If your dog is getting up for the 100th time to make another lap around the living room, you might end up wondering, “Why does my dog pace so much?” Even the laziest dogs will get up to patrol around several times a day, but frequent pacing can raise concern, and for good reason.
So, what’s the answer to “Why does my dog pace?” In some cases, the pacing simply results from sheer boredom and the need for more exercise, training, and attention. Other times, it can serve as a sign of a mental or physical ailment, like canine OCD, liver disease, or bloat. It’s also possible your dog is pacing around due to environmental factors, such as pests or stray animals nearby.
All in all, it’s worth finding the cause to eliminate your dog’s urge to pace. Thankfully, you can use this guide to start identifying potential causes and begin your investigation well informed. Remember to get your vet involved in the process, so you can work together to help your dog stay happy and healthy through the years.
My Experience With My Dog Ruby
On my busiest days, I can practically hear my dogs squalling, “Bored, bored, bored!” with every step they take. But when panting entered the mix, I knew that something was off with Ruby. Figuring out the problem was a bit more difficult — until the vet got involved, that is.
With their help, I learned that my dear cattle dog was horribly anxious, but not until we investigated a wide variety of other potential causes, of course. Through that experience, I learned a ton about why dogs pace and what to look for as they walked the halls.
Sometimes it’s environmental, while other times it links back to a medical problem. In all cases, it’s worth figuring out so you can get your pet to finally feel better and settle down.
[insert pic of Ruby]
My Ruby is an anxious dog who’s always on alert and ready to bark at anything and everything. I didn’t realize the extent of the problem until she started pacing and panting heavily during a rather stressful time in our lives.
The same can happen in your dogs. They might initially seem high strung, but otherwise fine, until stress shakes things up and leaves them miserable.
Other signs of anxiety in dogs you might notice include:
- Pottying in the house
- Excessive drooling
- Destructive behavior
In Ruby’s case, she was also aggressively suckling blankets and guarding her food, toys, and bed from my 2 Border Collies.
Dog anxiety can result from fear, separation, or age, but all are treatable with help from a vet and trainer.
Your vet can prescribe anti-anxiety medication. A trainer can assist with counterconditioning and desensitization. With these training techniques, you can change how your dog responds to the anxiety trigger and reduce their sensitivity to it over time.
Canine obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) can also cause pacing, though it’s usually along a short path. It doesn’t always cause pacing either, sometimes it might look like:
- Fence running
- Air biting
If the behavior is happening repetitively and doesn’t stop in response to corrections or distractions, then it’s important to have a vet look into it.
Without treatment, the behaviors will likely worsen. Your dog may even begin chewing at their skin, causing injuries. Like anxiety, this condition is treated using anti-anxiety medication and behavior modification techniques.
Dogs are social creatures that look forward to spending quality time with their people. If they are feeling lonely, then they could express that emotion by pacing around the house.
They might pace from the couch, over to the window, and then to the door as they hope for someone to come and see them. If their behavior escalates to include destructive behaviors, like howling, chewing, and potty accidents, when they are alone, it could be turning into a severe case of separation anxiety.
Either way, it’s important to give your dog more attention when you can and build them a secure den to rest in while you’re away.
You could even consider getting them a friend to keep them company if you have enough room and resources.
My 2 Border Collies are endlessly jealous. The second anyone gets attention, they zip over to see if they can’t nudge their way into the group hug. If that doesn’t work, then the pacing starts in earnest.
Although my dogs have learned to sit calmly while waiting for attention, they still try to pace from time to time. High value treats help as does wearing them out with a rousing game of fetch.
If your dog paces when they’re feeling jealous, train the behavior you want to nip the problem in the bud. A sit works for us, most of the time that is, but it’s also effective to have them go lie on their bed or practice a long stay on an interesting surface, like a balance trainer.
Stress About Change
Most dogs definitely do not love change (humans too!). They honor their routines and prefer to keep things moving like clockwork.
My bossy Border Collies are even in tune with my kids’ school schedule, getting all up in their business if they dare stay home for a long weekend. And when something goes off schedule? You can bet that the pacing starts in earnest.
[insert pic of Marie’s 2 Border Collies]
If you’re in the middle of a move, have a new baby on the way, or just changed up your work schedule, then don’t be surprised if your dog finds it a bit anxiety-inducing and paces around.
