Dogs can poop once a day or up to five times a day. Both scenarios are normal. It depends on the dog’s age, size, metabolism, feeding cycle, and overall health.
Your dog’s poop can be a window into its health. For example, if the dog cannot poop, lose control over its bowels, or poops at weird times, it could indicate an underlying issue.
Is your dog suddenly waking up in middle of night to poop? If yes, let us look at possible reasons for this condition and how you can best help your furry friend.
- Dog Suddenly Waking Up In Middle of Night to Poop – Possible Reasons
- What to Do If the Dog is Waking Up to Poop at Night?
Dog Suddenly Waking Up In Middle of Night to Poop – Possible Reasons
Your canine friend can take anywhere from 6 to 8 hours to poop after having their meal. The time taken can be less or more depending on the dog. A fiber-rich diet right before bedtime, change in diet or surroundings, or other health and mental concerns could be why the dog wakes up at night to poop.
Let us look at possible reasons in detail.
1. Gastrointestinal Problems
The common belief is that dogs can eat about anything; this, however, is not the case. Some dogs, just like humans, have a sensitive tummy. As a result, their stomachs can easily get irritated. So, you will have to devise a diet plan carefully.
Dogs can develop gastrointestinal issues due to viruses, bacteria, and parasites. If the dog has been living in unhygienic conditions or comes in contact with a contaminated source, it can catch an infection. Most digestive issues in dogs can be traced back to parasites.
The frequency of pooping can increase in such cases. They might also wake up in the night to poop. Dogs may show additional symptoms like:
If your dog is pooping several times in a day, more than usual, it is best to get it checked by the vet. In case of infection, pain, or dehydration, the dog will require antibiotics, medications, and IV fluids to get better.
2. Issues with Feeding Schedule
Creating a feeding schedule is good for your dog’s health. It also helps with behavioural training. It lets the dog know it will be fed twice or thrice a day. That sense of predictability makes adapting to new changes such as a house move easier.
On the other hand, an erratic feeding schedule can confuse the dog. The dog’s stomach can become hyper acidic if you wait too long between meals. The dog could show signs such as nausea and weakness. If you feed the dog too often, it will over-eat and will then poop more often as well.
The timing of the meal is another factor to consider. Some dog owners prefer giving the dog one big meal a day. Ideally, it would be best if you gave the dog two meals a day with a gap of 10 to 12 hours in between. If possible, you can also stick to a breakfast, lunch, and dinner routine while managing its portion sizes.
If you feed the dog sometime before bedtime, it is bound to wake up in the night to poop. You need to see how many hours your dog takes to poop after eating. This will help you decide what time the last meal of the day should be.
According to PetMD, feeding puppies their last meal of the day around 5 pm is ideal. This will give the pets enough time to digest their food. And poop before bedtime. However, if you feed the dog late, for example, around 8 or 9 pm, they will have to relieve themselves in the middle of the night.
3. Unsuitable Food
You should always be aware of what ingredients are present in your dog’s food. Your dog could be allergic to dairy products, soy, beef, or gluten. An upset tummy is one of the common symptoms the dog will show.
Fried and fatty foods can affect the dog’s pooping cycle. If you feed the dog at 5 pm, do not keep giving them small treats post their meal. If your dog gives you the ‘staring into your soul look,’ be strong, do not give them table scraps.
Even when you are feeding the dog healthy food, the nutrients, and its source matter. For example, chicken is a good source of protein, but your dog may not be able to digest this protein source well.
Similarly, fiber is a required nutrient to regulate bowel movements and keep the poop quality good. But too much fiber right before bedtime is not a good meal for the dog. The fiber will help with digestion, and the dog may end up waking up in the night to poop.
4. Anxiety or Stress
If your dog suffers from anxiety, stress, or depression, nighttime can be difficult for it, especially if it sleeps alone.
If the dog’s anxiety is triggered by fear, a loud sound at night or flashing car headlights could startle the dog. The dog could urinate or poop inside the house if it gets scared.
If the dog’s anxiety is triggered by separation, not having family nearby while sleeping can lead to pooping at night.
Dogs with such issues can show additional symptoms like:
- Excessive barking
- Destructive behavior
Dogs can go through anxiety at different times in their lives. The cause, though, should be identified, and you should seek veterinary care for the same. If you leave the anxious dog by itself, its condition can worsen and lead to behavioral issues.
5. Health Issues
Another reason for a dog suddenly waking up in middle of night to poop could be health issues. If pooping at night is a one-off behaviour, the reason could be the food it ate. But, if the dog suddenly starts repeating this behaviour, it could indicate a health issue.
The dog may develop health conditions wherein lack of bowel control could be a symptom. The dog may or may not realize it is about to poop at night. It might try to wake you up, but it might be too late, and it will poop right inside the house.
Conditions such as spinal cord degeneration, bowel incontinence, lesions around the anus, paralysis of hind legs, and spinal tumors, among others, could lead to your dog pooping at night.
The vet will need information about the dog’s diet, routine, and medical history. Then, the vet may perform tests such as blood work, urinalysis, physical examination, or radiographs to confirm the underlying issue.
Besides health issues, trauma or injury could also be why the dog wakes up at night. For example, has the dog fallen, got into a fight, or injured while playing? If yes, it may show other signs like limping, excessive licking, and reduced activity.
6. Aging Dog
Night time waking is more common in aging dogs. There could be medical or behavioral reasons behind this condition.
