Why Do Dogs Shake When They Sleep

Why Do Dogs Shake When They Sleep

Every pet parent knows the humor and doting concern that comes with watching their pup dream. Newer owners may have more concerns about this behavior – do all dogs shake when they sleep? Does it mean that they are having a bad dream? What’s the difference between dreaming and having a seizure?

A dog shaking while sleeping could either be dreaming or having a seizure depending on the other symptoms. A tonic-clonic seizure typically involves full body movements, stiff legs, and an inability to be “woken up” from the episode. Even so, the sight of a dog twitching and shivering in their sleep can be a worry to owners, so we will discuss the differences between dreaming and fits here. Let’s get started.

Difference Between Shaking and Twitching

Although shaking and twitching are somewhat similar, there are some key differences between the two behaviors. While one is harmless dream activity, the other can suggest that your dog is developing a seizure disorder.

Shaking During Sleep

In contrast to twitching, shaking is a continuous, irregular, and erratic movement of the body. When awake, a dog might shake when anxious or excited. When asleep, shaking may suggest that your dog is having an upsetting dream. However, violent shaking can also be a type of seizure activity (tonic-clonic), especially when the legs are rigid and stiff. Dogs can have seizures when awake, after waking, and during their sleep, too. But how can you tell the difference between dreaming and a seizure? A dog having a seizure in their sleep cannot be easily woken, while a dreaming dog can. A dog having a seizure may experience disorientation afterward, sometimes having accidents on themselves, drooling, and panting. If this sounds like your dog, speak to your vet right away about your options.

Twitching During Sleep

Like humans, dogs can dream, and they might move in their sleep as they do so. It’s normal for a dog to twitch, paddle, or kick their legs every so often in their sleep. These movements are normally very brief and intermittent, stopping as quickly as they began. Interestingly, puppies and senior dogs tend to twitch in their sleep more than adult dogs do. This may be because certain parts of their brainstem, specifically the medulla and pons, lack development. In conclusion, if your pup twitches in their sleep, it’s likely because they’re dreaming! Do not try to physically wake your dog if you are worried about their behavior. If you must wake them out of concern, do so from a distance and using a soft, gentle voice. Using physical force may frighten your dog and teach them that it’s not safe to sleep.

sleeping dogs that shake in their sleep
Just like humans, dogs have dreams too.

Dogs Shaking During Sleep: FAQ

Have any more questions about why dogs shake when they sleep? Our Frequently Asked Questions section should have all the answers you need. If in doubt about your dog’s sleeping habits, it’s best to ask your vet for advice.

What do dogs dream about when they twitch?

Twitching could suggest physical activity in a dream, such as running, or chasing prey or a toy. Research suggests that dogs have similar dreams to people. Dogs replay the everyday activities that make up their daily lives like play and eating. They may dream about new tricks they’ve learned or training you’ve completed together, as dreams play a role in learning and memory, too. Also, for an unknown reason, the size of your dog also plays a role in the “size” of their dreams. Small dogs have more frequent but shorter dreams, while large dogs have less frequent but longer dreams.

What should I do if my dog is shaking?

If your dog shakes, make sure to check for other symptoms. Does your dog show signs of stress when they shake, such as tucking their tail between their legs, lip licking, or looking away? If so, anxiety could be causing them to shake. If your dog shakes in their sleep, it’s best to let them be. Rousing a dog from their sleep can cause unintentional injuries as your dog may snap in self-defense.

If your dog’s shaking is particularly violent and involves stiffening of the legs, a seizure disorder could be to blame. Do not attempt to hold your dog down – just make sure that the area around them is safe and free from dangerous objects and monitor them closely. Make sure to note when the episode began, and what symptoms it involves.

Should I let my dog sleep after a seizure?

Your dog might be tired after a seizure and it’s best to let them rest. After a seizure, your dog might be disoriented and fatigued, as the tonic-clonic activity of a full-blown seizure involves a lot of muscle activity and energy expenditure. In line with this, your dog may be very hungry, thirsty, and tired after the fact. So, it’s best to let your dog sleep as much as they need after a seizure. This doesn’t mean that you can leave them unsupervised, though. A dog who has had a seizure may hurt themselves by walking into things or trying to climb stairs. Be sure to check on your dog and monitor them closely after a seizure so that you can protect them from harm.

What are the signs that my dog is dreaming?

When in deep sleep, many dogs “act out” their dreams. You might notice your dog twitching, kicking, paddling their legs, barking, and intermittently shaking. Some dogs may show more alarming signs, such as growling, whimpering, or their eyes rolling back. In some cases, a dog may suddenly wake up, sometimes even jumping up in their bed with apparent excitement or fear.

How do I know if my dog is having a bad dream?

Like us, dogs can have bad dreams, and their actions will reflect this. A dog having a bad dream may whine, cry, or growl. Even if your dog has a bad dream, it’s safest to let them sleep. A dog woken from a dream of any kind using physical force may unintentionally snap in self-defense. A dog may also suddenly jump up and accidentally bump into you. Intentionally waking your dog from their sleep may also teach them that it’s not safe to sleep without being touched. To avoid a reactive response, it’s best to keep your distance and speak to your dog in a gentle, quiet voice to try to wake them.

Twitching and shaking during sleep are normal for dogs when the behavior is intermittent. These behaviors usually suggest that your dog is dreaming, and as such are not a cause for concern. It’s best to let your dog continue with their dream to prevent physical harm from coming to you or your pooch. In the event that your pup shows signs of a seizure, record what you can and inform your vet as soon as possible.