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Why Do Dogs Shake When They Sleep? (2023) 4 Reasons

Much like humans, dogs exhibit a wide range of involuntary movements during their sleep. They can shake, tremble, and twitch for a variety of reasons. Unless your dog shows obvious signs of discomfort, there is no reason to worry when you see them shake while sleeping.

That said, keep an eye on their behavior and ensure they’re fine. In this article, I cover everything you need to know about why do dogs shake when they sleep, namely what causes them to do so and what you should do about it.

dog asleep with paws askew

Do Dogs Often Shake in Their Sleep?

When asleep, dogs shake or twitch fairly regularly. Their shaking may or may not be vocal, so you can’t notice it all the time. Shaking can occur in several parts of a dog’s body, notably its head, tail, and legs. Sometimes, their whole body may shake.

Is It Normal for Dogs to Shake When Sleeping?

Dogs typically spend about half of their lives sleeping. They undergo several sleep cycles and make a number of involuntary movements, including shaking and twitching.

In most cases, shaking is perfectly normal behavior displayed by all dogs on a regular basis, even if it’s accompanied by howling. Afterward, they will wake up and go about their day as usual.

If they look happy and healthy when awake, shaking is usually not something you should worry about. However, it becomes worrisome when it’s frequent or if it occurs both when they’re asleep and awake. This may suggest health issues that you need to take care of.

dog curled up asleep with owner

Let’s explore the main reasons why your dog is shaking when asleep and see to what extent they can be serious.

Why Do Dogs Shake When They Sleep?

Even though dog shaking is usually normal behavior, it’s important to figure out what caused it. Only then will you know for sure whether or not it’s a serious issue. If you notice that your dog shakes or twitches when asleep, below are the possible reasons.

1. They’re Having A Dream

Under normal circumstances, the main reason why your dog is shaking in its sleep is that they’re dreaming. Just like humans, dogs go through non-rapid eye movement (NREM) and rapid eye movement (REM) stages of sleep.

The latter stage is the deepest and is associated with vivid dreams during which a dog may shake and twitch, typically for a brief moment. If they’re particularly excited or disturbed by their dream, they may howl or bark as they shake. This mostly depends on your dog’s usual behavior and the nature of its dream.

german shepherd asleep

Instead of assuming the worst, look closely at your dog’s eyes. If you notice a movement underneath their eyelids, it is a dream and nothing more. This is the most common and normal instance where your dog shakes in its sleep.

Sometimes, the dream will wake them up immediately, especially if it’s a bad dream. Most of the time, they will continue sleeping and wake up normally afterward.

What You Should Do

Nothing. There’s no reason to concern yourself with your dog having an overwhelming dream. Even if they’re vocal when they shake, the best thing to do is let them be.

Waking up a dreaming dog will startle and stress them. Let them have their dreams and wake up when they’ve had a restful sleep.

black and white sleeping puppies

2. They are Sick

Several medical conditions may cause a dog to shake or twitch. When they’re sick, dogs can feel discomfort and react badly to the illness. In cases like these, they will shake even when they’re awake. Along with shaking, they will often bark excessively and let everyone know they’re not feeling alright.

Even if you haven’t noticed them shaking while awake, they can still shake in their sleep while ill. As opposed to dreams, their shaking will be violent and vocal in most cases. In addition, they will be awakened more easily when they’re sick and have trouble sleeping.

If your dog looks weak, inactive, anxious, shakes continuously, or shows any other signs of discomfort, it’s best to assume they’re sick and deal with the issue accordingly.

golden sleeping puppy

What You Should Do

Take them to a vet. If your dog is shaking during their sleep and you notice any abnormal behavior that may suggest illness, take them to a vet as soon as possible. This does not mean the issue is serious, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

3. They’re Cold

If your dog’s shaking looks more like trembling and shivering, they may feel cold. Usually, they will tuck their tail and curl themselves up into a furry ball when they’re chilly.

Adult dogs can usually withstand cold temperatures, but puppies and certain breeds are more sensitive to cold. If your dog has short fur and feels cold when you pet it, it probably is. A great place to check this is around their ears, as these tend to get colder more quickly.

sleeping puppy how much do puppies sleep

In some cases, a dog feeling cold may be a sign of health issues, particularly if the temperature is rather warm or if your dog is used to much colder conditions.

What You Should Do

  • Make Them Feel Warm

On a cold night, even thick, long fur won’t always stop a dog from feeling cold. If your dog is shaking in its sleep and you notice its body is cold,  increase the room temperature, take it to a warmer area, or cover it with a nice blanket.

It’s important not to let your dog be exposed to extreme cold temperatures as this can lead to serious medical conditions — notably Hypothermia.

  • Take Them to A Vet

If your dog is shivering continuously, even when awake, and feeling colder than it should be, it’s likely sick and in need of treatment. You should take it to the vet as soon as possible.

black dog asleep paws

4. They are Having A Seizure

It’s not common for dogs to have seizures, but it’s definitely something you need to look out for. Seizures last longer than regular shaking and are typically characterized by stiff and rigid muscles. In addition, they will be unconscious and unresponsive to your voice, unlike dreams from which they can easily wake up.

Other signs of seizures include panting, drooling, paddling, leg-kicking, and involuntary discharge. After a seizure, dogs will feel disoriented and confused. In most cases, seizures occur when they’re awake. However, it’s impossible to tell whether they were asleep at the exact time they had the seizure since they will be unconscious anyway.

What You Should Do

Take them to a vet as soon as possible. If your dog is shaking while seemingly asleep and is not responsive to your voice, it is probably having a seizure.

Seizures can either be temporary or a sign of neurological disorders. If left unchecked, they can develop into more serious medical conditions. In any case, you need to get your dog to a vet if you suspect a seizure attack.

beige dog asleep on side

Final Thoughts

It’s common for dogs to shake when asleep. It is often a reaction to dreams they’re having, in which case you have no reason to worry or do anything about it. Other times, their shaking may suggest more serious issues that need to be dealt with as soon as possible.

two basset hounds asleep in wicker bed why do dogs shake when they sleep

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