Why Does My Dog Cry in His Sleep?

Do you notice your dog cries during sleep, whimpering or whining during their nap time or as they dream? There are many reasons why a dog may cry or whimper in its sleep, which is often not a cause for concern. You may also notice twitching or movements accompanying the crying, which is also common during REM sleep. While many instances of whining during your pet’s sleep cycle are not a concern, it’s essential to get familiar with the various reasons for your dog’s behavior.

Common Behavior for Puppies

Puppies tend to exhibit lots of whining and whimpering when they sleep, which is normal behavior. This activity may seem problematic for a new pet owner. However, it’s expected due to separation anxiety, especially if the puppy is not yet adapted to its new home or feels anxious if they think they’ve been left alone.

A whimper can be attention-seeking for puppies when they need company and comfort. Puppies miss their mother and siblings, which can take a few weeks to overcome once they move into their new home.

It’s not uncommon to experience a few sleepless nights with a new puppy while they learn to adjust to their new environment. When they whimper in their sleep, the part of their brain that sends relaxation signals isn’t fully developed, which is a muscle that keeps them calm. You’ll notice much twitching and crying in the first few weeks, though this activity will become less intense after one or two months.

two white dogs sleeping on floor

Medical Conditions or Discomfort

Chronic joint pain or injury can cause sleep interruptions and whimpers. Older dogs are most likely to exhibit this behavior, and they are at higher risk for developing conditions such as arthritis, hip disorders, and chronic pain.

Some sleeping positions can cause severe discomfort, increasing the amount of whining due to an inflamed joint or flare-up. When there’s a medical problem that requires treatment, your veterinarian can provide suggestions on making your pet comfortable, especially where chronic pain is a part of their health condition. It’s also helpful to provide extra cuddles and gently talk to your dog to soothe them as they fall asleep.

Symptoms of Dreaming

Dogs sleep a lot, nearly half of a day, and it’s normal for them to twitch, cry, and whimper during the REM sleep stage. Dogs have a sleeping cycle similar to humans, which means they experience a deep sleep and dream in the same way.

While most dogs are prone to making small whimpering sounds and cries, it’s also common to hear them cry or whine loudly, especially when they are in the middle of an intense dream, chasing an animal in the woods, or swimming.

Smaller dogs are more prone to this activity, as they experience the REM sleep phase more often, about once every thirty minutes, whereas larger dogs go through this dreaming phase every forty-five minutes. While some dogs can twitch aggressively or howl loudly, it’s normal for a sleeping dog, especially during the dreaming phase.

Symptoms of Seizures

In some cases, where there is a specific health condition, your dog may twitch or cry when they experience a seizure. Seizures are common when your pet has a nervous system disorder or a severe allergic reaction to food or the environment.

There are some differences between regular whining, paddling, and twitching during the sleep cycle and experiencing a seizure, where your dog’s legs and body may become stiff and aggressive. Some dogs may lose control of their bowels or bladder during a seizure.

While most dogs don’t have any serious problems that arise from crying or moving in their sleep, visiting a veterinarian is crucial if the symptoms become more severe. These include increased stiffness, difficulty breathing, and excessive drooling. In most cases, there are medical treatments that can help alleviate symptoms.

Seeking Attention and Boredom

When dogs whine or whimper in their sleep, it may signify that they are not stimulated enough through play and exercise. Often, dogs get bored, which may cause them to cry for attention, even as they sleep.

They may express their emotions with their eyes closed, which may seem like they’re asleep, though they’re just trying to get your attention. Regular exercise is a great way to keep your puppy or adult dog happy and enjoy the affection they need so they don’t feel ignored or experience boredom.

close up of two dog puppies sitting in brown bowl

Tips for Dealing with Dogs Who Whine During Their Sleep

If you’re concerned about your dog’s behavior during their sleep, there are several steps you can take to ensure your pet’s comfort and sense of security:

  • Visit your veterinarian to rule out any medical problems or conditions that can cause seizures or aggressive crying, twitching, or movements during the sleep cycle.
  • If you’re concerned about your dog’s movements during sleep, especially puppies, a puppy crate furnished with a cozy bed can help keep your dog feel safe and secure.
  • Talking gently with your puppy or senior dog, especially if they seem anxious or stressed, can help them sleep better, and avoid bad dreams, triggering cries and twitching.
  • Ensure your dog has a high-protein, nutritious, well-balanced diet and lots of exercise to avoid deficiencies that can contribute to health problems and other disturbances during sleep.

Summary

Dreaming dogs are likely to whine, cry, and move around during an intense subconscious experience, such as a bad dream. A new puppy with separation anxiety may twitch and cry more frequently, especially during the first month of adoption. In contrast, older dogs may whine from chronic pain and joint issues that develop as they age.

Overall, most whimpering and cries during your pet’s slumber aren’t a problem, especially during a deep sleep where they enter the REM sleep stage. Once you get used to your pet’s quirky sounds and twitching during sleep, you’ll know when there’s a significant change, which can hint at an underlying issue or a regular part of their sleeping behavior.

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