Fluffy Maltese dog lying on bed in bedroom in the morning, with opened snout

Why Do Dogs Groan When They Lie Down?

Many dogs circle or dig their beds before settling in; others groan when lying down. So, is dog groaning, moaning and sighing anything to worry about?
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Aside from being an expression of delight and well-earned rest after a day of patrolling the living room, digging up your garden or barking at squirrels, why do dogs groan when they lie down? There are three medical conditions that can cause dog groaning; one is most common in puppies, a second in older dogs, and the last can affect dogs at any age. These are:

  1. Panosteitis, or growing pains
  2. Osteoarthritis or joint pain in senior dogs
  3. Ascites, or fluid in the abdomen
A Rottweiler puppy.
If a puppy is groaning, it could be a sign of growing pains. Photography ©fotojagodka | Thinkstock.

1. Panosteitis, or puppy growing pains

Growing pains, or panosteitis, can be as tough on puppies as they are on human children. This is particularly true of larger dog breeds. Also known as pano in dogs, this is an awkward and painful condition that occurs when a puppy’s bones grow faster than they can easily adjust to.

Moans and groans when lying down are one way he expresses discomfort. Dog groaning is the least remarkable symptom of this condition. You’re much more likely to see a puppy limping or favoring one leg or another. He’ll also yip or yelp if you touch the tender leg.

This issue can affect all puppies, especially German Shepherd Dogs, until they are fully grown, or around the age of 2. One good thing about growing pains is that they end when growing does.

Dog lying down with tongue out, happy.
Arthritis can cause groaning in dogs. Photography ©cynoclub | Getty Images.

2. Arthritis in dogs or joint pain in dogs

If your dog doesn’t have a history of groaning when he lies down, and only takes up the habit as he ages, there might be a greater cause for concern. Osteoarthritis is a condition in which the cartilage that cushions a dog’s joints thins and wears down over time. This renders the most basic movements painful, and it’s frustrating and confusing for dogs who’ve been
active their whole lives.

Joint pain in aging dogs can even make the simple acts of getting up and lying down more difficult. As with growing pains, groaning is a symptom but not the most alarming.

Activities that used to come easily — playing fetch or going up and down stairs, for instance — start requiring much more effort. You’ll also notice your dog licking, chewing or biting at joints that are giving him special trouble.

Dealing with your own aches and groans due to arthritis? Here’s how to relieve osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis symptoms >>

Dog lying down on bed.
Ascites or fluid in the abdomen can cause groaning in dogs. Photography ©stocknroll | Getty Images.

3. Ascites in dogs, or fluid in the abdomen

Ascites, or fluid buildup in the abdomen, is the most common medical reason why dogs groan when they lay themselves down. Trapped fluid causes dogs to vocalize as they struggle to get comfy.

Pressure on the lungs and stomach can also lead to difficulty breathing and regular vomiting. Most dogs love a good belly rub, but if your dog begins to shrink from your loving touch, he may be experiencing this issue.

Why does fluid pool inside a dog’s body? In puppies, it can be caused by accidental injury, like bumping into furniture or fences, during excited play. Older dogs might develop ascites from other conditions, such as kidney or liver damage, cancer or heart disease.

If your dog’s tummy appears suddenly swollen or distended, make an appointment with your vet.

The bottom line on dog groaning, moaning or sighing

We’ve all had the experience of sitting down at the end of a workday and uttering a long sigh or groan of relief. Our dogs might not be gainfully employed, but they take just as much satisfaction from settling into their favorite spots.

For the most part, dog groaning, moaning, sighing and grunting are standard dog expressions. Moderation can keep your dog’s groans worry-free!

Prevent growing pains from being too severe by limiting your puppy’s exercise until he’s physically mature.

Overweight and obese dogs are at greater risk for joint pain, so give your dog small, regular meals and fewer treats. Too much of a good thing — roughhousing or food — can make joint, bone and internal problems worse then they need to be.

Tell us: Is your dog groaning, moaning or sighing when he lies down?

Thumbnail: Photography miodrag ignjatovic | Getty Images.

This post was originally published in 2016. 

