Understanding Why Your Dog Shakes in Sleep: Normal Behavior or Health Issue?

Ever noticed your furry friend twitching or shaking in their sleep and wondered what’s going on? You’re not alone. Many pet owners have asked, “why is my dog shaking in his sleep?” This is a common occurrence but understanding the reasons behind it can help ease your worries.

Dreaming could be one reason. Just like humans, dogs dream too. But there could be other factors at play. It’s important to distinguish between normal sleep behavior and potential health issues. So, let’s delve into this topic and find out more about why your dog might be shaking in his sleep.

The Nature of Dog Sleep

Understanding the nature of dog sleep is crucial for interpreting why your faithful friend might shake while snoozing. Though dogs dozing might seem similar to a human’s repose, it’s actually more intricate and complex.

Dogs sleep for many of the same reasons humans do, which includes not only physical restoration but also information processing. That’s where doggy dreams come into play. It’s no secret that our four-legged friends have plenty of REM sleep, the stage in which humans frequently dream. This is when your dog may shake, twitch, or move their paws like they’re running.

Your dog’s sleep cycle has two main stages: the rapid eye movement (REM) stage and the slow-wave or non-REM stage. The latter is when deep sleep occurs, while the former, as mentioned previously is linked to dreams. During the REM stage, your dog is more likely to move, shake, or show other sleep-related behaviors. These movements can vary in intensity from faint twitches to more vigorous shaking.

Let’s not forget the fact that the body temperature of dogs decreases during their sleep period, causing their metabolic activities to slow down, a factor that might cause trembling in some dogs.

Interestingly, puppies and older dogs tend to shake more in their sleep than adult dogs. This is because puppies spend more time in REM sleep, giving them more time to dream. And for older dogs, age and related health issues often disrupt normal sleep patterns, which may result in more shaking.

// Table: Dog Sleep Stages and Related Behaviors

Sleep StageBehavior
REM StageTwitching, moving, shaking
Non-REMDeep sleep, stillness

How Dogs Dream

Now that you understand why dogs shake during sleep, let’s delve into How Dogs Dream. Just like humans, your furry friend experiences rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the phase most commonly associated with dreaming.

During REM sleep, your dog’s brain activity is elevated. You may observe their eyes darting back and forth beneath closed eyelids. This indicates they’re likely visualizing images—picturing events of the preceding day, or perhaps dreaming of a fantastic squirrel chase.

REM sleep in dogs is also characterized by body movements, ranging from slight paw twitching to more intense movements resembling running. Don’t be alarmed. This isn’t a sign of distress—just your pooch “active” in dreamland.

It’s fascinating to think that your canine companion can be fast asleep while their brain conjures up a narrative that incites movement, enabling them to physically act out their dreams. Puppies tend to have more active dreams than adult dogs. They also spend more time in REM sleep, hence more chances to dream and subsequently tremble or twitch during sleep.

Remember, your older dog isn’t exempt from a vivid dream life either. An aged dog can experience disrupted sleep patterns due to various factors including health issues or age-related cognitive decline. This disruption can lead to more frequent entry into REM sleep, which could then lead to more twitching or shaking during sleep.

Tracking your dog’s sleep habits can provide you with essential information about their health and well-being. For instance, a sudden change in the frequency or intensity of the shaking might be a sign that your dog is not getting quality sleep. Have a vet visit in mind if there are drastic changes in your dog’s sleep patterns.

‘Why is my dog shaking in his sleep?’ is a frequent question among dog owners. Understanding how dogs dream and why they twitch and shake during sleep answers that.

Normal Sleep Behavior vs. Health Issues

Identifying what’s normal and what’s not can be the most challenging task when it comes to your dog’s sleep behaviours. Here’s how you can differentiate between both of these.

Normal Sleep Behaviours

Typically, a dog’s regular sleep may involve some movement. Just like humans, dogs undergo different sleep stages, one of which is referred to as the REM stage, during which dreaming occurs. That implies your canine friend might move a little or even twitch during sleep. It’s especially common in puppies and older dogs, who tend to spend more time in REM sleep.

Health Issues

However, you’ve got to be aware of when these movements cross the line from regular to irregular. Shaking, twitching, or convulsing could also be a sign of health issues such as:

  • Neurological problems: These might cause abnormal movements while sleeping.
  • Seizures: They aren’t common during sleep but could occur and be mistaken for a dream.
  • Pain or discomfort: If a dog is in pain, it might shake during sleep.

Creating a record of your dog’s sleep patterns will help you monitor its health and well-being. Note down the frequency of your dog’s shakes, twitches and any additional odd behaviours. It will come in handy when you discuss your concerns with your vet.

Normal BehavioursPossible Health Issues
REM sleep twitchingNeurological problems
Paw paddlingSeizures
Whimpering or barkingPain or discomfort

Retaining an eye on your pet’s sleep habit is not just about understanding why they twitch, shake, or move their paws as if they’re running. It’s about ensuring their overall well-being. There are always exceptions to these typical behaviours, so if something seems off or drastically different with your dog’s sleep patterns, don’t hesitate in consulting with a vet. The sooner you identify any potential problem, the quicker your furry friend can be on its path to recovery.

