When your dog became fully potty trained, you were relieved to know that the days of accidents around the house were finally over. And then one morning, just as you got out of bed, you stepped on something.
So, why is my dog waking up in the middle of the night to poop? There are many reasons why your dog might be waking up in the middle of the night to poop, from problems with the diet and feeding schedule through age-related changes, to severe medical issues. Sometimes, pooping in the middle of the night can be your dog’s way of telling you it needs more outside time, a smaller sleeping place, or repeating the basics of house training.
Your dog waking up in the middle of the night to poop is a frustrating situation. It is even more frustrating cleaning the poop accidents the next day or accidentally stepping on one of them. However, the good news is you can successfully manage all reasons.
This article will explain the most common reasons why dogs wake up in the middle of the night to poop. It will also give helpful tips on managing each situation and putting an end to your dog’s nightly pooping quest.
Top 10 reasons for dogs waking up in middle of night to poop
To simplify things, we have classified the reasons why dogs poop in the middle of the night in three categories:
Behavioral reasons for pooping at night
1. House training issues
According to a retrospective study, incomplete housebreaking is the most common reason dogs poop inside the house. More precisely, out of the 70 dogs included in the study, 59 (84%) pooped inside the house because of incomplete or inadequate housebreaking.
A dog with inappropriate housebreaking habits does not differentiate between day and night – it relieves itself whenever and wherever it feels the urge.
2. Stress and anxiety
According to the previously mentioned study, separation anxiety is the second most common reason for house soiling in dogs.
This is because, in dogs, there is a thing called stress-related diarrhea. As shown, stress is usually associated with separation.
However, there are many other stress-causing situations for dogs. For example, changes in the daily routine, your working schedule or environment, having guests over, unusual noises and sounds, or getting a new pet.
3. Not enough stimulation during the day
Dogs that do not receive adequate physical and mental stimulation levels through the day are more likely to wake up in the middle of the night to poop.
This is because a bored dog sleeps more during the day, and then it is hyperactive at night. Being overly active stimulates the bowels and promotes elimination.
Ensuring proper entertainment during the day will keep your dog asleep through the night and prevent activity-provoked pooping.
Dietary reasons for pooping at night
4. Overfeeding our dog
Overfeeding is a simple answer to the “why is my dog waking up in the middle of the night to poop” question. When it comes to overfeeding, frequent pooping is a minor side effect. The biggest concern is the risk of obesity.
In general, veterinarians and canine nutritionists recommend adequately sized meals per day. To ensure your dog is taking the right amounts of food, you need to measure its meals and include the treats into your dog’s daily caloric intake.
5. Eating right before bedtime
The dog’s bowels start reacting about 15 to 30 minutes after having a meal. Therefore, if you feed your dog just before going to bed, chances are it will wake up in the middle of the night to poop.
To avoid this scenario, take your dog for a walk around 20 minutes after its last meal and let it play for a while. The physical activity will stimulate bowel movement and elimination.
If your dog poops while outside, reward it; it will associate the going out part with pooping and treats.
6. Protein-rich foods
Although the dog’s wild ancestor is a true carnivore, the average domestic pouch has evolved and adapted to a more versatile diet, including both meat and plant-based foods.
Because of this evolutionary adaptation, dogs fed meat exclusively and protein-rich foods will find themselves in a situation of having extra proteins. These additional proteins need to be eliminated with the poop.
In simple words, a dog eating too many proteins will need to poop more frequently – both day and night. Plus, because the excreted proteins in the poop are fermenting, they will make the poop extra stinky.
This does not mean you should feed your dog a low-protein diet. Proteins are still necessary for fueling the body, building muscles, and repairing tissues. The general rule of thumb is that adult dogs should eat dog foods with 22% crude protein, and puppies need diets with no less than 23% crude protein.
7. Low-quality, high-fiber food
Nutritionally diluted, low-quality foods that are packed with dietary fiber can make your dog poop frequently.
Low-quality foods are a more budget-friendly alternative because they contain cheap fillers like wheat and corn. Wheat and corn are particularly rich in fiber, and more fiber means a more voluminous stool. Logically, the higher stool volume triggers more frequent pooping.
A low-quality food may save you some money at the moment, but it will make you spend a lot more on veterinary bills in the long run.
Medical reasons for pooping at night
8. Gastrointestinal health issues
Many gastrointestinal issues can make your dog take more frequent trips to the bathroom, including:
- Tummy troubles – irritations due to dietary indiscretions, new foods, or food allergies. The dog’s stomach is more sensitive than we usually imagine, and even minor upsets can result in severe irritations.
- Intestinal parasites – prevalent in young puppies. Keeping your dog up-to-date on its de-worming protocol is the best way of ensuring it has no intestinal parasites.
