If you’ve ever sat back and observed your dog while sleeping, you’ve probably noticed some perplexing behaviors. It’s not uncommon for dogs to twitch, vocalize, or even move their feet like they’re running while asleep. So, what causes these movements?
The canine sleep cycle is very similar to the human sleep cycle. They experience the following three sleeping stages:
- Non-rapid eye movement (NREM)
- Rapid eye movement (REM)
- Short-wave sleep (SWS)
In the REM stage, dogs may dream, during which they may react by twitching or mimic chasing prey by moving their four paws. Canines that sleep curled up in a little ball tend to tense their muscles and are less likely to experience jerky movements while sleeping. Conversely, dogs that stretch out while they snooze are more likely to experience movement because their muscles are relaxed. If your dog appears frightened upon waking and you suspect a bad dream, simply pet your dog and talk in a soothing voice to restore calm.
In other cases, dogs may twitch in their sleep because their body is attempting to stay warm. If you think this might be the case, provide your canine companion with an extra blanket to snuggle with or turn up the heat in your home.
If you ever notice excessive trembling accompanied by a stiff body, a seizure may be to blame. If this is the case, immediately seek veterinary advice.