night, you need to know why the dog is crying, what you can do to help it and when you need to call a vet. Feeling cold, uncomfortable, ill, in pain or anxious can cause a dog to whine at night. 

Here are five tips to help stop a dog from crying at night.

1. Let Your Dog Outside

Let Your Dog Outside

Take your dog outside for a bathroom break. While outside, observe your dog for signs of injury or illness. Call an emergency vet for advice if your dog has diarrhea, a swollen belly, excessive drooling, or vomiting. If your dog needs to urinate often, ask your vet to test for a bladder infection.  

2. Warmth Can Reduce Whining

Ensure your dog’s bed is warm and comfortable. If your dog is whining because it is cold, the remedy can be as simple as giving your dog an extra blanket. Observe your dog as it gets into bed. If it struggles to get comfortable, make a note to ask the vet to check your dog for arthritis, osteoarthritis, or hip dysplasia. 

3. Let Your Whining Dog Sleep

Let Your Whining Dog Sleep

Don’t wake a dog that is whining in its sleep – it’s most likely dreaming. Waking a dog in the dream REM sleep state can scare it and end it into defense mode. It’s why an estimated 60% of dog bites in children occur when the child wakes a sleeping dog. [13]

4. Call A Vet

Make an appointment with a vet if your dog continues to whine no matter what you do and does not appear ill, injured, or cold. 

A vet can test your dog for degenerative conditions like arthritis, osteoarthritis, hip dysplasia, and dementia. A vet can prescribe medication, supplements, lifestyle modifications, and natural treatments to delay the progression of these conditions. 

5. Help Your Dog With Its Anxiety-Related Whining

Ask the vet for advice if your dog’s whining is related to anxiety. A vet can advise you on training techniques or recommend a behavioral therapist to help you and your dog. A vet can also prescribe natural and medicinal treatments to ease anxiety. 

About Monique Warner

Monique is an avid dog lover who grew up with dogs, cats, and budgies as pets. She has worked as a pet sitter and dog walker. With her passion for dogs and pets alike, she writes articles with the intention of helping pet owners solve their biggest struggles.

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