Ever snuggled beside your buddy around nighttime – and found your dog twitching or shaking every so often? Wondering: why is my dog twitching in his sleep? And why do dogs twitch in their sleep, anyway?

Turns out, the reasons could be as benign as:

  • Your dog simply having a great dream, chasing squirrels or playing with you…
  • To more serious causes, including a whole bunch of health conditions that can disturb their sleep.

(Which is why dog parents around the world are monitoring their dogs’ sleepcatching on to health issues early and helping their buddies live a longer, happier, healthier life.)

So let’s dive right in to the reasons your dog shakes in sleep, or if you’ve got an old dog shaking while lying down, or even if you’ve got a puppy twitching in sleep. (Plus, how your dog’s sleeping position can affect how often they twitch or not.)

Why do dogs twitch in their sleep?

Now, to start off, a dog twitching or even shaking occasionally during sleep is 100% normal. It might be due to:

  • How their brains work during sleep
  • Their age
  • Their sleeping position
  • Their feeling cold
  • Loud noises

In these cases, any twitching you notice might not be a cause for concern.

However, in some cases, your dog’s nighttime twitching or shaking might also be due to health issues. (Especially for senior dogs.) And left untreated, these could severely and negatively impact your buddy’s health for the long term.

So let’s dive into each of these, one by one. Your dog might be twitching in their sleep because…

Their brains are active – even during sleep

Much like cats, dogs tend to be super sleepers – clocking in around 12-14 hours per day! And in this time, their brains are busy processing the events and experiences they’ve had all day, through dreams.

A Dachshund sleeping on a chair

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💡 A dog twitching in sleep could simply mean their brains are working through a dream cycle.

Dogs sleep in much the same way as humans do – with non-rapid eye movement (NREM) and rapid eye movement (REM) stages.1

  • During the REM state, you might notice your dog twitching or their eyes moving around – even though they’re fast asleep.
  • Around this time, your dog’s brain “switches off” their muscles – so they don’t actually end up running around the house or digging a hole in your garden (which they might be dreaming of!)
A little boy playing with a Jack Russell terrier in a garden

💡 Now this might be why your dog might end up twitching or shaking every so often. They’re just happily chasing rabbits or a frisbee in their dream – but their brains “shut down” their muscles.

(So they don’t, you know, actually end up running around in their sleep.)

But does this mean dogs can have nightmares too? Yes, sadly, just like us – dogs can and do have bad dreams, on occasion.2 (Especially if they have a history of abuse or trauma.) Which too can turn up as the occasional twitch or even whimpering during sleep.

Your dog’s age

Puppies, adult dogs, and senior dogs might all twitch during sleep – but adult dogs less so. And this has to do with how their brains have developed due to age.3

Why is my puppy twitching in sleep?

Your puppy is still growing – so they might twitch in their sleep a bit extra. This is simply because their brain hasn’t 100% finished developing yet. So you might find them twitching or shaking a bit more than, say, adult dogs.

Puppies also tend to spend more time dreaming than adult dogs!4 Their growing brains need to process a ton of information – including learning new skills, navigating their environment, and also bonding with you.

Which can keep their brains “busy” during sleep and turn up as occasional twitching or shaking.

A puppy sleeping wrapped up in a blanket

Why is my old dog shaking while lying down?

In senior dogs, on the other hand, their brains might be weakening due to age.5 That’s why it’s important to keep them as physically and mentally active as they were when younger – so you can prevent this kind of cognitive decline.

So because of this, an older dog might be likely to twitch or even shake occasionally while asleep. (Because their brains might not be as quick to prevent them from moving around as before.)

Read more:

A senior dog lying on a couch

At the same time, senior dogs are also vulnerable to neurological conditions, like seizures. (Both while awake or asleep.)

These, along with other health conditions, can affect the quality of your dog’s sleep – and worsen their health and well-being down the line.

💡But if you’re tracking your dog’s sleep – including how often they were disturbed – you’re more likely to catch on to a change in their behavior early.

So you can take action and get them to a vet before their health takes a turn for the worse.

Your dog’s sleeping position

Curled up, donut, or stretched out – the position your dog sleeps in can play a role in how much they twitch or not!6

  • If your dog tends to sleep stretched out, they’re more likely to relax – so they might twitch more as a result.
  • If your dog lies on their side, they might be more likely to twitch as well.
  • But if your dog tends to sleep all curled up, this might prevent them from relaxing completely. So they might actually twitch less as a result.
A white puppy sleeping curled up in a garden

Read more: 9 Dog Sleeping Positions & What They Mean

Your dog’s feeling cold

Now if your dog’s all curled up while sleeping, it’s likely they’re trying to save body heat. I.e., they’re cold and their twitching could be a way for them to keep warm.7

Make sure your dog is sleeping in a cool environment that’s neither too hot nor too cold. (Whether that’s in bed with you, in their own doggy bed, or in another room altogether.)

