It can be quite strange to see your dog barking and twitching while asleep. While barking is a normal form of dog communication, it is concerning when they bark and twitch in their sleep.
The question is, why does dog barking and twitching in their sleep happen? Is it normal or is there something more to this?
Learn why dog barking and twitching in sleep happens, what to do about it and when to seek help.
Here’s why dog barking and twitching in sleep happens
Dog barking and twitching in sleep happen due to active dreaming, pain, separation anxiety, underlying medical conditions, and aging. It is not uncommon for dogs to bark and twitch in their sleep, and in most cases, the behavior is not a cause for concern, however, it can also be a sign of an underlying medical condition.
Is it normal for dogs to bark and twitch in their sleep?
Yes, it is normal for dogs to bark and twitch in their sleep, just as it is normal for humans to make small movements or sounds during sleep. It is also normal for dogs to move around and change positions during sleep, which can sometimes result in twitching or other small movements.
There are different reasons for dog barking and twitching in sleep but it is important to note that every dog is different and what may cause one dog to twitch in their sleep may not be the same for another.
Reasons for dog barking and twitching in sleep
Dogs do have dreams during their sleep, just like humans. Dogs, like humans, go through different stages of sleep which include the non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) stage and the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) stage. Dog dreaming, barking, and twitching typically occur during the REM stage of sleep.
This stage is characterized by rapid eye movements, an increase in brain activity, and muscle paralysis. During the REM sleep stage, dogs may show various behaviors, including crying, howling, growling or barking.
Dreams in dogs are thought to be similar to human dreams, in that they may include representations of the dog’s daily activities and experiences such as playing with toys or running in the park.
The dreams can be about various things including something exciting, stimulating, or frightening which could lead to a defensive bark and twitching.
Pain or discomfort
A dog barking and twitching in its sleep may also be due to an underlying medical condition. This includes but is not limited to:
- Infections cause fever, pain, and other symptoms that can disrupt a dog’s sleep and cause them to bark and twitch.
- Neurological disorders such as epilepsy, seizures, or a brain tumor, can cause twitching and vocalizations including barking and twitching during sleep.
- Pain or discomfort can cause a dog to bark or twitch in their sleep.
Underlying medical conditions
Pain or discomfort can also cause a dog to bark and twitch in their sleep in the same way that it can cause them to bark when they are awake.
When a dog experiences pain, they may make sounds as a way to communicate their discomfort. This can include whimpering, growling, twitching, howling, or barking, which can be vocalized in their sleep.
Therefore a dog that is experiencing pain or discomfort while they are sleeping may bark and twitch.
Separation anxiety is a common behavioral problem and can present in different ways, including barking, twitching, restlessness, destructive behavior, or house soiling. This occurs when a dog becomes anxious and distressed when they are left alone or separated from its owners.
This behavior may also occur during sleep, as a dog may dream about being separated from its owner and experience anxiety or distress in their dreams.
This will result in a dog barking and twitching in its sleep.
As dogs become older, they may experience changes in their sleep patterns, which include an increase in sleep disturbances. These changes can be due to a variety of factors, including changes in the brain, the onset of medical conditions, or the effects of medications.
Some of the signs that a senior dog may be experiencing sleep disturbances due to aging include:
- Being vocal during sleep including barking and twitching
- Restlessness or agitation when sleeping
- Increased waking up during the night
- Difficulty falling asleep and/or staying asleep
Older dogs may also experience age-related health conditions such as arthritis or other illnesses that cause discomfort or pain leading to barking and twitching in their sleep.
What to do when your dog is barking and twitching in sleep
It is recommended to do nothing when your dog is barking and twitching as they sleep. This is because waking them up is disruptive and will startle and confusing for them.
It is best to let them sleep and allow them to process their dreams naturally even if they seem to be having a nightmare. Monitor your dog’s behavior.
Waking them up is necessary for certain circumstances if the barking and twitching are becoming a problem such as causing a disturbance if you notice fast breathing, panting, or having trouble breathing.
In this case, wake them up gently by calling their name until they wake up. Do not touch your dog during this time because you might startle them and they might bite you.
When to seek help for a dog barking and twitching in sleep
While dog barking and twitching is common and normal in most cases, there are some situations where it is necessary to seek immediate medical attention.
A veterinarian should also be consulted for dog barking and twitching in sleep when:
The behavior is new or sudden: If your dog’s barking and twitching in sleep is sudden or out of character, it could be a sign that there’s an underlying medical issue.
The behavior is accompanied by other signs of illness: If your dog is exhibiting other signs of illness, such as fever, restlessness, or behavior changes in behavior when they are awake, consult your veterinarian.
The behavior is causing a disturbance: Consult with your veterinarian if the barking and twitching in sleep is excessive and disrupt your household or neighbors.
The behavior is persistent: Also talk to your veterinarian if your dog’s barking and twitching in sleep is persistent.
What not to do for a dog barking and twitching in sleep
Avoid the following when you see your dog barking and twitching in sleep:
Do not wake them up: Do not wake up your dog because you may startle them and disrupt their sleep cycle, causing them to feel more anxious or disoriented.
Also, if your dog is barking and twitching due to a nightmare or a stressful dream, waking them up suddenly can increase their anxiety and stress levels.
It is important to let sleeping dogs lie and avoid waking them up unless it is absolutely necessary for their health and well-being.
Do not ignore the behavior: Barking and twitching in sleep are common behaviors in most dogs and in most cases, there is no cause for concern. However, it does not mean you should ignore the behavior.
It is important to keep an eye on your dog’s general behavior and health. Consult your veterinarian if you notice other concerning behaviors if the behavior is new or if your dog acts strangely when awake.
Do not give them any medication: Do not give any medications to your dog for barking and twitching without consulting your veterinarian.
If your dog’s sleep barking and twitching is due to a medical condition such as anxiety or due to pain, your veterinarian may recommend medications to help manage the symptoms.
It is important to follow your veterinarian’s recommendations and not give your dog any medications without their guidance.
Do not punish them: It is important to keep in mind that your dog does not consciously realize that they are barking and twitching while they are sleeping, so do not punish them for it.
Punishing them will make them more anxious and confused, making the issue worse.
Key Takeaway: Dog barking and twitching in sleep
Barking and twitching in sleep are normal and common dog behaviors, but they can be due to an underlying medical or behavioral problem.
Do not hesitate to consult your veterinarian so that they can determine the possible cause and rule out any underlying conditions. Also, seek medical care if they present signs of sickness or discomfort.
By understanding the cause of your dog’s barking and twitching in their sleep, you can take the right steps to address the behavior.