It’s 2, 3 or 4 in the morning, and the house is all quiet except for one, very annoying thing: your dog’s unceasing scratching of himself. You’re not sure whether you want to hug him to soothe him or scream at him because you’re facing yet another day of dark circles under your eyes that seem to reach all the way to the floor.

Why does my dog scratch or itch himself at night?

It is certainly true that a dog who itches scratches more at night than during the day. Whether it’s his tail or his ear, the way dogs go after their itches makes it seem like they are out to kill themselves. And here’s the rub, so to speak. The reason for the non-stop scratching at night is that your dog can’t get to sleep because of his discomfort. Sounds familiar? We humans also have trouble sleeping when we’re plagued with something physically or mentally uncomfortable, too.

There are a few things that cause discomfort in dogs and resulting in nighttime disturbances for everyone.

Causes for a Dog’s Nighttime Scratching

The Hotspot

The ultimate pain and itching misery for your dog is when he develops a hotspot. Hotspots develop from constant scratching in one spot, which therefore develops into a red, moist irritation. These spots continue to become red and sore as the dog continues to scratch at them and could become a serious problem if the scratching continues. A hotspot can develop from any one of the causes that follow.

Allergies

Dogs can be allergic to any number of things including food, pollens, mold, and other environmental triggers. Sometimes they can develop contact dermatitis from direct contact with an irritant such as household cleaning supplies or soap. Allergies to pollen and mold are probably seasonal with the scratching going away when its respective season passes. Any of these things can cause irritation that causes itching and scratching behavior.

Boredom

A bored dog can be a scratching dog. Scratching from boredom can turn into a compulsive behavior which can be difficult to treat.

Anxiety

Similar to boredom, scratching caused from anxiety is also a compulsive, psychological behavior. This, and scratching out of boredom, are like obsessive compulsive disorder in humans.

Dry skin

Dry skin is itchy skin and can be caused by several factors including heat and cold weather in the winter and diet. If your dog’s diet lacks fatty acids, his skin may become dry and itchy, causing scratching.

Hormonal imbalances

Hormone imbalances caused by a thyroid issue can result in skin infections. This is caused by too much cortisol secreted into his system. You will probably notice bald spots in his coat which will be the focal point for the scratching.

Pain

Even if he’s not necessarily itchy, a dog in pain may try to escape it by chewing, licking and scratching at himself continuously. The pain could be internal, such as a sore hip, or it could be something external is causing him pain, such as a torn toenail.

Parasites

Fleas, ticks and mites wreak havoc and can make dogs miserable with the itching they cause.

Compulsive Behavior

As mentioned above, compulsive behaviors can be physical or mental and arise from many things. Of all scratching causes, these are the most difficult to treat.

Why is my dog so itchy all of a sudden?

One day your dog is fine, the next he’s a scratching maniac. What could the reason possibly be for the sudden change in his behavior? It’s most likely that something happened to him, such as an injury, a bite, or a bee sting, that caused an immediate reaction causing him to scratch. He could also have developed a sudden contact dermatitis from coming into contact with something that affected him. His scratching can then escalate, so he develops a hotspot that will cause him to scratch long into the night.

How to get my dog to stop scratching himself at night?

Getting your dog to stop scratching at night may be a matter of hit-and-miss in trying different treatments. However, the first stop should be your vet to make sure there is nothing major wrong with your pet. In addition, your vet will probably have a good idea what may be causing the scratching. Ticks are readily visible, and fleas leave their distinguishing flea dirt. The vet can also rule out physical causes such as injury. Determining if an allergy is the root cause of the problem is where the trial and error comes in. There are definite signs that a dog is suffering from allergies, but the hard part is to figure out what the exact cause of it is. Still, there are things you can do to help alleviate your dog’s suffering, so you can all get a good night’s sleep.

Exercise

If the suspect cause is psychological, getting your dog more exercise will help. This converts his energy away from compulsive scratching into positive exercise. You may also want to change his routine and offer a more relaxed corner of the home for him to rest and play in. Chew toys and toys willed with peanut butter also refocus his energy away from the scratching.

Flea and Tick Control

Using flea and tick control products will keep your dog from developing irritation from these pests. If, however, he’s already infested with fleas, a more extensive process should be involved such as giving your dog a flea bath and eliminating fleas from the home. Your vet can help you select the right products to deal with this situation safely.

Food Allergy

If you suspect food may be the cause of your pet’s itching and scratching, introduce a new food and watch to see if your dog’s symptoms improve. An improvement may take a while to become evident.

Medication

Different medications may help depending on the suspected cause of your dog’s scratching. Of course, once again, here’s where your vet comes in. There are medications that can calm his anxiety if it’s severe and there are others that can help with his skin irritation. Medicated baths are very effective in helping soothe and quiet his inflamed, uncomfortable skin which should reduce the scratching.

Hotspot Collars

If your dog has developed hotspots, a collar can prevent him from constantly licking, scratching, and making things worse.

Whatever the cause of your dog’s nocturnal activity, it behooves both of your health, well-being and sanity to find a solution and enjoy a good night’s sleep once again.

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.