Read Next: Could Grain-Free Diets Cause Issues for Dogs?

33 thoughts on “Why Do Dogs Groan When They Lie Down?”

  1. My guide dog, a large black lab about eighty pounds, groaned when lying down or repositioning. He hardly ever vocalized in his sleep, just sometimes moved his legs. I always thought it was just groaning with pleasure, never thought there could be anything medical going on.
    He lived to almost eleven years old. Cancer got him in the end. But he’s no longer suffering. Took me seven months or so to be able to even talk about his death.
    My heart goes out to all of you with elderly dogs, or any dogs in distress or pain. I didn’t see Toby’s suffering firsthand–a friend kept him for the last year of his life, since I’d gotten a new guide dog and things were difficult with an eight-year-old and two-year-old both needing attention. It’s perhaps complicated to explain to people who don’t have working or service dogs. Anyway, my point was that, while I heard of his pain through my friend, it was still excruciatingly painful.
    Hang in there, all.

  2. I have a 15 year old TZU, She moans, screams, pees, cries, when she is sleep, lying down walking. She pees every where, even in her cage. But yes I just lost my 17 year old Chiweenie last December, they were buddies, and she is losing her sight and hearing. Her teeth are very bad. She was a rescue I received about 10 years ago, and she was in pretty bad shape then. It took us a while to snap her out of it. She was like a statue. It took her a while but all she dose is whine. It’s driving us nuts. I’ve taken her to the vet, given her their pills. Nothing. She is still the same and getting worse. Now i feel the vet is ignoring me.

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  9. Really people, your answers are, “take your dog to the Vet”. I have a 10 year old Labrador, Physically active life, and so today. But moans when lies down and moans if moved while lying. Anything else is well, like physical performers, jumping, running even getting up doesn’t seem to be a trouble at all. Mood is normal, responds to everything else the same way and playful. Is there anything that can be told, before i take my dog to a Vet that might not say the truth and charge me with high priced and unnecessary procedures, and risking spending a lot of time and money and get my pocket sucked dry and leave my dog to die?
    Anything helpful to avoid being lied to?

  10. Jacqueline Green

    Thank you so much, Katherine Billings, for sharing. My dog just started groaning in her sleep but she’s arthritic and has been on a low maintenance dose of prednisone for many months now so I do worry about her heart. We have a major storm front moving in tonight so I’m hoping that’s all it is. I started noticing tartar building up on her teeth, however, so I will address that next week, thanks to your advice. Your bulldog has been blessed to have you in his life for these many years. My girl is only 8 or 9 but had a rough life before we got her. Take care.

  11. my 10 year old mastiffx pitbull started moaning as he lays down, hes acting very uncomfortable upon laying down and does get up suddenly, he also wants to prop his head on the edge of the couch or us when layin down, just recently took him off of carprofen from a previous surgery dont know if that was causing acid reflux or ?? We are waiting for his dr. apt. on monday. any suggestions might be going on??

    1. Hi there Sherry,

      Thanks for reaching out and we are sorry to hear about your dog. Please talk to your vet about this when you go for your appointment.

  12. Katherine Billings

    Groaning in my older bulldog turned out to be signs of congestive heart failure. I’m so sad. He’s on meds now to help w fluid retention. Those have made him much more comfortable and brought a bit of a skip back to his step, but they can’t cure the underlying condition, which is fatal. My advice is, take your pet’s dental hygiene very seriously, heart and gum disease are definitely linked, and go see your vet if your baby starts losing their zest for the day.

  13. The advice to just take your dog to the vet is not exactly what people are looking for. Of course they are going to take their dog to the vet if they think something is wrong with him. What people want to know is what it could possibly be, like a list of possibilities, maybe saying what is most common, and then after that if you need to CYA legally you could then say take him to the vet. Of course, you may not have time for listing the possibilities, and are under no obligation to give advice. I’m just telling you what people are really looking for. If you could actually give some information, your website would start getting so much traffic.