- Viral infections – also more common among young dogs and puppies. Viral infections can be expected in convalescent dogs and dogs that have been subdued to surgical interventions.
- Inflammatory bowel disease – a specific condition that manifests with diarrhea and frequent elimination. IBD in dogs is similar to IBD in humans – your dog will know it is pooping but have no control over when and where it poops.
9. Bowel incontinence
Bowel incontinence is a medical issue in which the dog loses the ability to control its bowels and spontaneously defecates. Sometimes the dog is unaware of its pooping, and sometimes, it is aware but cannot control it.
Bowel incontinence usually develops due to muscle wasting in older dogs. However, it can also develop secondary to other medical issues, including intestinal parasites, anal fistulas, inflammatory bowel disease, and systemic problems like myasthenia gravis.
In some cases addressing the underlying issue solves the incontinence, while in others, lifelong management is necessary.
10. Physical limitations
Older dogs and dogs with arthritis issues can have trouble eliminating themselves due to the pain associated with the pooping position.
Such dogs are likely to hold until holding is no longer an option and then relieve themselves in inappropriate places.
Canine cognitive dysfunction (the canine Alzheimer’s version) can also be why an old dog forgets its housetraining and starts eliminating inside the house.
Why is my dog suddenly pooping at night?
If pooping at night is something that started suddenly, ask yourself if there are any changes in your dog’s routine, feeding regimen, or environment. If the answer to all questions is no, it is advisable to schedule an appointment with your trusted vet.
To prepare yourself for the vet visit, pay special attention to several factors regarding your dog’s pooping, including:
- Defecating frequency and amount of stool
- Stool consistency, color, smell, and presence of mucus/blood
- Is the stool passing normal or painful
- Whether your dog is aware of its elimination.
Knowing these factors and answers will help the vet determine the underlying problem and suggest helpful solutions.
How do I stop my dog from going to the toilet at night?
To stop your dog from going to the toilet at night, you need to find out why your dog is feeling the urge to defecate at these times.
If the reason is medical, you will have to follow your vet’s advice on managing and overcoming the situation. If the cause is behavioral, your vet will recommend a canine behaviorist or trainer to help you with the problem. Finally, if the pooping issue arose from dietary issues, your dog will need a stricter feeding regimen.
In general, these are some tips to prevent your dog from pooping at night:
- Ensure there is no underlying medical issue
- Make a meal schedule and stick to it
- Take your dog for a walk after each meal
- Use the right dog food and inadequate amounts
- Provide plenty of physical and mental stimulation
- Confine your dog to a smaller area during the night
- Remove all potential stressors from the environment.
My dog poops in bed at night – why?
Dogs rarely soil their beds. If you keep finding poops in your dog’s bed, try determining whether your dog lack awareness of its pooping.
In the meanwhile, you need to schedule an appointment with your vet and have the vet examine your dog fully and thoroughly.
My dog won’t poop outside at night – why?
Dogs can be reluctant to go outside at night because of the odd noises and lack of vision.
As most dog parents know, dogs feel vulnerable while defecating, and if the environment does not feel secure, they will refuse to relieve themselves.
Some dogs can refuse to poop outside at night if they dislike how the grass in your yard feels or is too cold or raining.
As we already explained, the reasons why dogs wake up in the middle of the night to poop can be classified into three categories – medical problems, dietary issues, and behavioral causes.
Luckily, as frustrating as the pooping-in-the-middle-of-the-night situation seems, it can be successfully managed and stopped more often than not.
The medical problems can be solved with the help of your vet, the dietary issues with simple diet and routine changes, and the behavioral causes with the help of a canine behaviorist or trainer.
Battling against your dog’s nocturnal pooping adventures is not something you can do on your own. Therefore, do not hesitate to ask for professional help.
Why does my dog poop in his bed at night?
Contrary to popular belief, dogs are clean animals and reluctant to soil their beds and sleeping areas. If your dog is pooping inside its bed, it is probably due to a medical issue.
Is it normal to wake up for a poo in the night?
Yes, just like in people, the dog’s urge to eliminate cannot always be scheduled and controlled. Even if your dog is on a strict feeding and potty regimen, it can still experience the need to poop at night. However, if pooping in the night becomes a habit, you need to investigate the situation.
Do older dogs lose control of their bowels?
Old dogs go through many physical and behavioral changes. Sadly, losing control over their bowels and developing fecal incontinence can be among dogs’ age-related changes.
Should a dog poop after every meal?
Yes, dogs should poop after every meal. That is why it is advisable to schedule your walks 30 to 60 minutes after each meal. This timeframe increases the chances of your dog relieving itself on each walk.