Few things are grosser than finding a dog turds in their bed or yours. It’s unpleasant when they poop where they aren’t supposed to. However, when they poop in their sleep, it’s also concerning. Is it a medical issue, or is there another reason?
Do dogs poop in their sleep?
It’s not normal for dogs to poop in their sleep, but it does occur. For some dogs, it’s a rare occurrence. Others struggle with the issue on a nightly basis. The good news is there are ways you can help, but first you’ll need to determine why it is happening.
Types of Sleep Pooping
There are two main reasons why dogs poop in their sleep. The first is sphincter incontinence. If your dog has sphincter incontinence, you will notice pieces of poop that are solid. These may be logs or balls.
The other type is reservoir incontinence. This type commonly causes anal leakage or soft watery poop. Your dog may leak small amounts of poop when sleeping, or cover the bed in soft poop.
Why would my dog poop in his sleep?
First, it’s important to note that your dog isn’t pooping in his sleep intentionally. It’s essentially the same thing as a child peeing the bed when sleeping. Would you punish or scold them? Of course not! You would understand that they were sleeping, and had no control over it.
If your pooch drops a fully formed turd in their sleep, they may have sphincter incontinence. The anal sphincter is a circular muscle at the exit of the anus. It stays closed until it’s time to release poop. Then it relaxes, opening the anus to allow the poop to pass through.
When sphincter incontinence occurs, the sphincter muscle can’t contract properly. When the muscle can’t contract, it can’t hold the poop in properly. Poop will slide out, often without the dog realizing it.
Sphincter incontinence can be caused by age. As a dog gets older, the sphincter muscle can weaken.
Young puppies will also poop in their sleep. Puppies younger than 3 weeks old can’t control their poop. The mother will lick their anus to stimulate them to poop. After they begin pooping on their own, it may take a few weeks for them to learn to control the functions. They will also not be able to hold their poop for very long. As they mature, they should stop pooping in their sleep.
Anal Mass or Trauma
An anal mass or trauma can also cause the sphincter to not function properly. This can be caused by a tumor, or a traumatic injury like a car accident. Anal gland diseases also affect the sphincter. If the dog’s anal glands are swollen or infected, it interferes with sphincter functioning.
Neurological or Nervous System Causes
The sphincter is controlled by nerves that connect to your dog’s brain. The last part of the intestine is the rectum, also known as the anal reservoir. Poop is stored here until it can be released. When the reservoir is full, the body tells the brain it needs to poop. When the dog is ready to poop, the brain sends signals to the muscles to open the anal sphincter, so the poop can be released.
When the brain or nerves don’t function correctly, it can lead to fecal incontinence. Spinal cord injuries are a common cause. Neurological conditions that affect your pet’s nervous system or motor skills can also cause them to poop in their sleep.
If there’s a neurological or nervous system cause, you’ll notice other issues with your dog. They may also struggle to control their bladder. They will have a loss of coordination, a limp, or paralysis.
Reservoir incontinence is the other common cause for dogs pooping in their sleep. As mentioned earlier, the anal reservoir is the holding area for poop. Essentially, any disorder that affects the rectum can result in fecal incontinence.
If your dog has diarrhea, they will have poop urgency and often lose control of their poop. Humans also have this issue. Honestly, all of us have sprinted to the bathroom during a bout of diarrhea. Sometimes you make it in time, other times you clean up and pretend it never happened.
Diarrhea is actually a symptom, and not a disorder itself. It’s typically caused by food moving through the digestive tract too quickly, so the water isn’t absorbed. The large intestine is often inflamed, which contributes to the problem. Because the poop is softer and watery, the sphincter has a more difficult time holding it in. Inflammation in the intestines can also cause cramping which will push poop out without your pooch having any control.
You have probably uttered the words, “You scared the poop out of me” before. Humans and dogs can poop without warning if they are sufficiently scared. A high level of stress or anxiety can also cause “fear poop”.
It occurs because when the body is in a heightened state of fear or anxiety, it releases large amounts of serotonin to settle things down. The gut is referred to as the second brain for good reason. There are a large amount of serotonin receptors in the gut. When it receives too much serotonin, it causes cramping. This cramping can cause your pooch to poop unexpectedly.
If a loud noise or other startling situation wakes them up, they may poop. They can also poop in their sleep if they are under a high level of stress or anxiety because of the increased serotonin.
Do dogs poop where they sleep?
Generally, a dog will not poop where they sleep. This is one reason why it’s possible to potty train dogs. They have an innate instinct to not poop or pee in their living or sleeping area.