    1. Hi there,

      Thanks for reaching out! We unfortunately don’t have vets answering the comments so our best advice for every medical issue is to suggest you head to a professional. We can sometimes point you to other articles with expert quotes that might answer your question, but any time you have a medical need / question, our advice is to ask / make an appointment with a vet.

  14. Hi I have a12year old boxer moning a sometimes she wil scream I think she is in pain took her to vet gave her a needle fo joints has another 3 to go also gave her pain killers not doing anything, now she has her front foot sore when she falls she can’t get up, don’t know what else to do we were thinking of putting her down What is the best thing to do.

    1. Michaela Conlon

      Hi there Rose,

      We are sorry to hear about what is happening to your dog. We suggest contacting you vet about the new sore and to find out more information about what you should do. We hope your dog feels better!

    2. How can you even think about putting your dog down. Get him to the vet to be checked out thoroughly. Might be something simple and easily sorted.

    3. Hey, dear. I know this is very late response, however, your dog is showing 100 percent, the signs of DM. Degenerative Myelopathy. Completely confirmed it when you said sore on paw. You see, it is an awkward gait, from spinal pressure and inflammation. There are several things you can do to make your dog comfortable, but the later the age of the dog, the less time they live with this condition. We, ultimately had to put ours down after exhausting all other efforts, and it was around 6 months, from time of symptoms to the time the vet and our family .made the difficult, but necessary decision. You will just know it when the time comes.

      1. I have a 17 year old with the same problem. She is on everything and still in a lot of pain. Last ditch is bloods to see how she is. Has refused to eat and yes in a lot of pain. I think she is giving up and letting me know its time. I have had her for 14 years and she is breaking my heart seeing her like this. The vet upped her pain meds but she had a turn 5 days after, shaking and breathing probs. I promised her today that she wont be in anymore pain.

        1. My heart goes out to you. I’m so sorry for what is now likely your loss, and hope for peace for you while you grieve. Losing them hurts. No question there at all.

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  17. Oh my heavens, I was really hoping to find an answer when I saw this article. I have an 11 yr old male airedale that starting moaning and whining about 9 months ago. It drives me nuts!! We lost another dog about 3 months prior, so this behavior didn’t start right away. I’ve been to the vet for blood work, xrays, check ups and nothing medically can be found wrong. Labs are all good for a dog his age. I’m not going to send him to some clinic to be thoroughly evaluated and picked and proded on at his age. I think it would be worse for him. I am in the same room with him most of the day, it being my office. He lies there on his bed and just sighs, moans, sometime whines/cries. When my husband and I are watching TV at night he will walk between rooms and just stop mid way and whine. For no known reason. I don’t know if it’s anxiety, depression, pain, …. what can I do? I really don’t think it’s true pain or I think I’d see changes in his walking, climbing, etc. He doesn’t do much at his age. And eats, drinks, poops and pees just fine. Any recommendations would be greatly welcomed. I may have no hair left from the days of this absolutely making me nuts.

    1. Hi Cindy,

      Thanks for reaching out and working with a vet on this. We suggest you continue working with your vet, but maybe these articles will provide more insight:
      https://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/whining-dog
      https://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/can-dogs-cry
      https://www.dogster.com/dogs-101/dog-sounds-and-what-they-mean

    2. How often do you play with or provide some stimulation? Cuz it sounds like he’s bored out of his mind and is now depressed. The moans in the hallway in between rooms could be to get your attention to go potty with him (turn on light for him or general comfort). How would you feel having to just sit around all day and do nothing? Try it some time, its like prison and dogs have feelings and emotions just like we do

      Of course this is all speculation & in speaking from recent experience with my own dog

    3. He is grieving for his buddy! It may not have started straight away but they still sense loss and feel sadness.

      He needs more hugs, perhaps more playtime and maybe, just maybe, a new playmate! You could let him choose one if he’s good with other dogs.

      Imagine the same thing day in day out if you lost your husband – God forbid!!

      He has nothing to look forward to! Maybe get him a feeding ball to occupy himself whilst you’re busy. Groom him at the end of each day just before bed; it’ll relax him and make him feel safe.
      I hope he starts to feel happier soon bless him??

      -Shereen, mummy to a two year old Labrador! ????❤️

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