Why Do Dogs Pee So Much at Night?

Adrienne Farricelli

Of course, not all dogs pee so much at night, but when they do it's for various reasons and these reasons may vary based on specific circumstances. With house soiling issues, we often need to put on our investigative hats and pay close attention to the context in which the peeing occurs. For instance, does the dog pee for physiological reasons or is there more to it?

Do dogs pee so much at night or is it just our perception because it's a time when we hope to sleep and taking the dog out to potty feels more like a hindrance? To better evaluate this, we would need to compare how often the dog goes potty during the day and then compare it to the night. Is it really much more? Usually, dogs pee less when they are sleeping and less active. If the dog truly pees a lot at night we would then have to further evaluate why. 

A Word About Puppies

It is normal for young puppies to pee a lot at night, so if you have to wake up every few hours, this is pretty normal considering that young puppies haven't yet attained sufficient bladder control to hold it for hours on end.

So if you were expecting to bring your puppy home and go to bed at 10 PM and then wake up at 6 AM with a clean and happy puppy, think again. Most puppies cannot hold it overnight until they are at least 16 weeks of age. Toy breeds and small dogs in general can  even take longer. 

Incomplete House Training

If you own an adult dog who keeps peeing in the night, it could be that you are simply dealing with a case of incomplete house training. Such dogs were never fully potty trained in the first place, either because of lack of time or lack of consistency.  

Incomplete house training is often found in dogs who are kept in a kennel or in the yard for most of the day. Some dogs may be often kept enclosed in an area with a pile of newspapers or pee pads.

 Such dogs have never really learned to "hold it" so they simply urinate immediately at the  minimal sign of discomfort.

Small dogs are often difficult to potty train in particular and may be over-represented in the incomplete house training category. 

Urination or Urine Marking?

 A distinction needs to be made between urination as a physiological need to empty the bladder and urine marking for other purposes. Marking entails depositing multiple small amounts of urine at a time.

When dogs urine mark, they are leaving behind information for other dogs to interpret. This "pee mail" provides other dogs with pertinent information such as the dog's gender, age, health status, social relationship and even diet. 

The need to urine mark may be stronger in intact (not neutered, not spayed) male and female dogs, but neutered and spayed female may urine mark too. 

If your dog asks to be taken out often in the night, it may stem from a strong desire to urine mark areas of the house or yard. Perhaps there are night-time creatures in the yard. Dogs may also urine mark over and over areas of the home, as a sign of underlying anxiety. 

Medical Conditions 

There are several conditions that may cause an increase in peeing, but normally, in most cases, these should cause peeing more during the day too. 

For example, urinary tract infections are notorious for causing dogs to pee frequently in small amounts. Affected dogs may also be seen licking more their private areas and there may be blood in their urine. 

Other conditions that cause excessive thirst, and therefore, trigger increased urination, include diabetes mellitus, kidney disease, Cushing's disease, Addison's disease and hypercalcemia (commonly secondary to cancer).

Sometimes certain medications can be culprits. For instance, dogs on steroid drugs such as prednisone tend to drink more and urinate more to the point of having accidents.

In older dogs, geriatric incontinence needs to also be considered. Older dogs may develop canine cognitive dysfunction which may trigger confusion and house soiling in the night.  

Now That You Know...

As seen, there are several possible causes for dogs peeing in the night. The underlying treatment therefore varies based on findings and underlying causes. Here are some general tips:

  • With puppies, patience is a must. The first weeks can be frustrating, as you may have to get up every two-three hours to take your puppy out for a potty break. It may be best if you wake up your puppy before your puppy wakes you, so to prevent an accident. The good news is that, as time goes by, puppies get better in holding their pee at night.   
  • Make sure your puppy or dog has emptied his bladder before going to bed. Training your dog to go potty on command can turn helpful. 
  • Dogs who have been kenneled or kept in a yard most of the time, are used to peeing without inhibition. When brought inside, these dogs will liberally pee. These dogs need to be provided with guidance and supervision in a small area with unobstructed views and lots of praising and rewarding for going potty in their permanent designated area.
  • Because dogs instinctively avoid to pee on or near their bedding and resting areas, it may help to enclose them at night in small places (crate, play pen), but only if all their other needs are met (the dog has been exercised, socialized, given attention and mental stimulation during the day).
  • Crate train your dog or puppy. This teaches your canine companion to hold it a little longer and encourages him to eliminate once he is released into a designated area where he is allowed to pee. Do not crate your puppy or dog for longer than he can hold it to prevent accidents in the crate. 
  • Make sure the crate is of the correct size. Big enough that your puppy or dog can stand, turn around and lie down, but snug enough that he can't pee in one corner and sleep comfortable the opposite side. 
  • Place the crate nearby you at night so that you can hear your dog wake up and whine to inform you he has to go potty. 
  • Clean any urine messes with an enzyme-based cleaner such as Nature's Miracle. 
  • Any underlying anxiety triggering urine marking should be addressed. Anti-anxiety medications and behavior modification may be needed. 
  • Dogs should be screened for medical conditions especially if the increase in urination occurs in a dog with a good history of being potty trained. 
  • Elderly dogs who show signs of cognitive decline, should see the vet. There are medications to slow down its progression. 
  • If no medical conditions are found, ask your vet if it's OK to restrict your dog's access to water a few hours prior to bed time. This can reduce the number of nocturnal potty trips. 
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