Why Do Dogs Whimper in Their Sleep?

Among many other human-like characteristics sleepy whimpering is the one that makes you wonder whether dogs have such vivid dreams as we do probably even more so.

When the dog is technically awake but sleepy, you might hear whimpering due to boredom or anxiety. Whimpering is frequently accompanied by twitching and while being a seemingly benign issue it sometimes requires closer attention because some of the theories we are going to describe might come as a surprise.

Dogs spend almost half of the day sleeping, and puppies and elderly canines even more. Their underdeveloped brain stem responsible for sending muscle-relax signals is less efficient in keeping their bodies calm. Comforting your puppies when they are showing this behavior positively reinforces them to keep whining anytime they need attention, thus the problem just becomes more irritating.

After a seizure, the animals seem disoriented and tend to breathe hard and drool a lot. If you are suspecting that seizure episodes are the problem for your dog whimpering in sleep, talk to your veterinarian as soon as possible. Older painful whimpers are seen a lot more because more than one joint is affected and the illness is vastly progressed.

Its very hard for a dog in pain to have a good nights sleep and get the rest he needs and deserves. When you think there is a chance that pain is the reason for your dog whimpering in sleep take him to the vet for a thorough check-up. Rule out pain as a possible cause before you continue to investigate other reasons for whimpering in sleep.

Dogs get bloated for many reasons bad food, suboptimal feeding schedule, and foreign bodies can all contribute to excessive gas accumulation. When the gas builds up to a point where the stomach and intestines cannot be distended any further the discomfort is unbearable. A bloating dog will have a hard time sleeping, especially if he lies directly on the abdomen.

Non-too-serious cases of bloat can also make your dog whimper from abdominal discomfort while sleeping. If your dog has a problem digesting the food you can turn to a bland diet like cooked rice and boiled chicken or ask your vet about other possible feeding options. All dogs need their regular daily exercise to get enough physical and mental engagement and stimulation.

Boredom can be expressed when everyone goes to sleep and the dog starts whining and whimpering for no obvious reason. Some dogs express these emotions with their eyes closed so it may seem like they are sleeping, but actually, they are widely awake. Once you start talking to your dog or let him out in the yard to run around the whimpering will stop so you will know what the problem was in the first place.

Separation anxiety is a common problem and instead of opting for medications right away, you should start training right away if you notice symptoms. Many of the reasons we described like dreams, loneliness, anxiety, storms, pain, discomfort, and fear can trigger your dog to start crying all of a sudden at night. Although you cant be sure what happened exactly with only one crying incident, closely observing repetitive episodes can give you an idea of what to suspect according to the symptoms we mentioned before.

Bad dreams make people annoyed, distressed, fearful, and anxious once they are awake. If the dog wakes up right away it was just a dream and you need to start talking softly and reassure him that it was just a startle.

Why does my dog whimper when sleeping?

All dogs’ cries are attempts to get their humans’ attention. Dogs who sleep alone at night and have a tendency to cry are often expressing concern about being separated from the rest of their pack.

Is it bad when dogs whine in their sleep?

So, when you notice your dog crying or whining while asleep, it is perfectly okay to think that it is sad, perhaps dreaming, or perhaps overjoyed. This is us putting meaning into a dog’s behavior.

Should I wake my dog up from a bad dream?

The general consensus is that it’s NOT a good idea to wake up a dreaming dog –even if that dream is a nightmare. Dogs have similar sleep patterns as humans. That means they get the most rest during their REM sleep cycle. … Waking up your dog during a dream rips them out of that important REM sleep.

How do you know if your dog is having a bad dream?

If your dog is simply paddling their legs and making noises of excitement—they’re probably having a good dream, most likely about dinner! But if your dog is whining, crying or growling, then they may be having a bad dream, in which they feel threatened or anxious.

