You probably have a dog who moves or twitches while sleeping. You are curious or you are wondering why he does this. Why do dogs move in their sleep occasionally or every single time when they sleep? A short answer is due to dreams. But, as always we will have to provide you with a detailed answer that will help you understand this issue completely.
Why Do Dogs Move or Twitch When They Sleep?
Let’s start with the basic and simple answer. Why do dogs move in their sleep? They dream and when we all dream, we tend to move slightly. How much we move and how often depends on how long and what type of a dream we all have. The same things apply to dogs.
On average, a dog will dream 3 times in one hour. There are some differences depending on the breed. For instance, if you have a large dog, he will dream every 45 minutes while he sleeps. One dream will last 4 minutes. Things are different with small dogs. They will dream for 30 seconds but they will have a new dream every 10 minutes.
Dogs have the same stages in sleep as we have. They have NREM (non-rapid eye movement), SWS (short-wave sleep), and REM which stands for rapid eye movement. The latter is when his eyes move behind the eyelids. During the last stage, all the big muscles in the body are not active.
These are pons and they control the muscles when dogs sleep. Basically, they will turn off the big muscles and therefore prevent massive movement when a dog sleeps. Without these dogs would move a lot when they are asleep and have a dream. Just imagine if a dog has a nightmare!
Pons do need time to develop. They can get weaker over time which explains one thing. This is the simplest explanation for why puppies and senior dogs move more when they sleep. Pons do not work well and they can’t turn off all the big muscles in the body. Adult dogs move much less when they sleep because pons are working perfectly.
The sleeping position does have an effect as well. Dogs who will be in a curled position as they sleep will twitch less. Their muscles are not as relaxed as in dogs who sleep in different positions.
Don’t forget that when there is a loud noise, such as a thunderstorm, it can wake a dog partially which will make him move even more. This is normal and there is no need to worry about it.
Should You Wake Your Pet When He Moves During Sleep?
Once again we will have to start with the simplest answer possible. No, you shouldn’t wake your dog. What if he has a bad dream? He will wake up scared and he may become aggressive. He may even try to escape or do something strange. There are all kinds of issues here and you can literally wake them up when you wake your dog.
You will have to try and call out the name of your dog. Basically, you need to try and calm him down. When he hears your name, he will know that everything is fine. You can even pet him gently. Do not make loud noises or make strong moves. This can wake him up when he is scared and we all know what this means.
Twitching Or Seizures?
Some of you will believe that a dog has seizures. This can be a huge problem and we all know that seizures are a bad and serious thing. Yes, seizures can happen when your dog sleeps but they are not the same thing as twitching.
First of all, seizures will last much longer. Twitching will last 10-30 seconds while a seizure can last much longer. The movement during the seizure is not the same either. It is stiffer, stronger, and more violent for the lack of a better word. When your dog moves because of a dream, movement is calmer and slower.
When Do You Need To Take Your Pet To A Vet?
There is no need to add that in some cases you may need professional help. Well, your dog does. This will happen only if a dog cant sleep or he will wake up countless times during the night. In these cases, twitching may be caused by a problem. Here we have a few issues that can cause movement while sleeping.
- Liver disease
- Kidney disease
- Low body temperature
- Lower blood sugar
If one of these is present you can see that a dog will have a lot of problems while sleeping. He will probably be lethargic during the day and may refuse food. Every time when a dog refuses food and that lasts for some time, a problem is probably present.
You need to take him to a vet as soon as possible. Most of these issues are treatable and there is no huge problem or side effects to mention. However, you should start as soon as possible and you need to start the first time when you notice the issue.
We can add that if your dog has one of these problems, he will not move his eyes while twitching. This means that he doesn’t dream but he twitches. It is one of the ways you can use to determine the cause of twitching and should you take him to a vet.
The Final Word
Why do dogs move in their sleep? They dream. They can have good and bad dreams. As a matter of fact, dogs dream a lot and they can have nightmares that will make them move and twitch through the night. In most situations this is normal and there is no need to worry. But, if you notice some other issues or severe problems, you may want to take him to a vet and rule out any complications or diseases.