Watch for obsessive behavior or physical symptoms, like panting, to see if a vet visit is in order.
When female dogs are in season, or in heat, they tend to get quite restless and leave you asking why does my dog pace around in circles.
These dogs feel the call of their biological urges, after all, and seek escape so they can heed them.
Male dogs get equally antsy when they sense a female dog in heat is in their midst.
You can tell your female is in heat by looking at the vulva, which will swell up a bit and eventually start to leak bloody vaginal discharge. You can put your pup in a sanitary diaper at that point to keep her from making a mess of the house. Sometimes that makes dogs more antsy, however, since they prefer to keep themselves clean.
The whole on heat process takes about three weeks from beginning to end, so get ready for the long haul.
You need to keep all female and male dogs apart for the whole heat or you’ll end up with a mess of puppies.
All it takes is a bite or two of the wrong thing and your dog can end up with a wicked stomach ache. In response to the icky feeling in their gut, they may pace around as they search for a comfortable position.
Other symptoms include:
There are many causes of stomach aches in dogs, ranging from minor to serious, so it’s always a reason to get to the vet.
Beyond bad food, they could have an infection, gallbladder obstruction, or tumor.
Out of all the stomach problems, bloat is one of the most serious and fastest progressing. Also known as Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus, bloat occurs when the stomach flips, twisting the ends tightly closed.
Before discovering their dog had bloat, many people started off the day wondering, “Why does my dog pace and pant like that?”
It’s also common for their dog’s stomach to look distended.
And they may note that their dog is unable to lie down for any length of time.
Other symptoms include rapid breathing, pale gums, and panic.
Emergency surgery is often the only way to treat bloat and it has to happen fast. Otherwise, the gases build up inside and could cause the stomach to rupture. Blood flow stops as well, causing inflammation, clots, and many other major issues.
Dogs don’t really know how to handle pain.
So when they suffer a minor injury, they might start to pace around the house, looking for relief. Minor injuries may include a torn paw pad, cut on their limb, or broken toenail. Even an eyelash stuck in their eye can leave them feeling anxious and unsettled.
To determine if this is the problem, you’ll have to look your dog over from head to toe. You might also want to observe their behaviors to see if they scratch, chew, or lick at the area that’s bothering them. If you can’t figure it out, the vet probably can.
Joint pain leaves many dogs without the ability to get comfortable in their favorite spots. They may pace from place to place in search of somewhere that doesn’t leave their joints aching.
In between their periods of having you ask why does my dog pace around at night, they may lick and chew at their painful joints to help relieve their discomfort. It’s common for dogs with joint pain to have trouble getting up and lying down. They walk with a different gait, and lose muscle mass over time. They also usually start to avoid their favorite activities, like playing fetch, and even skip out on the pets as the pain worsens.
Thankfully, vets can help relieve their discomfort with medication and other treatments.
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Urinary Tract Infection
Dogs often develop urinary tract infections that leave them pacing around the house in their discomfort.
These infections cause dogs to:
- Feel like they need to go pee often
- Have an intense urge to urinate
- Experience pain with urination
- Leak pee onto the floor.
When dealing with this infection, dogs will usually lick their genitals in between the periods of pacing.
To make a full recovery, dogs usually have to take a full course of antibiotics.
Your vet will check their urine to confirm that it’s an infection, and then provide the right course of treatment.
As dogs age, kidney disease commonly occurs as these organs fail to properly remove waste and produce urine.
When this occurs, you might notice your dog getting up and pacing from their bed to the kitchen much more often than normal. This happens because the kidney failure causes them to feel incredibly thirsty.
As the disease progresses, you might also notice:
- Poor appetite
- Bad breath
Your dog might even develop sores on their gums, making it painful to eat, drink, and chew their bones.
To diagnose kidney disease, the vet will need to perform blood and urine tests. The results will help them determine how well the kidneys are functioning and suggest the best treatment possible.
Liver disease in dogs can occur due to infection, trauma, or aging.
Sometimes, it just happens due to your dog’s genetics or in tandem with other medical conditions, like cysts.
This condition can result in your dog pacing from room to room due to the confusion it causes.
Pacing may also arise as the buildup in fluids leaves your dog feeling rather uncomfortable.