Youve probably heard a lot of people say that their dogs are very much like them, fully capable of voicing out their concerns except that they do it in an entirely different way. While this may have some truth to it, we cannot escape the fact that the meanings we put into what we observe in our dogs are OUR own perceptions. They do not necessarily reflect what the dog really has in its mind. So, when you notice your dog crying or whining while asleep, it is perfectly okay to think that it is sad, perhaps dreaming, or perhaps overjoyed. This is us putting meaning into a dogs behavior. What does it truly mean? Join us as we explore the many possibilities of this peculiar behavior in dogs.

REM sleep is generally recognized as the bodys way of trying to repair itself, replenish lost nutrients and reserves, and prepare for another day. Depending on the intensity of the interaction in these dreams, the brain can be stimulated in such a way that it also sends electrical impulses to the different muscles of the body.

From the moment your dog enters the slow-wave phase to the time the REM stage is completed, this will take about 30 to 45 minutes. For instance, if you notice your dog moving or even twitching its legs while sleeping it is possible that it is dreaming about running in the backyard or even in a wide-open field, chasing perhaps a rabbit, squirrel, or any other small prey. Your dog may have an injury that you are not completely aware of such as a brewing infection or inflammation in one part of its body that is not normally seen.

It is also possible that there is already a tumor starting to encroach the surrounding tissues, causing pain as the mass compresses on nerve endings. If you hear grunts or unusual movements in your dogs chest or tummy, it is often an indication that it is dreaming. It is important to keep in mind that the REM stage of sleep is full of energy as depicted by its increased brainwave activity.

Many dog owners have chuckled as they watched their dogs crying, whining and kicking in their sleep, and wondered if their dogs dream. Dogs, like other mammals, do dream, and crying occurs during REM sleep.

If your dog is crying as if she’s in distress rather than just making small whimpering noises, she may be having a nightmare.

As I write this, my dog is napping next to me. Every once in a while, shell twitch in her sleep; her eyes, nose, lips, and feet moving as if shes dreaming about chasing something.

His breathing will become shallow and irregular, there may be muscle twitches, and his eyes might move behind closed lids because the dog is looking at the dream images as if they were real. When people are awakened during this rapid eye movement or REM sleep phase, they usually report that they were dreaming.

Pointers , for instance, point, and English Springer Spaniels exhibit flushing behavior during REM sleep. Those whimpers, tiny howls, and barks tug at our heartstrings, and many owners are tempted to wake their dogs from a possible nightmare. If you feel the need to wake a sleeping dog, its better to call his name loudly or make a noise, such as dropping an object on the floor.

Seizing dogs limbs, on the other hand, tend to be rigid and stiffer, with more violent movement.

Causes for Dog Whimpering in Sleep

Dogs never whine and whimper in their sleep without a cause.The reason might not be noticeable or relevant to the dog’s health and well-being, but it’s still there.Thankfully, most cases are nothing to worry about.Whimpering is frequently accompanied by twitching and while being a seemingly benign issue it sometimes requires closer attention because some of the theories we are going to describe might come as a surprise.

Dreaming

Dogs spend almost half of the day sleeping, and puppies and elderly canines even more.The phases of a dog’s sleeping cycle are very similar to human ones so you might expect your dog to go through deep sleep and the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) phase.Whimpering while sleeping happens during the REM phase because this is the period when they dream.The phase repeats every 30 minutes for smaller dogs and every 45 minutes for large breeds.During this time smaller pups dream for a couple of minutes and larger ones for 5-10 minutes.Whimpering, crying, and even growling is quite normal when there is a peak in brain activity.Even though it may appear violent or uncomfortable it doesn’t necessarily mean that your dog is having a nightmare.One can never be sure what our beloved furry friends are dreaming about.We can only guess they are reliving some casual situations that happened throughout the day.Even if it’s a scary dream the activity should go uninterrupted because dreaming contributes to healthy mental activity.An average-sized dog has his first dream approximately 20 minutes after falling asleep.When the dream starts the breathing becomes irregular and shallow, the muscles start to twitch and the eyes move fast behind the closed eyelids.

