Facts about the animal kingdom

Why Is My Dog Shaking While Sleeping?

Ameera Mills
By Ameera Mills. Updated: September 2, 2018
Why Is My Dog Shaking While Sleeping?

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It is not uncommon that, as dog keepers, we sometimes observe distinct behavior in our dog when it sleeps. This behavior can be presented through shaking, twitching, leg movement, eye movement and breathing agitation. And soon after, your dog will either wake up as if nothing has happened, or continue sleeping peacefully.

This is a habitual and normal behavior and does not indicate the presence of any pathology. However, maybe you’re still curious to know why it occurs. In this AnimalWised article we will tell you why your dog is shaking while sleeping.

You may also be interested in: Dog Sleeping Positions And What They Mean
  1. A dog’s dreams
  2. So, why does my dog tremble while it sleeps?
  3. When to consult a veterinarian about a tremor

A dog’s dreams

Dogs, like humans, go through different phases during sleep, noted as:

  • Light sleep: In this beginning sleep stage the body is beginning to relax and there is a decrease in brain activity. This phase has the longest duration. If we watch our pet fall asleep, we will see that their breathing becomes slower and, if we pay more attention, we may even notice that their heart beats at a slower rate.
  • Paradoxical sleep (deep sleep): this is the deepest sleep phase in which the well-known REM phase (Rapid Eye Movement) makes its appearance. Contrary to what happens in the previous phase, in this stage, brain activity increases considerably. In fact, brain activity in this stage becomes higher than that which develops when the animal is awake. Also, as opposed to the slow-wave sleep (light) phase, the duration of the REM phase is very short, only minutes, as a result, during slow-wave sleep, several REM phases occur. When this happens, we will notice that our dog breathes quicker and more irregularly.

These phases are key in explaining why our dog trembles when it sleeps. Also keep in mind that a puppy ​​will sleep more than an adult dog, so it will be more common for us to observe this trembling in puppies. It is important that our animals sleep is taken seriously, especially for puppies. It is essential that puppies get enough sleep for their growth and health. Lack of sleep can negatively affect the well-being, learning and immune system of a puppy.

Why Is My Dog Shaking While Sleeping? - A dog’s dreams

So, why does my dog tremble while it sleeps?

As we have seen in the description of the previous section about dream phases, we can intuit that the tremors which we observe while our dog sleeps originates from the REM phase. During this phase we will notice a variety of different types of movements, such as;

  • Spasmodic movements in different parts of the body such as the ears, tail, legs, mouth and even the eyes. It is completely normal to observe that the dog experiences these spasms when its sleeps.
  • The movement of the legs is very characteristic and recognizable of this phase, since dogs often dream of running or even digging.
  • vocal sounds ranging from groans to barks or growls, to whistles, crying and even howls.
  • Altered or accelerated breathing is common in this sleep stage.

If you notice any of the above you must not wake your dog up. These are not signs of pathologies but simply tells you that your dog is in its REM sleep phase, a phase that even humans experience.

Sometime these movements can wake our dogs up. In these cases a dog may feel somewhat confused and out of place. If this happens, we recommend speaking to your dog in a calm voice reminding your dog that they are at home in a safe environment.

When to consult a veterinarian about a tremor

If your dog has muscle spasms when sleeping as well as when it is awake, you should consult a veterinarian. Muscle spasms or trembles while a dog is awake could be a sign of health issues such as; poisoning or a virus.

Our dogs might also tremble when they are cold or scared, however, this is normal. If you notice that your dog is shaking after being bathed they are probably just cold. If you notice that your dog is shaking as a reaction to noise or strangers, then it most likely means that they are afraid.

Thus, the most likely reasons why a dog trembles when it sleeps is, as we have said, it is in the REM sleep phase.

Why Is My Dog Shaking While Sleeping? - When to consult a veterinarian about a tremor

If you want to read similar articles to Why Is My Dog Shaking While Sleeping?, we recommend you visit our Facts about the animal kingdom category.

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1 comment
Thank you this was really helpful! I was a bit concerned when my dog started trembling/shivering when she was sleeping.
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Why Is My Dog Shaking While Sleeping?