Other symptoms to watch for include:
- Poor appetite
- Increased thirst
- Weight loss
- Unstable gait
If you notice any of these symptoms, you need to get your dog to the vet for an exam and tests.
When caught early, it’s possible to control liver disease with diet changes, supplements, and antibiotics.
Just like their people, dogs can develop cavities, gum disease, and other oral health problems. It’s also possible for them to chip, break, or wear down their teeth, exposing the nerves inside.
As dental problems develop, they often cause a lot of pain and discomfort that leaves dogs pacing around.
You can usually see the problem directly by taking a look at their teeth and gums. If anything looks swollen, broken, or otherwise abnormal, then it’s time for a trip to the vet.
Although rare, it’s possible for pacing to result from the development of brain tumors.
As the tumors put pressure on different parts of the brain, they can cause your dog to feel restless, agitated, and confused. They may pace around the house in their confusion while exhibiting a head tilt and wobbly gait. They might even run into things due to the abnormal vision that commonly arises.
Dogs with suspected brain tumors must go through a number of imaging tests for a diagnosis. Treatment may involve surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy depending on your dog’s age, prognosis, and other factors.
Cushing’s disease is another rare medical condition that can cause pacing in dogs.
This syndrome forces the body to make an abundance of cortisol, which leaves them feeling anxious, restless, and out of sorts.
Other symptoms may include:
- Panting without physical activity
- Increased appetite and thirst
- Fur loss and slow regrowth of fur
- Thin skin that’s prone to injuries.
Although this syndrome makes dogs restless, it also leaves them feeling quite tired. So, between all the pacing, they may sleep a lot more each day.
Vets can perform hormone tests to diagnose this condition.
Treatment often involves surgery to remove the overactive adrenal glands or medication to balance their hormones.
If your dog is having trouble breathing, they might pace in an attempt to soothe their anxiety or find relief. While they do that, it’s common for them to pant and cough.
There are many causes of labored breathing in dogs, including:
- Heart failure.
No matter the cause, if your dog is opening their mouth very wide or moving their nostrils with every breath, it’s a medical emergency. Get them into the vet for a checkup and treatment right away.
As dogs age, they can develop canine dementia that leaves them pacing around the house confused. When caused by this condition, the pacing appears aimless as your dog meanders from place to place.
As that happens, they might seem confused, whine without a cause, and experience periods of aggression. It’s also common for cognitive dysfunction to cause dogs to get stuck in strange spots, like the corner of the room.
Although it’s not curable, you can slow the progress of this disease with help from a vet. They will prescribe medications, help adjust their diet, and suggest environmental changes that can help.
Hearing or Vision Loss
Hearing and vision loss are also common in dogs as they reach old age. It can also occur due to infection, disease, and trauma.
Since dogs do not understand why they cannot hear or see as well as before, they might anxiously pace back and forth in the room.
Your vet can help gauge the severity of the vision or hearing loss. After that, they can suggest things to do at home to ease their distress and help them stop pacing around the house.
Dogs have tremendously good hearing that lets them know about everything going on in their environment.
They can even hear mice scurrying around outside and pests moving in the walls. Upon noticing those critters intruding on their territory, they might start to bark, pace, and act agitated.
So, if you don’t notice any other symptoms of a problem, be sure to check for pests in and around your household. The early alerts from your dog can possibly save you from a major infestation, so they are well worth heeding.
Stray Animals Nearby
Dogs are also acutely in tune with other animals in their vicinity.
If you have stray dogs and cats roaming outside, your pup may start to pace from window to window in an attempt to get a glimpse.
Once the offending creatures come into view, your dog will likely go off, letting you know about the problem in full force.
Since we live in a busy neighborhood, this is a common problem around my house. Ruby, Bandit, and Nyxie catch sight of loose dogs gallivanting through the neighborhood and go off. For a few minutes prior to that, however, they are racing from end to end of the house to be the first one to catch sight of the intruders.
Now that you know the answer to, “Why does my dog pace arond the house” you can start looking for the cause.
As you have your dog’s health evaluated and look around your home for environmental factors, your efforts will go a long way in helping your dog stop pacing.
Disclaimer: The treatment outlined in this article is not conclusive, and only a veterinarian should provide an individual treatment plan for your dog based on professional diagnoses and tests.