Puppy Behavior

Whimpering and whining in sleep is an expected puppy behavior.Puppies are loudest the first week or two after they get separated from their mothers and littermates.The cause of the whimpering is the need for attention and company.Puppies can also get especially twitchy in their sleep – a lot more than adult dogs.Their underdeveloped brain stem responsible for sending muscle-relax signals is less efficient in keeping their bodies calm.Excessive twitching and puppy whimpering go away on their own eventually.I know it’s hard to ignore the whining but you should refrain from reacting.Comforting your puppies when they are showing this behavior positively reinforces them to keep whining anytime they need attention, thus the problem just becomes more irritating.

Seizure Episodes

Twitching and vocalizing while sleeping can be symptoms of seizures and other disorders of the nervous system.While the type of whimpering can’t help you distinguish dreaming from seizures, the intensity of twitching can.Kicking and paddling legs in seizing dogs are a lot more rigid and stiffer and with that, the movements appear a lot more violent.Some dogs defecate and urinate while experiencing a sleeping seizure which is rarely a case in dreaming dogs.After a seizure, the animals seem disoriented and tend to breathe hard and drool a lot.If you are suspecting that seizure episodes are the problem for your dog whimpering in sleep, talk to your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Painful Medical Issues or Discomfort

Pain causes dogs to whine obsessively.When older dogs with chronic joint pain or other dogs with any sort of painful condition lay down against a surface putting extra pressure on the point of pain they whimper in their sleep.Older painful whimpers are seen a lot more because more than one joint is affected and the illness is vastly progressed.It’s very hard for a dog in pain to have a good night’s sleep and get the rest he needs and deserves.When you think there is a chance that pain is the reason for your dog whimpering in sleep take him to the vet for a thorough check-up.Rule out pain as a possible cause before you continue to investigate other reasons for whimpering in sleep.One of the most uncomfortable health problems in dogs is bloat.Dogs get bloated for many reasons – bad food, suboptimal feeding schedule, and foreign bodies can all contribute to excessive gas accumulation.Some dogs are intolerant to allergic to certain types of food and can get bloated very quickly.When the gas builds up to a point where the stomach and intestines cannot be distended any further the discomfort is unbearable.A bloating dog will have a hard time sleeping, especially if he lies directly on the abdomen.The condition is very serious and can turn into a disaster very quickly.Bloat in dogs is an emergency that needs to be attended to as soon as possible.Non-too-serious cases of bloat can also make your dog whimper from abdominal discomfort while sleeping.Feeding dogs low-quality food or food that’s hard to digest just before bedtime can produce such symptoms.If your dog has a problem digesting the food you can turn to a bland diet like cooked rice and boiled chicken or ask your vet about other possible feeding options.

Boredom

All dogs need their regular daily exercise to get enough physical and mental engagement and stimulation.Sadly, many owners can’t meet their dog’s needs for sufficient exercise.Even house dogs must enjoy at least 30 minutes of exercise (doesn’t always have to be waking, your dog can swim for exercise too).It’s likely for your dog to get bored by his daily routines if you don’t take him out to play often enough.Boredom can be expressed when everyone goes to sleep and the dog starts whining and whimpering for no obvious reason.Some dogs express these emotions with their eyes closed so it may seem like they are sleeping, but actually, they are widely awake.Once you start talking to your dog or let him out in the yard to run around the whimpering will stop so you will know what the problem was in the first place.It’s needless to say that more frequent exercise routines will solve the problem when boredom is the cause.If you have a puppy, check my article to see how much exercise is safe for puppies.

Improper Training

Dogs can keep on whining and whimpering during the night throughout their whole lives if they haven’t been trained to stop.Most dogs stop as they get older, but some don’t. Enrolling whimpery-dogs in behavioral classes early on can put an end to the problem.

Is My Dog Having a Bad Dream?

