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Is It Normal for Dogs to Twitch in Their Sleep?

Dog sleeping on the kitchen floor in the sun

As dog parents, we’ve all spent time watching our four-legged friends sleep, sometimes getting a chuckle out of their tail wagging, muted barks, or amusing sleep positions. 

But what about when you notice your dog twitching in their sleep? Is that a normal part of canine slumber, or should it be a cause for concern? 

In this article, we will explore canine sleep patterns, including the phenomenon of twitching during sleep. By the end, you’ll better understand what’s normal and when it might be time to consult your veterinarian.

Understanding Canine Sleep Cycles

Just like humans, dogs experience different stages of sleep. However, the duration and distribution of these stages, and even the total sleep time, can greatly differ. The sleep cycle in dogs is divided into two main categories: NREM (Non-Rapid Eye Movement) sleep and REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep.

During NREM sleep, dogs enter a phase of rest and recuperation. This is where their bodies repair and grow. NREM is further broken down into light sleep and deep sleep stages. Then, they transition into REM sleep, where brain activity ramps up, and dreaming is believed to occur.

Compared to humans, dogs spend a larger portion of their sleep cycle in REM sleep. While humans may spend about 20 to 25 percent of their sleep in REM, dogs can spend up to 25 to 30 percent, with puppies spending even more time in REM as they develop and grow.

In terms of total sleep, dogs tend to sleep more than humans due to their polyphasic sleep pattern — meaning they sleep multiple times throughout the day and night. An adult dog might sleep between 12 to 14 hours a day, while puppies and older dogs require even more sleep, sometimes up to 18 to 20 hours a day.

What about dreams? Although we can’t know for certain if dogs experience dreams like we do, many scientists believe they do. 

The twitching and other movements we see during their REM sleep phase might very well be physical manifestations of their dreams. These could be as mundane as dreaming about their daily activities, like chasing a ball, or as fanciful as we might imagine.

Why Do Dogs Twitch in Their Sleep?

Seeing your dog twitching in their sleep might be a bit disconcerting at first, but it’s often a normal part of their sleep cycle. 

Dogs, like humans, experience REM sleep, a period of increased brain activity when dreams most likely occur. During REM sleep, the brain might send signals to the body resulting in involuntary movements, such as twitching, leg kicks, or even muted barks.

These movements can be likened to us humans “living” our dreams. If your dog peacefully sleeps and occasionally twitches, they might just be deep in a dream where they’re chasing squirrels or playing fetch in the park.

Seeing their legs moving in a running motion gives us the idea that our pup is running in an open field, playing, and having a good time. So, typically, seeing your dog twitch during sleep is no cause for alarm — it’s often a sign of normal, healthy sleep.

When Should I Worry About My Dog’s Twitching?

While occasional twitching during sleep is generally normal, there are instances when it could signal a potential health issue. It’s essential for pet parents to understand what to watch out for and when to consult a veterinarian.

Excessive twitching, particularly if it’s accompanied by other unusual behaviors such as vocalizations, extreme restlessness, or difficulty waking, might be a cause for concern. Similarly, if twitching occurs when your dog is awake or you notice an increase in the frequency or intensity of twitching episodes, it’s a good idea to consult a vet.

Seizures could also be mistaken for sleep twitching, so understanding the difference is crucial. Unlike normal sleep twitching, seizures can occur whether a dog is asleep or awake and are often followed by a period of confusion or disorientation.

Another red flag is if the twitching is accompanied by other signs of discomfort or pain when awake, such as limping, restlessness, or decreased appetite.

You know your dog best. If something doesn’t feel right, consulting with your veterinarian is always a good idea. They can provide a thorough evaluation and guide you toward the appropriate steps to ensure your dog’s health and well-being.

How Do I Know If My Dog Is Having a Seizure?

By understanding what a dog’s seizure looks like, you can ensure your pup is just having a dream and not a medical emergency. 

