Dog Twitching While Sleeping

You just love watching your dog sleep. Every dog owner does. But, it could be extremely frightening to see your dog twitch and move his paws suddenly without opening his eyes. Do you think it's because he's chasing something in his dreams? Keep reading to learn about some explanations regarding dog twitching while sleeping.

Why Is My Dog Twitching While Sleeping?

It's true that your four-legged furry friend can make your life happy by playing with you all the time, and they can also bring smile to your face when they are even sleeping. It is common for dogs to sing, twitch and make odd little noises while sleeping, but twitching can sometimes be a cause of concern for many dog owners. 

1.  Dream Patterns

Dogs dream and go through same three sleep stages as humans. The first stage of sleep is called non-rapid eye movement (NREM), whereas the second stage of sleep is rapid eye movement (REM). And the last phase of sleep is short-wave sleep (SWS). Your dog will breathe heavily when they reach the last stage. While they are in the REM stage of their sleep, they may sometimes act out their dreams, and that's when you see them twitching furiously or move their paws.

It is known that humans go into REM sleep every 90 minutes, but it's different from your furry friends. When dogs enter REM sleep usually depends on their sizes. Larger dogs tend to dream less often than smaller dogs. In fact, your smaller dogs may dream for a couple of minutes every 10 minutes. On the other hand, larger dogs have five minutes of dreamtime every 45-90 minutes. Just like humans, dreaming is actually good for the mental health, which means you should not wake your dog even if they are twitching and shivering while asleep. Let them sleep – the phase will last for a few seconds only.

Should you worry about it? No, you should not. It's natural for dogs to dream and twitch.

2.  Myokymia

This cause for dog twitching while sleeping refers to the condition in which the small bands of muscle fibers contract, which may lead to twitching in the skin. It's common under anesthesia or during sleep. This usually occurson a dog's face. However, if you notice the same twitching outside of anesthesia or sleep, this may indicate a serious disorder. In this case, the twitching is the outcome of different peripheral or central nervous system disorders, including demyelination, distemper or autoimmune disease.

Should you worry about it? No, if it's happening during sleep. Seek veterinary help if it's happening outside of sleep.

3.  Shivering and Trembling

Dogs shiver when they are nervous or feel cold. It may sometimes happen when your dog has eating toxic food, like chocolate. You may also notice other issues with shaking and trembling, such as vomiting or diarrhea. Distemper may also cause shaking as well as nose and eye discharge with fever and coughing. In some cases, it is not possible to pinpoint the cause of your dog's tremor. It's then called generalized tremor syndrome. Sometimes, the twitching or shaking is the result of an injury or a reaction to a certain chemical or drug. It may also happen due to epilepsy, a nervous system disease. Low blood sugar in dogs may also cause tremors.

Should you worry about it? No, if it is only due to nervousness or cold weather. Further evaluation is advisable to ensure it's not due to an injury or an autoimmune disorder.

4.  Heredity

Of all the causes for dog twitching while sleeping, this one is the least to worry about. All dogs will twitch and tremble at some point in time, but some breeds are genetically susceptible to trembling. Some of these dogs are actually called 'shaker dogs' due to their trembling. The most common breeds are springer spaniels, chow chows, Dalmatians, Samoyeds, English bulldogs, Doberman pinschersand Labrador retrievers.

Should you worry about it? No, you should not worry about trembling when you own a shaker dog.

5.  Seizure

Most people think their dog is just having a dream, but in fact, the dog may be having a seizure. It is important to understand the difference between dog twitching while sleeping and dog having a seizure. If your dog is having a dream, they will twitch a bit and go back to sleep. If you call out your dog's name, they will wake up.

If your dog's body goes still and then they start to tremble with their muscles locking up, your dog is having a seizure. They will pant a lot and may even lose consciousness. They won't even respond when you call out their names.

Should you worry about it? Yes, if you have identified the twitching as seizure, call your vet to get your dog checked properly.

How to Deal With the Problem

As it is quite evident that twitching, jerking and trembling are all normal movements for dogs under most circumstances, you just need to bear in mind that you should seek veterinary help if you're noticing continued muscle spasms. You may also consider watching the clock to notice for how long your dog dreams. Usually, dogs dream only for a few minutes at most. If your dog twitches for more than five minutes, and you notice similar twitches outside of the sleep, you should contact your vet. These involuntary muscle movements usually indicate serious underlying medical conditions, such as organ failure, neurological disorder or toxin ingestion that require further evaluation and proper treatment. 

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