A Yorkshire Terrier sitting inside a dog bed with a toy

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Your dog’s startled by a noise

As much as we try to keep our dogs’ sleeping areas where it’s quiet and where they won’t be disturbed – sometimes, well, it’s not so easy.

For example, if there’s a storm raging outdoors, your partner’s vacuuming the living room, or your neighbors are getting festive with their 4th of July fireworks – your dog is still likely to pick up on these sounds, even if asleep.8

A boy comforting a scared dog in bed

⚠️ Which is why you might notice them twitching when it’s “noisy” outside: their brains can pick up on noise and loud sounds, which might result in these involuntary movements.

And unfortunately, this can both:

  • Mess with your dog’s sleep and health in the long run
  • Trigger an escape attempt – because your dog got spooked by a loud noise. It’s why more dogs go missing around the 4th of July than any other day in the year.

Read more:

Should you wake up your dog if they’re twitching in their sleep?

In general, vets recommend not waking up your dog if they’re twitching in their sleep – unless they’re showing signs of distress.9 (Which we cover a little further below.)

If your dog is having a nightmare, it might be heart-wrenching to hear them whimpering in their sleep or shaking or twitching. But it’s best to avoid touching them or waking them up.

Why? Because a dog that’s in dream-time sleep can take a while to fully wake up. Which means that if you wake them up midway, they might bite or scratch you in fright.

So what can you do instead?

  • Rather than touching them, try and softly call your dog’s name instead. This can help them feel assured that you’re nearby and that they’re safe.
  • Only engage with them once your dog seems at least somewhat awake.
A couple playing with a dog in bed

My dog shakes in their sleep – could it be a health issue?

Besides these reasons, a dog shaking in sleep or twitching occasionally might also be due to health concerns.10 Including seizures, but also:

  • A viral or bacterial infection
  • Poisoning, like if your dog’s eaten something they shouldn’t have
  • Blood sugar issues – including diabetes and low blood sugar
  • Kidney, liver, or heart conditions
  • Arthritis

Read more:

Dog twitching in sleep…or seizure?

Your dog is more likely to have a seizure while awake. But it is possible their sleep-time twitching might occur as a result of a seizure as well.11

So here are the key differences between regular twitching- and how to identify if they’re having a seizure instead:

Regular sleepSeizure
BodyFlexible, relaxedStiff
BreathingNormal, occasionally irregularLabored
EyesPartially or completely closedWide open, but not reacting
ConsciousnessYour dog will respond to your voice and wake up easilyYour dog might lose consciousness and not respond to your voice

Besides these signs, a seizure in dogs might also include signs like:12

  • Vomiting
  • Foaming at the mouth
  • Loss of urine or bowel movements
  • Your dog seeming dazed and disoriented
  • Drooling and panting

Read more: Why Is My Dog Throwing Up? 8 Reasons Why & What To Do

When should you get your dog to a vet?

If your dog is only twitching every so often, it’s no cause for concern and is 100% normal. But you should consider heading to the vet if you notice:

  • Your dog’s shaking and twitching beginning to interfere with their sleep
  • If their twitching seems to affect their full body, like a tremor – and your dog seems to go completely rigid for longer than just a few moments13

Because with time, your dog’s nighttime twitching might end up with them:

  • Unable to fall asleep
  • Unable to stay asleep – as they keep waking up from the twitching

⚠️ All these can prevent your dog from getting the quality sleep they need to grow, heal from infections and injuries, and overcome sickness.

Which, over time, can make them more likely to fall sick – and stay sick. Reducing the time they could otherwise spend by your side, living their happiest, healthiest life.

Where Sleep Tracking steps in

Keeping track of your dog’s sleep might sound easy on paper. But how are you supposed to monitor your dog’s every twitch, snore, or sleepy shuffle – when you’ve got to get your own sleep?

Because while you could jot down your dog’s symptoms in a journal, it might not be 100% accurate or even useful, especially if you miss a day or two of tracking. (Or just get busy.)

Plus, with time, if your dog is constantly experiencing sleep disturbances and they happen to sleep near or next to you…well, let’s just say, you’re both going to end up sleep deprived and grumpy in the end.

