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Why Is My Dog Twitching In His Sleep?

Is Twitching A Serious Concern?
Many people and animals alike experience spasm-like movements of specific muscles. These movements are also called tics and twitches and can happen anywhere in the body. In most cases, twitching is nothing to worry about. There are some rare situations that may be caused by a tic disorder that can be managed with treatment.

Canine Sleep Cycles
A dog’s sleep cycle is similar to that of humans; while they are snoozing they go through the 3 sleep stages:

  • NREM – non-rapid eye movement
  • REM – rapid eye movement
  • SWS – short wave sleep

Dogs can display twitching while they are sleeping, which is normal. The reason behind this twitching is caused by your dog’s REM stage of sleep. Animal experts have come up with a theory that dogs dream during the REM stage and act on their dreams by twitching or moving all four paws as if they were chasing another animal or being chased themselves. During the SWS stage you might hear your pet breath heavily or even snore. Some people have even heard their pets whimper while in this sleep state.

While twitching during sleep is normal, dog owners should also be aware of certain things. If your dog is twitching in his sleep gently speak to him to bring him out of that state. Do not yell or touch the dog as you might agitate or scare him. If your pup is cold, the twitching could be his body’s way of trying to keep warm. You can give him a blanket, turn up the heat or give him some extra snuggle time.

When To Consult Your Vet
The most important thing is to know the difference between your dog twitchings and having a seizure. When a dog twitches during sleep, he may make a few sudden movements and fall back into a deep sleep. And, he will respond when his name is called. If your pet is experiencing a seizure his body will become stiff, shake and possibly lock up. He could have loss of consciousness and excessive panting. He will not respond when you call his name.

For more information on the signs and causes of a seizure as opposed to normal twitching, you can check out The Veterinary Neurological Center’s description of seizure types, causes, and common signs on their webpage.

The bottom line is, you know your dog best. You should be able to tell the difference between sleeping twitches and something more serious. If you aren’t sure or are concerned, always err on the side of caution and seek advice from your veterinarian.

If your pet is showing signs of abnormal twitching, or could possibly be having a seizure, Tailored Pet Services staff will always contact you immediately and/or contact your veterinarian if your pet appears to be in critical condition. We also ask owners to fill out paperwork on your pet’s medical condition before services commence, ensuring that we know beforehand if your fur baby has any neurological conditions or is prone to seizures. For more information on the services we offer and our rates, click here.