Why Can’t My Dog Get Comfortable Lying Down?



Photos courtesy  Orvis.com

One of the coziest sights is a dog curled up in his dog bed, or comfy on the couch, fast asleep. But what about when your dog can’t get comfortable lying down?

It’s normal for dogs to circle before they lie down—that’s an inborn behavior courtesy of canine ancestors who needed to tamp down a “nest” or check for danger before sleep. But if you notice your dog struggling to get comfortable, assuming an unusual position, or getting up and down frequently, it could be a sign of something amiss—from easy-fix issues to serious health problems. Here are the most common reasons dogs have difficulty lying down and getting comfortable, the symptoms to observe, and what you can do to help:

Joint Pain

Dogs with joint pain or canine osteoarthritis often experience discomfort that can worsen when they are lying down, or that can make the process of lying down difficult. 

Your dog might have joint pain if:

  • The amount of time he spends circling before lying down increases noticeably
  • He attempts to lie down many times before settling into a spot
  • He is stiff after lying down
  • He has begun groaning as he lies down

If your dog is exhibiting pain symptoms or an aversion to lying down, take him to the veterinarian for a checkup to determine the cause, and to establish a treatment and pain management plan if needed.

Older dogs are at risk of developing joint pain and arthritis, and large breed dogs and obese dogs are at greater risk of joint pain as they age than other dogs. To prevent or delay the onset of joint problems, avoid stressing your dog’s joints and bones with excessive exercise when he is still young and growing. It also helps to make sure your dog always has a soft dog bed where he can lie down. A dog bed protects his joints and pressure points from the hard floor, and insulates him from a cold floor that can worsen his arthritis pain. If your dog is older, an orthopedic dog bed is his best option because it is specifically designed to support joints and to relieve pressure points.

Anxiety

Dogs with anxiety disorders, such as separation anxiety or specific fears and phobias, have difficulty lying down to rest. If your dog is terrified of thunder, the issue is thankfully as short-lived as the storm. But if he has chronic anxiety or separation anxiety, he may:

  • Pace and act restless
  • Lie down on his dog bed and rise repeatedly
  • Chew his dog bed, scratch, or engage in other destructive behavior
  • Engage in nuisance barking or other compulsive behaviors
  • Pant
  • Shake when lying down

Talk with your veterinarian about your dog’s symptoms to clarify the type and severity of your dog’s anxiety. In cases of low-level anxiety, targeted behavioral training can help, while in more extreme cases a combination of prescription medication and training may be necessary.

The health benefits of having a dog are well known, including lowering your blood pressure and reducing your own anxiety. Simply being near your dog improves your wellness. And the benefits go both ways. Though it’s important for a dog with separation anxiety to learn to spend time alone, take your dog for long walks and give him plenty of snuggles when you are home, too. Invite him up onto your bed or couch. And if you observe a ‘no dogs on the furniture’ rule in your home, consider an exception for your anxious friend: An attractive furniture protector not only safeguards your sofa, but can actually help the dog feel more comfortable and secure, enhancing the bond you share while reducing your dog’s stress and yours.

Dementia

Like people, older dogs can experience some cognitive decline and, in some cases, dementia. One of the earliest symptoms of dementia in dogs is restlessness and shifting sleep cycles. If your dog has dementia:

  • His sleep schedule may change and his periods of sleep may shorten
  • He may get up and down all night rather than sleeping peacefully when the house is quiet
  • He may seem confused about daily routines or get lost in familiar places
  • He may get “stuck” in corners or small spaces—not physically, but because he is unaware of how to exit the space
  • He may wait at the “hinge side” of even familiar doors

If you’ve noticed sleep changes in your older dog, schedule a visit to the veterinarian. Medications exist to manage and even reduce some of these symptoms.

It’s also valuable to establish a routine for your dog from mealtimes through bedtime. A daily schedule is comforting to dogs and helps them adjust more easily to the disorienting problems of age. Crate training your dog early in life also prevents problems with pacing and wandering the house at night that can arise with age.

Serious Medical Issues

A dog who suddenly can’t or won’t lie down, has labored breathing when lying down, or assumes the “praying position” of lying down with his bum in the air, may be experiencing pain or discomfort due to a serious medical condition: pancreatitis, bloat, or heart disease, for example. Contact your veterinarian right away if you suspect your dog has one of these conditions.

Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis occurs when digestive enzymes produced in the pancreas are “activated” too early, sometimes even escaping the digestive tract.

Symptoms of pancreatitis include:

  • The “praying position”—the dog lies with his head and front legs down and his bum in the air to relieve uncomfortable pressure on the pancreas
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Decreased appetite

Any dog can get pancreatitis; there is no breed or age predisposition. The condition can be chronic (long-term) or acute (occurring in a sudden attack). Acute pancreatitis can be mild or severe. 

When mild pancreatitis is treated quickly with a special diet, IV fluids, and medications, the outlook is good. Severe acute pancreatitis requires intensive care, and the outlook depends on the degree of severity. With the right treatment, most dogs recover well from pancreatitis.

Bloat

Bloat is among the most serious explanations for a dog who is struggling to get comfortable. The clinical name for the condition is gastric dilatation-volvulus syndrome (GDV). When a dog gets bloat, his stomach dilates and twists, a dangerous situation that can cause severe abdominal pain. Symptoms of bloat include:

  • The inability to get comfortable sitting or lying down
  • A distended or enlarged stomach
  • Looking at stomach
  • Anxiety, restlessness, and pacing
  • Vomiting up any new food or water, or dry heaving
  • Excessive drooling
  • Pale gums
  • Weakness

Large and giant breed dogs with deep chests are at greatest risk; these breeds include Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Irish Setters, St. Bernards, Gordon Setters, Newfoundlands, Weimaraners, German Shepherds, and Great Danes. To minimize the risk of bloat, feed your dog twice every day, rather than feeding him one large meal, and don’t let him play or exercise vigorously right after a meal.