Essentially, they avoid this for the same reasons we do. It’s unsanitary. Poop can draw bugs and parasites which can harm your dog’s health. It can also draw predators. Dogs will sometimes cover their poop in an effort to hide it from predators. It wouldn’t make sense to poop near where they sleep.
Dogs are at their most vulnerable when they are asleep. Domestic dogs don’t have the same dangers as their wild counterparts, but the instinct remains.
Why Dogs Poop Where They Sleep
If a dog poops where it sleeps, it may be due to a fecal incontinence. This is caused by a medical condition. However, there are a few other reasons why a dog will poop where they sleep.
If they were raised in a small crate or a tiny room, they may have lost their instinct to not poop where they sleep. When a dog can’t leave their sleeping area to potty, they have no choice but to do their business near their bed. Over time, the dog can get so used to doing this that they continue to do so when they can use the bathroom properly.
The other reason why a dog may poop where they sleep is because they don’t remember they aren’t supposed to. This often occurs in older dogs with dementia. The dog’s brain stops functioning properly, and they forget basic knowledge like potty training, and even instincts.
What to do if my dog poops in his sleep?
In some cases, fecal incontinence can be treated. In other cases, all that can be done is management. Regardless, remember that it’s not your dog’s fault. They don’t have control of the issue, and they aren’t doing it out of spite.
Get a Check Up
If your dog has a rare nighttime accident, you may attempt to manage it at home. However, if it is a frequent occurrence, you’ll need to check with your vet. There are many potential physical causes, and dogs with these conditions need proper treatment.
You should also visit the vet if you notice any other signs your dog isn’t well, along with pooping in their sleep. Behavioral or appetite changes, stomach swelling, whining, limping or loss of coordination, anal trauma, and confusion are all reasons to bring your dog in right away.
Get Comfortable Cleaning
This is one of the most unglamorous aspects of pet ownership, but a necessary one. If your dog is pooping their bed or other area, you’ll need to clean your dog and the mess.
To clean the mess, use toilet paper or towels to remove any solid bits. Then, use a wet rag with plain water to get up what you can. Rinse and repeat. Once this is done, use an enzyme cleaner to remove any remaining fecal matter and residue.
The easiest way to clean your dog is with pet wipes. They can be used similar to baby wipes for a baby. Just wipe off any accident from their body.
To make things much easier for you, if your dog is pooping when sleeping, make them a specific sleeping area. Use a dog bed, crate, or whatever you and your dog are comfortable with them sleeping on.
Next, you’ll want to cover it. Some owners find puppy pads work well for this, but they aren’t very comfortable for the dog. Most owners prefer a mattress cover. A waterproof mattress cover can be cut to the size you need. When it’s soiled, just wash it and then it’s ready to be used again. This can save your dog’s bed, and save you a lot of time.
If your dog is frequently incontinent, you may need doggie diapers. These are essentially diapers designed to fit your dog. They will catch any pee or poop. Once they are soiled, you clean the area and put a fresh diaper on your dog.
How to get my dog to stop pooping in his bed?
The above solutions can help you manage your dog sleep pooping. Of course, the ideal situation is to prevent them from pooping in their bed in the first place. How to stop it, and if it can be stopped, greatly depends on the reason.
Anal Trauma or Disease
If your dog has anal trauma or disease, this will need to be treated. Anal trauma may require surgery to repair. An infection of the anal glands may be treated with an antibiotic.
If your dog has reservoir incontinence due to a bowel condition, this will need to be treated. This may involve medication, dietary changes, or other treatments.
Neurological Disorders or Trauma
If there’s a problem with your dog’s nervous system, they may need surgery or physical therapy. In some cases, there’s nothing you can do but manage the conditions.
If age is causing sphincter incontinence in your senior dog, the problem may be impossible to fix completely. However, the management ideas in the following section can be helpful.
Managing Fecal Incontinence
There are a few things you can do to help prevent or reduce fecal incontinence. The first is a healthy diet. It’s best to work with your vet, because they can recommend the best type of diet for your dog’s condition.
Generally speaking, a diet lower in fiber and grains will cause less poop. High quality dog foods can significantly reduce the volume of poop, which can be very helpful in managing incontinence.
Scheduling and Exercise
Walking your dog in the evening may help as well. This gives them a chance to poop before bed. Consider when you feed your dog as well. Dogs usually poop about 8-10 hours after eating. You may find it beneficial to feed a large meal in the morning and a small meal in the evening or close to bedtime.