Why Dogs Twitch in Their Sleep

Written by Derek Johnson

Ever watch a dog sleep? Much of the time, there may not be much going on. However, from time to time, you may notice some twitching occurring. Don’t worry, it’s quite normal and may happen for a variety of reasons, most of them benign.

By far, dreams are the number one cause of twitching in dogs. According to TV vet Dr. Diarra Blue, dogs have a standard REM cycle that helps regulate their sleep. As a dog descends into REM cycle, dreams will occur, just as with humans, and the dog will often twitch or make other small movements in response to the content of the dream. Larger muscles aren’t usually involved in dream movements because they are disabled during sleep.

If you’ve got a small dog, it’ll be dreaming about once every 10 minutes, and these dreams will last around 10 seconds. If your dog is larger, the dreams will last longer but happen less frequently. During the dream state, expect to see not only twitching but also irregular breathing and eye movement behind closed eyelids.

Although twitching in dogs is normal during sleep time, there are instances where the twitching could be a sign of a problem. For example, excessive twitching could lead to sleep disruption if your dog is constantly being awakened by twitches.

Also concerning is if your dog’s twitching is accompanied by other symptoms, such as frothing at the mouth, full-body shaking or a seizure, vomiting and loss of bowel and/or bladder control. When these other symptoms occur with twitching, then a veterinarian should be consulted as soon as possible. Even if the symptoms aren’t severe, you may still want the advice of a professional to evaluate your dog’s health in light of the new symptoms.


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Derek Johnson

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