My Dog Is Twitching in Their Sleep, Should I Be Concerned?

Written by Austin S.
Updated: July 6, 2022
© Aleksey Boyko/
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As a dog owner, there’s no doubt you have unconditional love for your dog. One of the best things about owning a dog is curling up on the sofa together after a long day. While you relax, your dog cuddles up to you and sleeps. Also, you might notice that your dog often twitches while sleeping. If you’re not familiar with the sleeping pattern of dogs, this phenomenon might scare you. 

However, do not fret. While it is natural for you to wonder about your dog’s twitches since they might be connected to its health, this behavior is usually harmless. This article will discuss everything you need to know about dogs twitching in their sleep. 

Why Does Your Dog Twitch in Its Sleep?

The main reason why your dog is switching in its sleep is that it’s dreaming. Like humans, dogs also dream. They are capable of experiencing different stages of dreaming. Also, dogs go through three phases of sleep. These phases include:

  • Short Wave Sleep(SWS) 
  • Rapid Eye Movement(REM)
  • Non-Rapid Eye Movement(NREM)

When your dog twitches while sleeping, it is most likely dreaming in the REM stage. During the REM stage of sleep, your dog’s brainstem restrains the activity of several muscle groups. This act prevents excess movement in your dog. But slight twitching still occurs.  The NREM stage of sleep is at the beginning of the cycle. Your dog’s body is relaxed at this stage. At the SWS stage, your dog has entered the deepest part of sleeping and starts to breathe heavily. 

Furthermore, research has shown that the brain waves of dogs are like that of humans when dreaming. Since dogs are as emotional as humans, it is safe to assume they experience nightmares and dreams like you. Also, smaller dog breeds tend to dream for longer periods than larger dog breeds. Large dogs dream for five minutes every 45-90 minutes. Smaller dogs dream longer at an interval of 10 minutes. 

brown dog sleeping on a leather dog bed
Dogs have good dreams and nightmares, just like humans do.


Is It Safe for Your Dog to Twitch in Its Sleep?

In most cases, it is normal for your dog to twitch in its sleep. Twitching is your dog’s body’s response to dreaming. Your dog can sleep between 12 to 14 hours daily on average. This time frame depends on the activity level and age of your dog. 

Also, your dog starts to dream approximately after 20 minutes of sleep. When dreaming, your dog might twitch for about 30 seconds before settling down. This cycle will occur until your dog reaches the SWS stage of sleep. 

Furthermore, you might notice your dog kicking out its leg while dreaming. It might also cry out or vocalize. These acts might indicate that your dog is having a nightmare. 

Can Your Dog’s Twitching Be Due To Nightmares?

As mentioned earlier in the article, dogs can have good dreams and nightmares. Quiet noises, paddling, and twitching are indicative of a good dream. But twitching combined with screaming and growling indicates a nightmare. 

Research has shown that when dogs dream, it is about a past event that can be negative or positive. For example, if you adopt a dog that has been traumatized for a long time, there is every probability it will have nightmares for a while. You can monitor your dog if it twitches and screams a lot while sleeping. A good dog bed might be all your dog needs to sleep well. 

Furthermore, anxiety can cause your dog to have nightmares. Your dog might suffer from nightmares if it is exposed to new routines and situations often. Be reminded that dreams and nightmares help your dog process its experiences.  The best thing you can do for your dog is to shower with love and care after a nightmare. 

Should You Wake Your Dog During a Nightmare?

It is not advisable to wake your dog while it’s having a nightmare. There’s no reason to wake your dog up while it’s dreaming. Also, it can be harmful to wake your dog up in the middle of a dream. Like humans, your dog can feel disoriented if it is woken abruptly in the middle of sleep. 

Unless there is a clear sign of distress, leave your dog alone. If you need to wake your dog, your can quietly call out its name until it wakes up. Under no circumstances should you touch your dog while it’s having a nightmare. A scared dog might bite you if it is woken suddenly. 

Furthermore, gently calling your dog’s name while sleeping is mainly used for blind dogs. These dogs are more sensitive to touch and sounds than other dogs. Generally, it’s best not to wake your dog up even if it’s having a nightmare. But if your dog doesn’t respond to your calls and loud noises, it might be having a seizure. 

dog in dog bed
Unless your dog is showing signs of distress, you should not wake it while it’s having a nightmare.

©Lily Chernysheva/

Can Your Dog Have Seizures While Sleeping?

