Why Do Dogs Twitch In Their Sleep?

Why Do Dogs Twitch In Their Sleep?

Twitching is a series of sudden jerks that occurs in your dogs as they sleep. It may occur in their legs or any other part. This twitch look like they may hurt or at least cause some discomfort to the dog. You may wonder if it is an effect of a bad dream. Twitching in your dog occurs as a result of various circumstances, which may be from external or internal stimuli. Should you be afraid when you notice twitching in your dog? Get to know below!

Why Do Dogs Twitch in Their Sleep?    

Dogs twitch as a natural response in their dream state. This occurs when they are in the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. Twitching can occur when a dog is asleep or as a result of sudden sounds while sleeping such as loud voices, fireworks, thunder and lightening.



Personal Experience

  • Smokey

I remember the first time I say twitching in my dog Smokey, It was sleeping and I noticed the continuous jerking of the muscles in his thigh region of his lower limb. I was a quite scared as this went on for quite sometime. I wasn't sure what was causing it and I my mind went wondering and imagining a lot of things. With Smokey the twitching occurred mostly when it was asleep and went on for a while this was a different case to the twitching I noticed in our dog Skido.

  • Skido

ln Skido the muscle twitches i noticed occured while he was awake. This usually occured after it has been very active, jumping and playing and having too much fun. Once it stops to take a rest, I notice the twitching which will occur as a sudden jerk but just once also around the thigh region. It is very short- lived but occurs sometimes after great exertion by Skido

Of cause I was worried and sort after my vet, of which I was told I had no reason to worry, as it a natural occurrence that can happen when dogs sleep and in the case of Skido was just the muscles reacting to excessive exertion. This was good to hear, however not all twitching means everything is fine, it can also mean their is good reason to be concerned. Read on to find out more information about twitching.

Dog Playing


Dogs Twitch in Their Sleep

Twitching is a result of the dream state in dogs. Dogs enjoy their sleep rest for almost half a day. In this time when they are in deep sleep states. During the rapid eye movement stage which is also known as REM Sleep, the muscles are usually inert even through the dog's eye undergo rapid eye movements which is controlled by the pons of the brain. Twitching is less seen in middle aged dogs but more common in old or young dogs were the pons have degenerated or is still maturing respectively.

Depending on the size of the dogs, they sleep and dream for different time periods. Toy dogs dream about 30 seconds, every  10 minutes they are asleep. Mid sized dogs dream for 1 minutes every 20 minutes they are asleep. While large sized dogs dream for 4 minutes every 45 minutes they are asleep.

Various circumstances can cause twitching in a dog we're sleeping position, other causes can also affect twitching such as noises from loud voices lightning and thunder as well as fireworks.

What Causes Twitching In A Dog

  • Deep sleep and dreams

  • Growth Stage & Ageing

  • Sudden External Noises; Thunder and Fireworks 

  • Exposure to Toxins; Chocolates or Detergents

  • Disease states such as diabetes and epilepsy

  • Deep Sleep and Dreams

Deep sleep involves the REM stage of sleep, this coupled with dreaming makes for the muscle twitching in dogs. Dogs tend to dream about what they have experienced during the day. Sometimes they may have a nightmare and these may cause marked muscle twitching. When you experience this, you can call their name gently so they wake up peacefully. However most muscle twitching while they are sleeping are usually harmless.

Dog Sleeping

  • Growth Stage & Ageing

Growth also plays a role in muscle twitching and young puppies tend to experience more frequent muscle twitching, as a normal occurrence. Dogs in the their old age also experience mark muscle twitching as a result of the deterioration of the pons in their brain. So in a dogs life span they may experience muscle twitching, while it is most times fine in their young years, increased frequency in the aged dogs signals a sign of concern.

  • Sudden External Noises; Thunder and Fireworks 

Sudden external noises such as thunderstorms during every rainfall or fireworks or sudden bust of loud music can jerk you dog from their sleep and they may experience twitching. These external noises are a form of shock to your dog's system as they try to regain consciousness and access their surrounding for safety. If you are with your dog when this happens you may want to calm down them and reassure them all is well.

  • Exposure to Toxins; Chocolates or Detergents

Exposure to certain toxic substances such as giving your dog bits of chocolate or it accidently drinks some laundry detergent. The toxins from these substances can cause twitching in your dogs. While chocolate is an amazing and enjoyed treat for humans, you should not give it to your dogs as it is rather toxic for them. So you won't be doing your dog any favors. If you notice twitching in your dog after consuming any substance, you should take it to the vet.

  • Disease states such as diabetes and epilepsy

Disease that can affect the nervous system of your dog can lead to twitching. Neurology diseases such as epilepsy and diabetes affects the nerves of your dog and you see a veterinarian as soon as possible to get the necessary treatments your dog needs. Other systemic illnesses that can result in twitching include hypoglycemia which is when your dog has low blood glucose, hypothermia, low temperature. Arthritis and anxiety also can affect your dog and cause twitching.

What You Should Do If You Notice Twitching?

If your dog is with you and you noticed twitching do not suddenly wake it up. it may be dreaming and having a nightmare and any sudden calling wake up movement may lead to it hurting you. You should rather call his name I need to wake up gently.

However if the twitching continues for a long time or affects the entire body if maybe a result  a systemic  problem.  Such as hypotension, malnutrition,  low blood sugar, heart issues, arthritis, anxiety, eating poison, infections or a result of seizures. You should immediately take your dog to see a veterinary doctor if it appears to be a systemic problem so that they can receive care and recover.

Twitching Vs Seizures In Dogs

Twitching tends to occur while dogs are sleeping while seizures while they are awake. If you dog is asleep and you notice marked twitching. You should check for the their body becoming stiff, difficulty in breathing, eyes are awake but not responding, inability to control their bowel movements, mouth foams and there may be vomiting. They may be confused as well. These signs tell you your dog is not twitching but having a seizure. 

Final Words

Twitching on it's own is not a serious sign for concern and can be normal for dogs. However if you notice it has become excessive or prolonged, it is best to see your vet. If the notice the cause of the twitching is what you can control, you should go ahead and help your dog out. Such as offering it food when it is hungry, covering it up when it is cold and reducing external noises such as loud music.

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Dr Osiro Precious

She is a pet enthusiast who enjoys blogging. She grew up owning a wide variety of dog breeds and currently is the owner of two vibrant Alsatian dogs, Skido and Smokey.

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