Recognizing the signs of a seizure in your dog can be crucial to ensuring their health and well-being. Seizures are sudden, uncontrolled episodes of abnormal brain activity that can lead to changes in your dog’s behavior or physical movements.

Here are some common signs of a seizure in dogs:

  • Sudden Collapse: Your dog might suddenly fall to the ground and be unable to move.
  • Stiffening: During a seizure, your dog’s body might become rigid or stiff.
  • Jerking or Twitching: You might see your dog’s body, legs, or even just one part of their body jerk or twitch involuntarily.
  • Loss of Consciousness: Some dogs may lose consciousness during a seizure.
  • Drooling or Foaming at the Mouth: Excessive salivation can occur during a seizure episode.
  • Chewing or Biting at the Air: Some dogs might appear to be chewing gum or biting at invisible objects.
  • Involuntary Urination or Defecation: A dog might lose control of their bodily functions during a seizure.
  • Post-Seizure Behavior: After the seizure, dogs might appear disoriented, confused, or temporarily blind. They might also be unsteady on their feet.

If your dog experiences a seizure, it’s important to stay calm. Do not attempt to restrain your dog during the seizure, and keep them away from objects that could cause injury. Always contact your veterinarian or an emergency pet clinic immediately if your dog has a seizure, even if it’s their first one.

Remember, seizures can be mistaken for other conditions, such as twitching during sleep, so understanding the signs and knowing when to seek veterinary help is crucial for your dog’s well-being. If you notice any changes in your dog’s behavior, don’t hesitate to consult your vet.

Can CBD Help With Your Dog’s Sleep Quality?

You might have heard about CBD’s potential benefits for pets. While there is ongoing research into the effects of CBD on animals, studies and anecdotal reports suggest it might help with various aspects of pet health, including sleep quality.

CBD, or cannabidiol, is a compound derived from hemp that interacts with the endocannabinoid system present in all mammals. This system plays a role in various bodily functions, including sleep regulation. By interacting with this system, CBD might support your pet’s sleep patterns and overall quality.

At ElleVet, we take a science-first approach to our CBD pet products. Every product is backed by rigorous scientific research and testing to ensure safety and effectiveness. We are committed to providing reliable, evidence-based information to help you make the best decisions for your pet’s wellness.

Choosing the Right CBD Product for Your Pet

The ElleVet product range is designed with your pet’s wellness in mind. Our CBD and CBDA products can easily be incorporated into your dog’s diet. 

We offer chews and oils that can be given with food for optimal absorption. If your pet is not a fan of the taste or smell of CBD oil, our high bioavailability capsules might be a better choice.

The high bioavailability of ElleVet’s gels means that a larger proportion of the active ingredients is effectively absorbed by your pet’s body, potentially resulting in more noticeable benefits. It’s important to remember that every dog is unique, and responses to CBD can vary. Always consult your veterinarian before introducing any new supplements to your pet’s diet.

Some Twitches Are Good Twitches

Understanding your dog’s sleep patterns and behaviors can help you ensure their health and well-being. Twitching during sleep is often a normal part of the canine sleep cycle, but it’s crucial to know when it might signal a potential health issue.

You shouldn’t “jump” your dog awake or suddenly wake them up from this deep REM sleep, as it could create disorientation. And let’s be honest; you wouldn’t want to be jolted awake in the middle of the night. If you’d like to wake them up and check their well-being, try gently saying their name or making a gentle sound to get their attention. 

At ElleVet, we’re committed to supporting pet parents with factual, evidence-based information. We believe in the potential of CBD as a supplement for supporting pet wellness and offer a range of rigorously tested, science-backed products.

Your pet’s wellness is always our top priority.

Sources:

What Happens During NREM Sleep? | Sleep Foundation

Cannabidiol (CBD): What we know and what we don’t | Harvard Health 

Why do our eyes move when we sleep? | BBC Science

12 Facts about Sleep Inertia | Valley Sleep Center 

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