Seizures in dogs look like twitching, but they last longer. Dog seizures can be full-body tremors that last longer than usual. Your dog’s body also becomes rigid during a seizure. Also, seizures can occur at any time in your dog. But they occur primarily during sleep. There are several reasons why your dog would have seizures while sleeping. They include:

  • Liver disease
  • Neoplastic growth
  • Brain trauma or tumor
  • Toxins
  • Kidney failure

How Can You Differentiate Dream Twitches From Seizures in Your Dog?

To differentiate dream twitches from seizures in your dog, you have to understand the different phases of seizures in dogs. Before a seizure, you’ll notice your dog restless or anxious for no reason. During the seizure, several things occur:

  • Your dog’s body becomes rigid
  • It might experience light to violent tremors
  • It can also experience repetitive leg movements 
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Excess salivating
  • Loss of bladder and bowel control
  • Whining
  • Growling

After the seizure has passed, you’ll notice your dog appearing restless or confused.  The whole seizure lasts for several minutes. It is never easy or advisable to wake up a dog having a seizure in its sleep. The dog’s muscles are rigid, followed by violent muscle spasms and urinating. 

Furthermore, your healthy sleeping dog will not experience any of the abovementioned symptoms. Twitching generally lasts for at least 30 seconds at a time. Your dog will wake up oriented and well-rested if it doesn’t have seizures. 

What Should You Do When Your Dog Is Having Seizures While Sleeping?

It can be scary to witness your dog having a seizure in its sleep. But you have to remain as calm as possible. Please do not touch your dog while it’s having a seizure, but call your vet immediately. 

Before your vet arrives, remove any object that can potentially harm your dog. If possible, time the seizures and write down how long they last. Your vet will find this information very helpful. If the seizures occur for more than five minutes or more than three times in 24 hours, it needs immediate attention.

Should You Worry About Your Puppy Twitching in Its Sleep?

Have you been worried about your new puppy twitching in its sleep?. If you’re new to raising puppies, the twitching might worry you. But this phenomenon is no cause for concern. It is usual for puppies to twitch in their sleep. Twitching is said to help puppies a lot more than older dogs. You might observe that your puppy twitches a lot during the first months of its life. This behavior is expected. As your puppy grows older, the twitching will decrease. 

Furthermore, puppies use twitching for a lot of reasons. Twitching helps them develop better muscles. Your puppy’s bones are fragile during its first weeks of life. Twitching provides adequate muscle exercise for your puppy to strengthen its bones. 

Can Your Dog Twitch While Awake?

Dogs don’t only twitch at night. Your dog can switch while it’s awake. Senior dogs twitch once in a while when awake. Also, several situations could cause your dog to twitch while awake. The twitching usually stops after the situation has passed. 

Furthermore, your dog can twitch while awake if it’s nervous. Dogs with general anxiety seem to tremble or twitch a lot. You can visit your vet to know how to manage this issue and make your dog feel better. 

Other Reasons Why Your Dog Is Twitching in Its Sleep

Dreaming and seizures are not the only reason your dog might be switching in its sleep. The following are other reasons why your dog might twitch in its sleep. 


Although all dogs will twitch at one point in their lives, some dog breeds are more prone to twitching than others. Examples include Labrador Retrievers, Springer Spaniels, English Bulldogs, and Dalmatians.

Bulldog sleeping on its back
English bulldogs are one of the breeds that’s more prone to twitching while they sleep.

©WilleeCole Photography/


Myokymia is a health condition in dogs that causes small bands of muscles to contract. This condition often leads to skin twitching. Myokymia occurs mainly during sleep or when your dog is under anesthesia. These health conditions occur on the dog’s face. But if myokymia occurs outside of sleep or anesthesia, this might indicate a problem with your dog’s central nervous system.  


Your dog might be twitching in its sleep if it is experiencing an electrolyte imbalance caused by malnutrition. Dogs need nutritious and balanced meals as humans do. Failure to provide your dog with nutritious food can lead to neuromuscular issues. Twitching occurs as a result of these health issues. Thus, ensure that you provide the best dog food for your dog to stay healthy. 

In Summary

As stated in this article, twitching in your dog while it’s asleep is nothing for you to worry about. You can become concerned when the twitching lasts for a long time. Seizures, on the other hand, are dangerous and require a visit to the vet. Knowing the difference between dream twitches and seizures in your dog can help you keep it safe. 

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About the Author

Growing up in rural New England on a small scale farm gave me a lifelong passion for animals. I love learning about new wild animal species, habitats, animal evolutions, dogs, cats, and more. I've always been surrounded by pets and believe the best dog and best cat products are important to keeping our animals happy and healthy. It's my mission to help you learn more about wild animals, and how to care for your pets better with carefully reviewed products.

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