If the aging dog suffers from conditions like urinary tract infections, stomach upset, or kidney-related diseases, its need to urinate and poop will increase. It might experience pain and discomfort during the night.
Arthritis is a condition that can make pooping challenging and painful for the pet. The dog might wait and hold the poop in as long as possible to avoid the pain that comes with it. However, the dog may relieve itself in the middle of the night, as it may not be able to hold the poop in any longer.
Dogs can also suffer from cognitive dysfunction. It is a progressive condition where the dog will get increasingly confused. For example, it may not be able to tell apart day from night. As a result, you will see the dog sleeping through most of the day. It will compensate by staying awake at night. Such dogs can show other symptoms like pacing and panting.
Some health disorders can be cured, while one can manage other symptoms through medications and therapies. However, regardless of the cause, any abnormal behavior repeatedly shown by an aging dog requires a checkup by the vet.
7. Change in Environment
Dogs like their set routines. They get up, take care of their business outside, eat, go for walks, play, eat and rest.
The dog will take some time to adjust to any kind of change, be it to their diet, routine, or surroundings. For example, the dog will be confused if you have moved houses. You will have to show the dog things like how to get around the house, where it is supposed to eat, and where it is supposed to go poop.
It may not readily adapt to its new sleeping place. In addition, unfamiliar surroundings and noises can temporarily affect your dog, resulting in it waking up at night to poop.
When it comes to its diet, you should introduce any new changes slowly. Including healthy nutrients in the dog’s diet is essential, but do so gradually. Do not change the dog’s diet overnight.
According to AKC, when switching to new foods, 80% of the meal should consist of the old food and 20% of new food. This percentage should be slowly reversed over the course of 10 days.
What to Do If the Dog is Waking Up to Poop at Night?
Now that we have gone through the possible reasons why your dog wakes up at night to poop, let us look at techniques that can help resolve or manage the behavior.
1. Set a Feeding Routine
Give the dog predictability when it comes to feeding times. According to PetMD, puppies should ideally be fed three times daily, with similar timings every day. For example, you should feed the puppy a meal around 7 am in the morning, a midday meal at 12 pm, and an evening meal at 5 pm.
Once the puppy reaches the age of 14 to 18 months, you can switch to a two-meal-a-day routine. Please discuss with the vet to understand what would be the best feeding schedule for your dog.
Such a routine will help the dog digest its food and poop before bedtime and avoid surprise wake-ups in the middle of the night.
2. Make its Sleeping Environment Comfortable
Give the dog a nice bed to sleep on and a blanket if it gets cold at night. If the dog is sensitive to lights and sounds, make it sleep in a room away from the windows. If that is not possible, then draw thick curtains over the windows.
If the dog has anxiety, then let it sleep near you. For example, it can sleep on your bed. Or you could place its dog bed in your bedroom. Or you can let the dog sleep right outside your bedroom. This way, you can reach the pet immediately in case of any issues.
3. Handle Mental Health Issues
If the dog is stressed or depressed, you need to identify the cause and work towards removing triggers from its environment.
Spend time with the dog. Feeding and walking the dog is a part of its routine. But set some time apart just to bond with the dog. You could play, cuddle or simply sit on the couch together.
If left alone, anxiety and stress can lead to other behavioral problems. If it is getting difficult to handle the pet, seek help from the vet or professional behaviorist trainers.
4. Invest in an Active Lifestyle
A poor poop cycle can often be a symptom of an inactive lifestyle. Feeding healthy food to the dog alone does not help. If your dog refuses to exercise and turns into a couch potato, its digestive cycle may take longer.
An active lifestyle will help improve the dog’s physical and mental health. It will have no issues regulating its bowel movements. The simple act of moving, playing, and being with you can positively influence the dog’s psyche. Keep the exercise part interesting with runs, hikes, and swims.
Do not let the dog go to sleep directly after eating. Instead, let it eat, rest for some time and then take it for a walk.
5. Get a Checkup Done by the Vet
Regular checkup with the vet is something that you should not skip. It can help the vet catch any health ailments early on.
If your dog used to sleep well through the night before but now has suddenly started waking up at night, it could mean something is wrong with it. This is a deviation from its usual behavior and needs to be investigated.
Have information handy about changes in diet, routine, treats, exposure to new animals, medical history, and exposure to new materials in your home. Such details can help the vet find the cause of the behavior.
The treatment plan would involve medications, new food, restrictive diets, therapies, and exercises depending on what the vet found.
Is your dog suddenly waking up in middle of night to poop? There could be many reasons for this kind of behavior.
The dog could be dealing with an upset stomach, infections, or other gastrointestinal issues. It could be dealing with health conditions like arthritis, degeneration of the spinal cord, or bowel incontinence. Anxiety, stress, depression, or cognitive dysfunction can also be the reasons behind nighttime waking.
The dog could have eaten too much food right before bedtime. In addition, the ingredients in the food may not be compatible with the dog’s sensitive stomach.
Dogs do not adapt to changes quickly. So it will take some time to adjust to a new home, bed, or sleeping place.
If this behavior persists and you notice additional symptoms, it would be best to contact the vet.
Heather Abraham is an owner of two dogs, one cat, a leopard gecko, and a parrot (who her dad still cannot teach bad words to), and an avid blogger. From the time she was a young girl, she always felt a connection with pets. She brings her love of every type of pet to you, with information on animal nutrition, medication, toys, beds, and everything else in between. Along with newly-on-board veterinarian DVM editor Elena, she puts pups first while offering other various fun tidbits along the way.