At the end of the day, my family plops down on the couch to relax, watch some tv and catch up on our day… our dogs included!
More often than not, we watch our dog, Bear, twitching in his sleep. Sometimes his eyelids twitch, maybe his back leg muscles, or his full body shaking in sleep. It’s amusing to watch, but at the same time has us curious about what he may be dreaming about.
Just a few weeks ago, I caught Ginger wagging her tail while sleeping on our bed. It was fascinating watching her, it must have been a great dream!
Each week I am taking a community member question. This week’s #AskingForMyDog question came from Mike:
“What do you think the problem is with our Yorkie? When he sleeps he kicks straight back with a lot of force (I know he has kicked me). I’m sure he doesn’t even know he is doing it. It’s not something he does voluntarily and there is no particular time it happens. He’s done it when he is asleep on my lap.”
Mike’s dog has more than a twitch, he is kicking his legs with a lot of force. So is this the same thing? Just a dream? Short answer… most likely.
Dogs go through stages of sleep just like humans. So when they reach their REM state of sleep, they start dreaming of playing or maybe chasing another dog. And occasionally their body twitch or shake.
For a more technical explanation of how your dog’s brain works during sleep, I recommend reading Why Do Dogs Twitch in Their Sleep? By PetMD
The majority of the time when your dog is twitching or shaking in his sleep, he’s just dreaming. It’s totally normal behavior.
But occasionally there is cause to be concerned. PetMD states that “excessive twitching can also be due to a neuromuscular condition, such as tick paralysis, seizure activity, or an electrolyte imbalance due to malnutrition.”
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So if at any time you feel your dog’s sleep shaking is out of the norm, then talk to your vet. Or start by talking to a vet online below:
Have you ever been woken up from a bad dream? Remember the feelings of panic, fear, and confusion?
Let your dog sleep. Waking him up from a REM dream state could startle him and he may react violently, possibly even biting. Even the most calm dog can be startled.
If your dog seems to be harming himself during this nightmare, or you just can’t bear to watch him shake, then try softly calling his name. Try not to startle him as that could just enhance the panic when awakening.
After your dog is fully awake, feel free to comfort him all you want (or your dog wants).
Mike, I hope this helps put your mind at ease! And remember, if you ever feel like something is just not right, don’t hesitate to talk to your vet to rule out any health related issues.
Have a question of your own? Email me with the subject line #AskingForMyDog and I may choose to feature it in our next Q&A!
Debi McKee is a mom of three kids, three dogs and the creator of Rescue Dogs 101... where she guides you in your journey of adopting and raising a rescue dog every step of the way. She also volunteers for a local dog rescue and Humane Society.