Despite having a bowl of food readily available, your dog only seems to eat at night.

What’s going on?

A dog eating only at night can be concerning; you might think there’s something wrong with him. But for the most part it’s quite common. Let’s take a look.

Why does my dog only eat at night?

Dogs are creatures of habit. If your dog is used to being fed only at night, he’s only going to eat at night – that’s just what he’s been “taught” to do. Many dogs only eat once a day, even though they are more “comfortable” eating multiple times a day. In the wild, a dog might have to go multiple days without food before a successful hunt or a successful scavenge. So, your dog could be only eating at night just because of habit.

Your dog also could feel more comfortable at night. If your dog eats in a busy area such as a living room, there could be too many people around — he might feel uncomfortable eating around so many people. If your dog sneaks and eats when no one is around, it’s less an issue of “eating only at night” and more an issue of “eating when fewer people are awake.”

And, of course, many dogs are just more active in the mornings and toward the evenings. Dogs spend 16 hours a day asleep. You could notice your dog eating at strange times just because that’s when they’re awake.

Why does my dog eat so much at night?

If your dog is only getting fed at night or only comfortable eating at night, your dog may be more prone to “gorging” herself. After all, your dog needs to eat all the calories she needs in the day at once. If your dog’s food is only available at night (or if she’s just uncomfortable eating at other times), she could develop disordered eating; she might want to eat the food all at once when she has a chance.

It can be dangerous for dogs to eat very quickly. If you notice that your dog is eating too fast or too voraciously, the best thing to do is to start feeding your dog smaller meals more frequently throughout the day. When you do this, you train your dog to eat less at a given time, but to eat more frequently.

If dogs eat too quickly, they can get something called bloat, which can be fatal. There are food bowls that make it harder for dogs to eat so they take a long time eating. Other people put things like tennis balls in the food so the dog has to eat around the balls and consequently cannot eat as fast.

Why does my dog eat late at night?

A dog eating late at night is doing a couple of things:

  • He’s more active at night. This can happen especially if a dog is not worn down during the day (has excess energy). He may start eating because he’s bored or because he’s just wandering around especially at night.
  • He’s become used to eating at night. This habit can build if you feed the food bowl at night, because the freshest food is going to be there (and it will be stale by morning).
  • He’s eating when he’s alone. Some dogs don’t like eating around other people because they are vulnerable when they are eating. He may be waiting until it is quiet.

For the most part, this isn’t directly unhealthy.

Some dogs do just fine when eating once a day. Other dogs really need to eat multiple times a day to feel comfortable. It depends on the activity level of your dog — and frequently, its breed (Labs and Golden Retrievers are known for being bottomless pits).

Is it OK if my dog only eats once a day?

Sometimes, yes. 

Some dogs just aren’t very energetic. They spend most of their time resting. Because of that, they really don’t need a lot of calories. They’ll only eat once a day and they’ll only be energetic maybe once or twice a day. Greyhound dogs, despite their remarkable speed, are known for being couch potatoes like this.

But that doesn’t mean that all dogs are okay eating once a day. Some dogs are more comfortable free-feeding (eating freely throughout the day) as long as they don’t gain weight. Other dogs are more comfortable eating multiple times a day.

You can tell if your dog seems as though they are starving once they get to eat. If your dog inhales their food, it’s likely that they need to eat a little more frequently. On the other hand, some dogs will always inhale their food; it’ll take some experimentation to figure it out.

Above all, you should be tracking how many calories your dog is eating throughout the day, as this is what is important to make sure they don’t gain too much or lose too much weight. If your dog is losing weight, your dog could be eating less frequently for a reason. Your dog could be allergic to their food, could have digestion problems, or could have a toothache.

There’s a reason why most vets take a dog’s weight every time they come in. Dog weight tells a lot about a dog’s general health; any drastic changes are a problem that usually needs to be solved.

Is eating at night bad for dogs?

Eating at night is not necessarily bad for dogs, but the situations leading dogs to eat at night could be.

If your dog is “starving” himself all day because he doesn’t feel comfortable eating until nighttime, it could be harmful for his digestion. If your dog doesn’t feel comfortable eating during the day and gorges during the night, that could also cause problems. Apart from bloat, you could find your dog throwing up frequently because he has eaten too fast.

All dogs are different. The best thing you can do is give your dog options and see which works best for their health.

There are some caveats. Eating at night can give some dogs an extra boost of energy, which could keep your dog up for a little while after digestion. If you hate hearing dogs running around the house at night, that could become a problem for you, more than your dog.

Once dogs eat, they also need to use the bathroom. Because of this, you should always walk your dog before your dog goes to sleep, even if he’s eating late at night. Eating and drinking late at night and not being let out could lead to housebreaking issues and accidents, because your dog just isn’t going to be able to hold it all night (you likely wouldn’t be able to either).

Think about it this way: You probably are mindful about the amount of water you drink just before bed because you don’t want to get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. Dogs can have the same issue, but they can’t let themselves out.

Can dogs eat right before bed?

Dogs frequently eat right before bed because dogs don’t really have a “bedtime.” 

The average person needs about 6 to 8 hours of sleep a night, with more sleep being preferable but not necessary. Dogs, on the other hand, sleep something like 16 hours a day, just like cats. It makes sense. While dogs are omnivorous, they expend a lot of energy hunting and foraging. Because of that, they rest a lot more.

So, when a dog eats, it’s often right before bed.

And that’s not necessarily bad. Just after a dog eats, it will often need to use the bathroom, because eating kickstarts the digestive process. Once it needs to use the bathroom, though, it will often go to sleep. The process of digestion is extremely resource-intensive. Humans often know this because they feel like having a nap after they eat. Whole societies are designed around “siesta.”

Sleeping just after eating isn’t unhealthy unless your dog seems to have issues with indigestion. Some dogs have special illnesses that make it so that they should eat in an upright position and they should stay in that upright position — because gravity has to do the work of their digestive tract.

As a dog owner, you likely know when your own dog isn’t feeling well, or when your dog isn’t digesting properly. If you do experience any issues, the best thing you can do is see your vet and work out whether your dog might have issues with digestion. but for the most part, many dogs can eat just before bed and be just fine.

Author

I created and currently manage Pet Dog Owner, the website you can go to when you have questions about your dog's behavior. It is my hope that you find Pet Dog Owner to be a helpful resource. It is also my hope that it will help you to improve your relationship with your dog. You can read more about me and my website here.