A dog with bloat is in danger of collapse and possible death. Bloat is a medical emergency and doesn’t go away on its own—the condition requires surgery as soon as possible to correct.

Heart Disease

Heart disease can make a dog’s breathing difficult and labored, and breathing may be most difficult while lying down. Dogs with severe heart disease may even attempt to go to sleep while standing up or sitting. You can reduce your dog’s risk of heart disease if you keep him on a heartworm preventative and help him maintain a healthy weight. Heart disease can often be managed well with medications, certain diets, and appropriate exercise. 

It’s possible your dog can’t get comfortable lying down because of a minor issue like an upset stomach or a muscle strain from an exuberant game of fetch. In these instances, his discomfort should be minimal and short-lived. 

If he has ongoing discomfort or if his pain seems severe, he requires professional medical attention. With help from your veterinarian, and a soft place to lie down at home, your best friend should be curling up more comfortably in no time.

15 thoughts on “Why Can’t My Dog Get Comfortable Lying Down?”

  1. My Chihuahua is spinning in circles and cannot get comfortable at all . its happened a couple times , anybody know what this could be ?

    1. I see this post was written last week and I don’t know the answer to your question, but my cocker spaniel is moving from one spot to another today and can’t get comfortable either. She also nibbles on her paws. She was seen at vet a couple of weeks ago and they gave her allergy med that seemed to help for awhile, but today, she’s at it again. Good luck with your doggie.

      1. I am experiencing the same exact thing that you describe here. My English Bulldog has started getting up and down and recircling to get comfortable. And licking one paw in particular. If you seem to get yours under control or your vet helps you find a solution…can you post it here? That would be extremely helpful.

    2. My chihuahua mix is also experiencing this. Just started. Instead of laying down and snuggled up under her blankets in her bed, she’s just sitting by my bed. I tried putting her up on my bed and that doesn’t work. She had a large cyst on her under belly. The vet says it’s benign but I’m wondering if it’s bothering her. She doesn’t cry when I touch it but clearly wants me to not touch her there. Still eating, drinking water and going potty.

  2. About 5 weeks ago my olde english bulldog started moaning when lying down. It got worse as each day passed. He moans when lying down or any movement while lying down and can’t seem to get comfortable. He seems ok when he is walking. I had bloodwork on him done. There were somewhat high platelets but other than that, ok. I just had abdominal scans and echo on him and waiting on results of that. I thought it could possibly be acid reflux due to all of the burping he has been doing so vet has him on prilosec once a day for 2 weeks to see if it helps. He has been on it 2 days so far. Also, tried 5 days of galliprant that didn’t help much at all. I have been trying to figure out what’s wrong. I know he is in pain and it breaks my heart. I will find out results of tests done next week. Depending on results, I may get X-rays done next to check for bone abnormalities or possible torn tendons.

    1. One other thing he started doing 3 days ago is the bow stretch where the legs are in front and butt in the air and moaning with it.

      1. Was just browsing and seen you had pisted yiur statement about your pet. I took my Chihuahua to the Vet a couple of months ago and I only took him because I have read in several articles and on google that when a dog stretches with there front legs out and head down and butt in the air its releaving pain from thier pancreas. Sure enough when i took Ralph (my chihuahua) the vet said he had Pancrtitis. Make sure to keep an eye on him because if pancretitis isnt treated or if it gets worst it can kill them.

  3. Hi,

    My pug is on heat, its her 5th day if I’m not wrong, and she started doing this today, pacing from one bed to another, sitting in the corner in an awkward position. I let her up the sofa, she’s usually active, but today she just lies down and not even sleeping but stares blankly. Been doing a bit of reading and it says could be a serious medical condition (back, joint pain or even bloated etc), and to visit the vet ASAP. How ASAP is ASAP? Is it ok to wait another day to see if its gone?

    Thanks

    1. What finally happened. My dog is super active. Then 3 days ago came out of bedroom walking kinda crunched up. Wanted to sleep. I let her rest. The next day…back to normal. Next day…yesterday Saturday of course…acted weird. Sunday…sleeping. eats great and drinks water. Rests…but will not close her eyes.

      1. My chihuahua mix is also experiencing this. Just started. Instead of laying down and snuggled up under her blankets in her bed, she’s just sitting by my bed. I tried putting her up on my bed and that doesn’t work. She had a large cyst on her under belly. The vet says it’s benign but I’m wondering if it’s bothering her. She doesn’t cry when I touch it but clearly wants me to not touch her there. Still eating, drinking water and going potty.

  4. I have no idea what is wrong with my pug. He is throwing up, pooping little pebbles, he’s not as active as usual, he has loss of appetite, and he is also having this same problem. For the past 2 days, he has been sitting up while sleeping, but when he does lie down, he is moving in a way that looks like he is shivering, but I turned the heater on for him and he still continued to do this movement. So, I know he is not cold. Also, when he lays down, it is always in a uncomfortable position. I don’t know what is wrong with him, but I am very worried. Before I take him in to the vet, I want to have an idea of what might be wrong with him, so please help me out.

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