Why Does My Dog Poop in His Sleep?

Is your dog pooping while asleep? If so, it’s normal to be concerned. In today’s post, we’ll look at why this problem occurs.

So why does your dog poop while sleeping? There are two kinds of bowel incontinence: reservoir or sphincter incontinence. Reservoir incontinence causes soft water poop, while ball or log poops demonstrate sphincter incontinence. Remember that this behavior is involuntary–your dog isn’t pooping intentionally.

Lack of bowel control also indicates that your pup needs medical attention. Here’s what you need to know.

Why Does My Dog Poop in His Sleep?

Healthy dogs can hold and store stools, and once a dog has been house trained, it’s not normal to poop at night. They won’t defecate where they sleep for the same reasons humans don’t: it’s unsanitary. And in the wild, poop can attract predators (this is why dogs sometimes bury their poop). 

So when we see this behavior in a dog, it indicates something is wrong. But why is it happening? Let’s take a closer look at what causes bowel incontinence so you can better understand how to help your furry friend.

Reservoir Incontinence

Diseases of the rectum that keep dogs from storing or holding stool have to do with reservoir incontinence. If your dog has reservoir incontinence, their rectum cannot hold the normal amount of stool. Unwanted excretion is the result.

This condition happens for many reasons. Mostly, it’s the result of diseases that affect a dog’s intestines, which commonly include:

  • Diarrhea
  • IBS
  • Cancer

Sphincter Incontinence

Sphincter incontinence is different. It refers to a dog whose sphincter, the muscle that holds the anal opening closed, cannot do its job. When the anal sphincter doesn’t close correctly, feces may leak out.

There are two primary causes of sphincter incontinence. Your dog might have a lesion that keeps the sphincter from working correctly, such as a mass or a wound, or nerve damage that has affected the sphincter’s ability to close properly.

Other Signs of Bowel Incontinence in Dogs

Though pooping in their sleep strongly indicates something is wrong, other signs can also point to a problem. Pay attention to the following symptoms and share them with your vet, as they may help your vet diagnose your pup.

  • Gas
  • Bloated (or distended) abdomen
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
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Additionally, if you see your dog scooting its bottom along the floor, this is also something you should tell your vet.

What Should I Do if My Dog Poops While Sleeping?

How you deal with your dog pooping at night depends on the cause. In some instances, bowel incontinence is treatable, but management is all you can do in others. While the issue is frustrating (and gross), remember that your dog is not at fault. They have no control over the issue and probably don’t like dealing with it either.

Here are some tips for dealing with bowel incontinence.

Designate a Sleeping Area

If your dog doesn’t have a designated sleeping area, now is an excellent time to confine them to one. Giving your dog somewhere to sleep will keep any accidents in one place, making cleanup easier for you.

See Your Vet

Unless the nighttime pooping incident was a true one-off (perhaps your pup had diarrhea because of something she ate), it’s best to see your vet. Recurrent nighttime pooping is a sign that something is wrong, and there are many possible reasons for it. Dogs with these conditions need treatment.

You should also see your vet immediately if your dog exhibits specific other symptoms. If they seem confused, have changes in their behavior or appetite, or are whining or limping, don’t wait to visit your vet. These signs can indicate more serious issues.

Invest in Doggie Diapers

In the meantime, getting some doggie diapers is best while the situation resolves. Doggie diapers are much like human diapers designed to fit your dog. They’ll catch any nighttime accidents, but you must change them regularly.

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How Is Bowel Incontinence Treated?

You’re probably wondering how to help your dog feel better, and again, the answer depends on the underlying cause. There is no specific medication to treat bowel incontinence. Instead, you must figure out the condition causing it and treat that.

Let’s look at some common reasons for bowel incontinence and their treatment.


Infection can wreak havoc on your dog’s bowels. Luckily, it’s easy to treat an infection with antibiotics.


Parasites like giardia or intestinal worms can lead to a lack of bowel control, but they are simple to eliminate with the proper medication.

Spinal Problems

If your dog has a spinal issue, there are strategies to manage it. Injuries in the spine can cause bowel issues due to the high volume of nerves in the spinal cord. You might find acupuncture, chiropractic treatment, and physical therapy useful. 

Anal Fistulas

Most physical damage to the anus, including anal fistulas, usually requires surgical repair. However, non-invasive medical treatment may be available in some cases.


In the case of spinal tumors, the best option for treatment is surgery. If surgery is successful, your dog will likely also need physical therapy.

Old Age

Unfortunately, some dogs lose control of their bowels as they age. Others have dementia and forget basic things, like how they should do their business outside.

If your senior dog has accidents at night, management is likely the best course of action. Feeding your dog bigger meals early in the day, letting them out more frequently, and wearing doggie diapers can all be helpful.  


When your dog has accidents at night, it can be distressing for both of you. Because bowel incontinence is not normal in healthy dogs, pooping while sleeping strongly indicates something is wrong. A trip to the vet is always the best course of action in these cases. Trust us. Your furry friend will thank you.

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Nadine Oraby

My name is Nadine; I am a passionate writer and a pet lover. People usually call me by the nickname “Joy” because they think that I am a positive and joyful person who is a child at heart. My love for animals triggered me to create this blog. Articles are written by vets, pet experts, and me. Thanks for visiting. Your friend, Nadine!

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