A woman and dog sleeping in bed together

💡 So imagine having your dog’s actionable sleep-time data at hand – so you can have a more productive conversation with your vet?

That’s where a dedicated pet Sleep Tracker can save you time, energy, sleep – and a ton of money you might otherwise spend on vet bills instead.

dog sleeping in the background smartphone with tractive gps app sleep monitoring in the foreground

With its built-in motion detector, your Tractive Sleep Monitor picks up on your dog’s sleep patterns over time.

Which can help you figure out:

  • How much is a normal amount of sleep for your dog
  • How much quality sleep they’ve gotten overnight
  • How often their sleep was disturbed (whether from twitching or not)
  • How they compare to other, similar dogs around them

And even if you miss a day of checking your Tractive app, no worries. Our Health Alerts have you covered – both if your dog’s sleep quality has declined, or if they just seem less active than before.

Health Alerts feature in the foreground with dog sitting on couch in the background
Sebastian Raab, Product Manager at Tractive

“It’s pretty difficult tracking every minute of your pet’s sleep. You can watch them run around and play – but it’s not the same during naptime.

But with a Sleep Alert, you can quickly check if there’s been a significant change in your pet’s sleep patterns.

If they’re continuously waking up more than usual or just sleeping less well than before, it could be a sign that something’s wrong.”

– Sebastian Raab, Product Manager at Tractive & occasional pet-sitter
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What else you can catch on early to with a Sleep Tracker

Besides seizures, there are a whole range of health issues that can disrupt your dog’s sleep. Including:

  • Pain – whether from arthritis, dental issues, or even gastrointestinal issues
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Sleep disordered breathing, including sleep apnea
  • Anxiety
  • Stress
  • Itchiness (from a skin infection, including from ticks)
  • Cognitive dysfunction syndrome – especially in senior dogs

Left untreated, these can worsen your dog’s health over time – leading to heart disease, diabetes, and worsened physical and cognitive decline.

⚠️ And even worse – your dog might not draw attention to any sickness, infection, or injury they’re facing. (It’s simply what their ancestors might’ve done, i.e., masking any signs of discomfort to prevent themselves from becoming prey to other wild animals.)

Which means, it’s easy to miss out on these signs until it’s too late.

A girl comforting her dog at a vet clinic

💡 That’s why with a Sleep Tracker, you can catch on to these sleep disturbances early – and take action by getting your dog to a vet, before their condition takes a turn for the worse.

Which means a longer, happier, healthier life with your dog by your side.

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Got a dog shaking while sleeping? Here’s what to watch out for

A dog twitching in sleep isn’t always a cause for concern. In fact, much of the time, it’s completely normal – plus, it could mean your buddy is busy enjoying a dream. (Most likely featuring you!)

In fact, the reason your dog might be shaking or twitching while asleep could simply be due to:

  • Their brain working while they’re asleep, “shutting down” their muscles and preventing them from running or playing
  • Their age, with adult dogs twitching less than puppies or senior dogs. (Whose brains might still be developing – or weakening with age.)
  • Their sleeping position, with dogs lying stretched out or on their side likely to twitch more.
  • The room temperature, which might cause your dog to twitch if they’re feeling cold.
  • A loud noise in their sleeping environment, which they might catch on to even while asleep
A dog napping on a couch next to a young girl and woman

But on the less brighter side, a dog twitching in sleep could also be due to serious health conditions – especially if prolonged or accompanied with symptoms like a stiff body and labored breathing. Including:

  • Neurological conditions, like seizures
  • Pain (especially from mobility-affecting conditions like arthritis)
  • Anxiety or stress
  • Infection or poisoning
  • Heart, liver, kidney, or blood sugar issues

💡And one of the quickest and most effective ways to catch on to these health issues early – before they worsen? Tracking your dog’s sleep and learning their sleep patterns with the help of a dedicated pet Sleep Monitor.

Which is why dog parents around the world – just like you – are investing in our lifesaving technology.

So they can take an active role in their buddy’s health and well-being – and help them live a longer, happier, healthier life together.

packaging of the Tractive GPS DOG tracker

Stay on top of your dog’s wellness

See how they’re doing at a glance with Wellness Score. Set goals. Compare with dogs like yours. Monitor sleep. Detect issues and keep them healthy.

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Still curious about dogs’ dreamtime adventures? Check out this video by BrainCraft, featuring Luna the Labradoodle!

And if you’ve liked this post, share it with a friend or loved one – and let’s help build a safer, kinder world for our furry friends together.