Bad dreams make people annoyed, distressed, fearful, and anxious once they are awake.Unfortunately, there is no way to tell whether your dog had a bad dream or a regular dream if he whimpered, cried, or growled while sleeping.Even when they wake up and you can sense anxiety and alertness in them, it’s not a guarantee that the dog was having a nightmare.

Dreaming Dogs

Dreaming occurs during REM sleep, a time of deep sleep during which the eyes move rapidly, producing dreams. The hippocampus, a portion of the brain dedicated to dreams, emotion and memory, functions very similarly in dogs and humans, so there’s good reason to believe dog dreams function like human dreams.

Sleep Paralysis

During dreaming, the body enters into a state of sleep paralysis that prevents dogs—and people, and all other animals that dream—from, say, actually jumping up in the air or doing other things they are doing in their dreams. However, sometimes sleep paralysis doesn’t completely freeze the body, and this is why dogs‘ legs may twitch or why they may cry and whimper. The fact that your dog is crying doesn’t necessarily mean she’s in distress; her cries are more like the mumbles of human sleep-talkers—half-developed vocalizations during sleep.

What Dogs Dream

Dog behaviorist Stanley Coren suggests that dogs probably dream about daily dog activities, which explains why dogs so often run, whimper and bark in their sleep. Dreaming plays an important role in encoding memories and coping with daily stress, so dogs may dream about events of the previous day or things that happened long in the past. Because dogs are highly driven by smell, their dreams may have more smell-related content than human dreams.

Why Do Animals Twitch in Their Sleep?

Your dog is not the only one who twitches in his sleep. As it turns out, many animals experience this phenomenon.Puppies and other infant animals are especially twitchy in their sleep. Like puppies, senior dogs also twitch more than middle-aged adult dogs. One theory is when the dog is asleep, his brain stem (especially the pons and medulla) sends signals to relax muscles, and this prevents your dog from actually jumping up to chase that dream squirrel. Perhaps this part of the brain stem is underdeveloped in puppies and less efficient in old dogs.Regardless of the reasoning, even middle-aged dogs twitch, which means there’s definitely something going on in your dog’s head when he’s asleep. These twitches are believed to be associated with dreams.

Do Dogs Dream?

Since we can’t exactly ask our dogs if they dream and what they dream about, science has come up with some interesting ways to determine if dogs and other animals dream.A 2001 study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) found that laboratory rats trained to run in a maze exhibited similar brain activity during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep to that when they were actually in the maze, leading researchers to conclude that the rats were dreaming about the maze they ran in earlier. The data was so precise, in fact, that researchers could determine where in the maze the rat was dreaming about just by looking at the unique signature of the rat’s brain activity.Stanley Coren, neuropsychological researcher, has studied the sleep cycles of dogs and says, “At the structural level, the brains of dogs are similar to those of humans. Also, during sleep, the brain wave patterns of dogs are similar to that of humans and go through the same stages of electrical activity observed in humans — all consistent with the idea that dogs are dreaming.”Coren suggests that you can determine when your dog is dreaming. About 20 minutes after an average-sized dog falls asleep, his first dream should start. His breathing will become shallow and irregular, there may be muscle twitches, and his eyes might move behind closed lids because the dog is looking at the dream images as if they were real. When people are awakened during this rapid eye movement or REM sleep phase, they usually report that they were dreaming.

What Do Dogs Dream About?

We can’t know exactly what dogs dream about, but researchers have observed that certain breeds of dogs tend to perform breed-specific behavior in their sleep when the pons is inactivated. Pointers, for instance, point, and English Springer Spaniels exhibit flushing behavior during REM sleep.Harvard psychologist Deirdre Barrett, past president of the International Association for the Study of Dreams, suggests it’s likely that dogs dream about their everyday experiences, just like humans. “Since dogs are generally extremely attached to their human owners, it’s likely your dog is dreaming of your face, your smell, and of pleasing or annoying you,” she says.Learn more about whether dogs dream.