Possible Health Issues that Cause Shaking in Sleep

While it’s normal for dogs to shake or twitch during REM sleep, incessant or exaggerated movements could be a sign of health issues. Let’s delve into a few health complications that may cause your dog to shake more than usual during sleep.

Neurological Problems: Neurological conditions can lead to distinct changes in a dog’s sleep patterns. Disorders such as epilepsy can cause your dog to convulse or shake in sleep. If you notice severe shaking during your pet’s sleep, it may be time to consult with a vet to discern the potential cause.

Pain and Discomfort: If your dog is in pain, it may shake, twitch, or show other movement during sleep. Pain can originate from various conditions, ranging from arthritis to gastrointestinal problems. Older dogs may experience joint pain and discomfort, leading them to shake more during sleep.

Seizures: Dogs can have seizures while asleep. This can often be confused with normal REM sleep movements. Some indications of seizure activity include full-body convulsions, drooling, or even loss of bowel control.

Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS): Though usually associated with humans, animals like dogs can be affected too. Symptoms of RLS in dogs include shaking, twitching, or moving their legs during sleep.

Regular vet check-ups can help identify and tackle these problems early on. Should you notice any drastic changes in your dog’s sleep patterns, don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional for guidance. In extreme cases, certain medications can be administered to ensure your dog enjoys a peaceful, uninterrupted, and healthy sleep.

Keeping an eye on and documenting changes in your dog’s sleep patterns is not only a proactive move but also a potentially life-saving one. Always keep in mind that a healthy dog is a happy dog, even when they’re fast asleep.

Tips for Helping your Shaking Dog

Occasionally, it can be quite disheartening to watch your beloved pet shake, twitch, or show signs of discomfort when they’re sleeping. Here are a few ways you can assist.

Keep Them Comfortable: Firstly, ensure your dog has a cozy and relaxing place to sleep. A comfortable bed, being a quiet area and maintaining a steady room temperature can significantly support their overall sleep quality.

Monitor Sleep Patterns: A crucial step in helping your dog is routine observation of their sleep patterns. Note when and how often they shake in their sleep. These details can provide valuable information to your vet about potential health issues.

Maintaining a Healthy Diet: You’d be surprised how much a dog’s diet can impact their sleep patterns. Pet owners should ensure their dogs are receiving adequate nutrition. Consult your vet for dietary advice tailored to your pet’s needs.

One can’t stress enough the importance of regular vet visits. These check-ups can help identify any underlying health problems that might be causing your dog to shake in their sleep. If you notice any sudden changes or if they appear to be in pain, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment immediately.

In some cases, medicating your dog might be necessary. However, this should be the last resort and should always be under the direction of a vet. Certain medications can aid with sleep disorders or any discomfort your dog may be experiencing.

Remember, it’s normal for dogs to shake slightly in their sleep. However, sudden changes or excessive shaking could indicate health issues. Make sure to monitor your dog’s sleep patterns, keep their sleeping environment comfortable, maintain a healthy diet, and take them for regular vet visits.


So, it’s normal for your dog to shake in sleep due to the intricacies of their sleep patterns and dream states. Puppies and older dogs may shake more due to spending more time in REM sleep and experiencing disrupted sleep patterns. But remember, excessive shaking could indicate health issues like neurological problems, seizures, or discomfort. Regularly monitor your dog’s sleep patterns and consult a vet if you notice sudden changes. Regular vet check-ups can help catch potential issues early, and in severe cases, medication may be necessary. Above all, keeping your dog comfortable, maintaining a healthy diet, and ensuring regular vet visits can contribute significantly to your furry friend’s overall well-being. Now you’re equipped with the knowledge to understand why your dog might be shaking in sleep and how to handle it.

Why do dogs sleep?

Dogs sleep for similar reasons as humans. It serves physical restoration and information processing purposes. They undergo REM sleep, like humans, which is associated with dreaming.

What causes dogs to move in their sleep?

During REM sleep, dogs experience dreams that they may physically enact, causing movements like shaking or twitching. This phenomenon is more noticeable in puppies due to their more active dreaming and longer REM sleep periods.

Do older dogs dream more actively?

Yes. Older dogs can have vivid dreams due to disrupted sleep patterns leading to longer periods of REM sleep, much like puppies.

How can one differentiate normal sleep behavior from health issues in dogs?

Observing a dog’s sleep patterns can help differentiate between normal behaviors and health issues. Excessive shaking, twitching, or convulsion may indicate neurological problems, seizures, or discomfort, and should warrant a vet visit.

What health issues might cause dogs to move more while sleeping?

Neurological issues, seizures, discomfort, and restless leg syndrome (RLS) may cause dogs to shake more excessively in their sleep than usual.

What can dog owners do to help their dogs who shake while sleeping?

Dog owners can ensure their pets’ comfort, monitor sleep patterns, provide a healthy diet, and schedule regular vet visits to maintain their dogs’ overall well-being and manage abnormal sleep movement.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *