If your puppy or dog starts waking up at night, you'll definitely be eager to figure out what's going on. Canned dog food can be the culprit for a few reasons. You have good reason to suspect it if your dog's inability to sleep through the night coincides with a recent switch to canned food, or if you alternate between canned and dry food and only notice the problem on days when you use a canned product.
One key difference between canned and dry dog food is its moisture content, and this provides the most likely explanation for how canned food can prevent your dog from sleeping through the night. This is an especially likely explanation if you have a puppy or a small breed. While dry food typically contains 6 to 10 percent moisture, canned food contains 75 percent moisture. That's a significant quantity of water, and the urge to pee may be waking your dog up at night. This should be evident by your dog signaling that she needs to go out to relieve herself, and by observing her urinate a considerable amount when she goes.
Certain ingredients may make your dog more thirsty. If she's drinking too much or too soon before bed, she may awaken to pee. Or, if thirst becomes extreme, it may wake your dog up, too. Salt is well-known for inducing thirst. The Association of American Feed Control Officials only sets a recommendation for minimum sodium content, at 0.3 percent for growing, pregnant and lactating dogs and 0.06 percent for a standard adult diet. You have to convert the "as fed" sodium content on the label to the "dry matter" content with canned food because of it's high moisture content; assuming the standard 75 percent moisture, 25 percent of the food is "dry matter," so you multiply the minimum guaranteed analysis of sodium content by 4 to get the dry matter content. Oily and sugary foods can also increase thirst.
About 10 percent of allergies in dogs are food allergies. So, while they aren't exactly a plague amongst canines, they do occur. Food allergies are an immune system response to a substance in an offending food. The most common food allergens affecting dogs, in no particular order, are beef, chicken, lamb, pork, rabbit, fish, dairy, egg, wheat, and soy. Many of these meats are main ingredients in canned dog food, which is usually higher in protein and fat and lower in carbohydrates than dry foods. Food allergies cause uncomfortable symptoms that may interfere with your dog's sleep, including itching, ear inflammation, diarrhea, gas and other gastrointestinal upset. If you notice these symptoms in your pet, your canned food may contain an ingredient to which she's allergic.
Often confused with allergies, but entirely different, are food intolerances. While an immune system malfunction triggers allergic responses, food intolerances are a digestive tract problem. Often, a dog lacks a particular enzyme needed to digest certain substances; the best-known example is lactose intolerance, when a dog lacks the lactase enzyme that breaks down lactose in milk. Various digestive disorders also present with food intolerances as symptoms, such as irritable bowel syndrome or irritable bowel diseases like Crohn's and ulcerative colitis. If your dog has an intolerance to an ingredient in her canned food, she experiences abdominal discomfort or pain, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, gas, bloating or other digestive problems. These symptoms may stop her from sleeping through the night.
Consult your veterinarian. Food allergies and intolerances must be diagnosed. Also, though canned food may be what's keeping your dog from sleeping through the night, a variety of medical conditions cause increased urination or sleep disturbances; your pet needs to be evaluated for possible health problems. Mention any symptoms of food allergies or intolerance, or any other causes for concern. Your vet can instruct you on a diet of exclusion that omits and reintroduces certain foods at certain times to see the effects on symptoms to diagnose allergies and intolerances. Obviously, you'll have to switch to a dog food free of problematic ingredients.
If the water in canned food wakes your dog to pee, consider switching to a dry or semi-moist food. Most puppies should be able to sleep for about 7 hours without waking to urinate. If she wakes up to pee overnight, take her out without any fuss. Keep most of the lights off, don't talk to your dog or pet her and don't offer a treat after she goes as you might while housetraining. Don't do anything to wind her up and prevent her from going back to sleep.
Eric Mohrman has been a freelance writer since 2007, focusing on travel, food and lifestyle stories. His creative writing is also widely published. He lives in Orlando, Florida.