Our fearless canines who boldly bark at the mailman every day are not quite as fearless as we would like to believe. If your dog is suddenly anxious at night it can be a cause of great concern.
There are several things that can frighten him. Some are common and others aren’t. Figuring out what the problem is would be half of the solution.
In this guide, you’ll learn about why your dog is suddenly anxious at night, and what you can do about it for better sleep.
Causes of Dog Anxiety
While night anxiety is more likely to happen to your dog, it can happen to other pets, including your cat. Over a short period of time, my dog had a bleed in his eyes that obscured his vision.
There were two main clues that tipped us off to the problem. One was that he didn’t eat his dry food unless someone rattled the bowl.
The second was that he would miss his jumps. As he was twelve at the time, we had to be very careful with him after this discovery.
1. Visual Disorder
Your dog could develop any sort of visual disorder that will cause anxiety. Night blindness is a common problem among the pooches.
Think about it; your dog could see just fine, then night came and he or she couldn’t see at all. It would scare me.
As with our cat, you can look for signs that there are vision difficulties. Dogs and cats can pick a lot of information up with their noses, but to suddenly be unable to see is a major problem.
They may have difficulties finding toys or treats, suddenly be unable to play fetch, or any number of other signs.
2. Fear of Abandonment
Another common cause for sudden anxiety in pets is the fear of abandonment. Like vision problems, there are clues.
As an example, has a member of your family gone on a trip? Has a child moved out to go to school or live on their own? Even the death of a fellow pet can cause this fear to crop up.
Dogs are pack animals, and we humans are their pack. At its height, we had a pack of four humans, a hamster, a cat, and a huge fish tank.
Then we added dogs. Each animal reacted to changes within the pack, especially when a pack member died. Hamsters are notoriously short-lived creatures.
PTSD is not just a human problem. Dogs can develop it as well, and the sources may be a surprise. Every year the ASPCA puts out a warning about fireworks for the Fourth of July. Every year dogs suffer because people light them off anyway.
Another source of PTSD would be thunder. Huge German shepherds have been known to cower under the bed when a thunderstorm is raging.
There is a special thing for dogs with this problem; thunder shirts. They can be used for any sort of loud noise that causes your pet to be anxious.
4. Hearing Problem
Dogs have extremely good hearing, and the range of sound they can hear goes both above and below that of humans. Why would that be a cause for anxiety?
There are several devices that we may have in our homes that emit ultrasound. One example would be some smoke detectors. Another could be certain types of oral care products.
The oral care products will only cause temporary anxiety; the smoke detector would be constant. If you have recently added a new device to your household, check to make sure it isn’t making a noise that you can’t hear but your pet can.
5. Lack of Exercise
If your dog is like ours, exercise is not high in his or her list of priorities. However, not having enough exercise can cause anxiety issues.
If the dog is reluctant to go for a walk, check with the vet to make sure there aren’t any physical issues that make it harder to exercise.
Physical issues can also cause anxiety for dogs. We can’t explain to our pets why they have an upset stomach or pain from arthritis.
In the night, when the humans are all asleep, the pain can cause anxiety. This is especially true when it is chilly (or downright cold).
6. Dog Status
Omega dog status could also cause anxiety issues. If you get a new pet and that pet decides he or she is higher up in the pecking order, it will upset your older pet. As pack animals, each animal in the pack has status. Upsetting that status can cause problems.
There are medications, toxins, and illnesses that can give our pets neurological problems. Anxiety would be one manifestation of those issues.
Here again, your vet will need to be involved. Blood tests can show if there is a chemical issue and other tests can check for neurological issues.
You might also be interested in: 5 Reasons your dog is lethargic and not himself
How to Calm Anxious Dog at Night
Now that you know the causes of your dog’s anxiety, it will be easier to find the solutions. Some of these strategies should help regardless of the problem. Others are more problem-specific.
1. Your Scent
Your scent is probably one of the most soothing things for your dog when he or she is anxious. Put something you’ve worn (preferably something you don’t want to wear again) in your pet’s crate or bed. This is the least intrusive thing that can be done to soothe.
2. Let your dog sleep near you
Small dogs may be happier to be in the same room with you. If you have no problems with it, they may do best on the bed with you. Larger dogs don’t fit so well, although they could go into a crate in your bedroom.
3. Treats and Toys
There are toys designed to provide mental challenges for dogs, and those could also be useful. Many of them have treats inside, so the dog will be encouraged to try to figure it out. Using the brain in a positive way can reduce anxiety.
4. Consider the Use of Pheromones
Pheromones may also help. While Feliway is geared towards cats, there is a product called Adaptil, which is geared towards dogs. These contain species-specific scents that will help soothe the anxious pet.
Some may suggest you try herbal remedies for your pet. As a master herbalist, I recommend you clear anything you want to use with your vet. Some things that are perfectly safe for humans could kill your dog.
The other side of that is the use of medications to soothe the anxiety. This may be useful for some of the more severe cases, but it should be a last choice. All medications have side effects and some of them may not be the kind you or your pet want to deal with.
5. Treat the Vision Problem
There are things that can be done for some canine vision problems. Naturally, it would be hard to put glasses on a dog, but if the problem is fixable, the vet can do it. Unfortunately for our cat, he remained partially blind for the last five years of his life.
If the vision problem can’t be fixed, there are still things that can be done to reduce the anxiety. They will be discussed later after we discover all of the other reasons a dog might suddenly become anxious at night.
6. Treat the Pain
For the pain issue, there are a number of things that can be done. Once the source of the pain is discovered, small things like a hot water bottle or appropriate pain medication can relieve the anxiety caused by the pain.
If the pain is caused by arthritis, you may want to consider making it easier for your pet to get to his or her favorite resting place. Airlifting our cat relieved a lot of his problems, but another solution would be to create stairs for them to climb up to the couch or chair.
7. More Light
If night blindness is the problem, small nightlights could help reduce the anxiety without ramping up the electric bill too much. They would provide enough light for the canine to see without adding a lot of light pollution to your home.
8. Get Rid of the Noisemaker
The best solution for the ultrasound problem is to get rid of the noisemaker. There are a lot of very good smoke detectors (and other products) that don’t make the noise. Choosing one of them will keep your home safe and your dog anxiety-free.
9. Stop the Medication
If you suspect medication or poison is your dog’s problem, tell your vet. If you know what the poison is, bring a sample with you to the vet’s office. This is true whether it’s a chemical or a plant. The sample will help pinpoint the issue and find a solution.
If none of this works, it’s time to consult a special trainer. A dog trainer can help you find in-home solutions to your pet’s anxiety issues. This is especially true if the problem is that of hierarchy in your household.
No matter what the problem is, it is important for everyone in the household to relieve the dog’s anxiety. It can be transmitted to people, other pets and cause some serious problems. An anxious dog may be more willing to bite than one that is calm.