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My Dog Twitches During Sleep – Should I Worry

A dog twitching while sleeping means that they’re in the later stages of sleep, known as rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Just like with humans, this often involves dreams that can result in spasms and whimpers. If your dog isn’t twitching nonstop for more than 30 seconds, you don’t need to worry.

My Dog Twitches During Sleep – Should I Worry

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Dogs have a similar sleep cycle to humans and can sometimes twitch during dreams.

Very young and old dogs are more likely to move during sleep, and factors like stress can also make it worse.

Seizures can also cause twitching, but it is usually longer and more continuous. 

Did you know?
The size of the dog is proportional to the size of its dream. Small dogs have more frequent but shorter dreams, while bigger dogs have less frequent but longer dreams.

Dogs have similar sleep patterns to humans, but they happen during smaller intervals, meaning more wake-ups from REM sleep. This can show itself in the form of twitching during sleep.

My Dog Twitches During Sleep – Should I Worry?

Is there anything more enchanting than a pup peacefully dozing at your feet? And is there anything more startling than if she starts kicking and yelping?

It can feel like an emergency the first time you see it, but a dog twitching in sleep is completely natural.

The reason for those movements come down to the way dogs sleep, and although there are extreme cases that are cause for concern, most of the time it’s nothing to worry about.

dog twitching in sleep seizure

A Dog’s Sleep Cycle

Think about how humans sleep for a moment. We hit the sack, start to feel drowsy, and (hopefully) fall asleep within 15 minutes or so.

From there, we have an average of 90 minutes of non-REM sleep followed by a short period of REM sleep. The cycle repeats itself throughout the night, with longer REM sessions the further into the night you go.

When a dog goes to sleep it follows the same pattern, only the intervals are much shorter. This may help explain why your dog is twitching in her sleep.

Studies using the same sleep recording methods as those used in human studies found that the canine sleep cycle includes an average of 12 minutes of non-REM sleep followed by 6 minutes of REM.

When you consider the fact that dogs sleep more than humans overall, that makes for a lot of jumping in and out of consciousness.

Why Is My Dog Twitching In His Sleep?

Okay, dogs are light sleepers. So how does that explain those sleepytime movements?

The reason why this matters has to do with the nature of REM sleep. A section of the brain called the pons can also impact how much your dog twitches in its sleep.

why is my dog twitching in his sleep

REM Sleep In Dogs

Like humans, when dogs enter REM sleep their brain activity changes and their imaginations run wild. Normally, the brain makes sure the body can’t move at this point, but during the transition to wakefulness dogs still have one paw in dreamland. The other can gain the ability to move.

Now imagine your little pup is chasing a stick or digging a glorious hole in the backyard garden when his body starts to wake up. He may think it’s all real and kick or whine for a few seconds before waking up and falling back into deep sleep shortly after.

The Pons

During the REM sleep cycle, an area of the brain called the pons controls muscle movement. However, sometimes it’s temporarily ineffective, leading to your dog twitching in sleep with his eyes open or face twitching.

This problem is more prevalent in young pups (where the pons is underdeveloped) and older dogs (where it's not as effective).

Is My Dog Twitching in Her Sleep or Having a Seizure?

Still a little worried about your pup’s health? One of the ways to distinguish twitching from seizures is the length of the episode.

A good rule of thumb is that if your dog is continuously convulsing for 30 seconds or so, you should take them to the vet. However, if your pooch simply kicks the air a few times, it’s considered perfectly normal.

If you think there may be something wrong with your furry friend, observe them during daytime nap times or even at night. Is it just the occasional twitch, or is it taking longer to subside?

Sometimes, it’s too hard for an owner to tell whether their dog is having a dream or a seizure. When in doubt, you can take a video to show to your vet and they’ll be able to give you a more definitive answer.

How To Improve My Dog’s Sleep

Many humans welcome their four-legged friends onto their own bed at night. But sometimes, sleeping with your dog can cause issues for both of you. It can actually wake you and your pet more often, creating stress and anxiety that could potentially cause even more twitching.

So while co-sleeping does work well for many humans and their dogs, it’s important for dogs to have their own beds that are entirely their own.

Putting your pooch in a separate bed can help them sleep peacefully with less disturbances and more comfort. Our dog bed may be a good option for a small or medium dog looking for a sturdy, soothing place to rest their paws.

Another crucial way to improve your dog’s mental wellbeing is to give them regular exercise. This will help relieve another source of stress that can negatively impact sleep.

Other Things To Pay Attention To

One final outcome to look out for if you notice a lot of activity from your puppy during sleep is that they may have issues unrelated to seizures.

Although it’s very rare, studies have shown that dogs can have REM sleep behavior disorder that results in violent outbursts during slumber.

This could lead to your dog snapping at or biting nearby people. The good news is, while this disorder can be frightening, it can be treated. You’ll want to work with your vet to develop a treatment plan if you find that your pup may be suffering from this illness.

In general, the far more likely explanation for any twitching you see from your dog during sleep is that they’re drifting in and out of normal sleep. But as always, it’s a good idea to take a video and show it to your vet if you’re really concerned.

Conclusion

Dogs have similar sleep patterns to humans, but they happen during smaller intervals, meaning more wake-ups from REM sleep. This can show itself in the form of twitching during sleep.

Stress can sometimes be another factor that makes the movements more frequent, so regular exercise and access to a soothing bed like the Pupper Pod can help.

If your dog is twitching in their sleep, it’s usually a reaction to something happening during a dream. As long as your dog isn’t twitching for a prolonged amount of time, you can rest easy knowing that in general, this canine behavior is completely normal.