Dogs have similar sleep patterns to humans, but they happen during smaller intervals, meaning more wake-ups from REM sleep. This can show itself in the form of twitching during sleep.
My Dog Twitches During Sleep – Should I Worry?
Is there anything more enchanting than a pup peacefully dozing at your feet? And is there anything more startling than if she starts kicking and yelping?
It can feel like an emergency the first time you see it, but a dog twitching in sleep is completely natural.
The reason for those movements come down to the way dogs sleep, and although there are extreme cases that are cause for concern, most of the time it’s nothing to worry about.
A Dog’s Sleep Cycle
Think about how humans sleep for a moment. We hit the sack, start to feel drowsy, and (hopefully) fall asleep within 15 minutes or so.
From there, we have an average of 90 minutes of non-REM sleep followed by a short period of REM sleep. The cycle repeats itself throughout the night, with longer REM sessions the further into the night you go.
When a dog goes to sleep it follows the same pattern, only the intervals are much shorter. This may help explain why your dog is twitching in her sleep.
Studies using the same sleep recording methods as those used in human studies found that the canine sleep cycle includes an average of 12 minutes of non-REM sleep followed by 6 minutes of REM.
When you consider the fact that dogs sleep more than humans overall, that makes for a lot of jumping in and out of consciousness.
Why Is My Dog Twitching In His Sleep?
Okay, dogs are light sleepers. So how does that explain those sleepytime movements?
The reason why this matters has to do with the nature of REM sleep. A section of the brain called the pons can also impact how much your dog twitches in its sleep.
REM Sleep In Dogs
Like humans, when dogs enter REM sleep their brain activity changes and their imaginations run wild. Normally, the brain makes sure the body can’t move at this point, but during the transition to wakefulness dogs still have one paw in dreamland. The other can gain the ability to move.
Now imagine your little pup is chasing a stick or digging a glorious hole in the backyard garden when his body starts to wake up. He may think it’s all real and kick or whine for a few seconds before waking up and falling back into deep sleep shortly after.
During the REM sleep cycle, an area of the brain called the pons controls muscle movement. However, sometimes it’s temporarily ineffective, leading to your dog twitching in sleep with his eyes open or face twitching.
This problem is more prevalent in young pups (where the pons is underdeveloped) and older dogs (where it’s not as effective).
Is My Dog Twitching in Her Sleep or Having a Seizure?
Still a little worried about your pup’s health? One of the ways to distinguish twitching from seizures is the length of the episode.
A good rule of thumb is that if your dog is continuously convulsing for 30 seconds or so, you should take them to the vet. However, if your pooch simply kicks the air a few times, it’s considered perfectly normal.
If you think there may be something wrong with your furry friend, observe them during daytime nap times or even at night. Is it just the occasional twitch, or is it taking longer to subside?
Sometimes, it’s too hard for an owner to tell whether their dog is having a dream or a seizure. When in doubt, you can take a video to show to your vet and they’ll be able to give you a more definitive answer.
How To Improve My Dog’s Sleep
Many humans welcome their four-legged friends onto their own bed at night. But sometimes, sleeping with your dog can cause issues for both of you. It can actually wake you and your pet more often, creating stress and anxiety that could potentially cause even more twitching.
So while co-sleeping does work well for many humans and their dogs, it’s important for dogs to have their own beds that are entirely their own.
Read more Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) in Non-Brachycephalic Dogs
Putting your pooch in a separate bed can help them sleep peacefully with less disturbances and more comfort. Our dog bed may be a good option for a small or medium dog looking for a sturdy, soothing place to rest their paws.
Another crucial way to improve your dog’s mental wellbeing is to give them regular exercise. This will help relieve another source of stress that can negatively impact sleep.
Other Things To Pay Attention To
One final outcome to look out for if you notice a lot of activity from your puppy during sleep is that they may have issues unrelated to seizures.
Although it’s very rare, studies have shown that dogs can have REM sleep behavior disorder that results in violent outbursts during slumber.
This could lead to your dog snapping at or biting nearby people. The good news is, while this disorder can be frightening, it can be treated. You’ll want to work with your vet to develop a treatment plan if you find that your pup may be suffering from this illness.
In general, the far more likely explanation for any twitching you see from your dog during sleep is that they’re drifting in and out of normal sleep. But as always, it’s a good idea to take a video and show it to your vet if you’re really concerned.
Dogs have similar sleep patterns to humans, but they happen during smaller intervals, meaning more wake-ups from REM sleep. This can show itself in the form of twitching during sleep.
Stress can sometimes be another factor that makes the movements more frequent, so regular exercise and access to a soothing bed like the Pupper Pod can help.
If your dog is twitching in their sleep, it’s usually a reaction to something happening during a dream. As long as your dog isn’t twitching for a prolonged amount of time, you can rest easy knowing that in general, this canine behavior is completely normal.
— Update: 10-02-2023 — cohaitungchi.com found an additional article Dog Muscle Spasms: What You Need to Know (and Do) from the website topdogtips.com for the keyword my dog is jerking every few seconds while awake.
Spasms in your dog’s muscles may occur as a localized issue. For instance, if a dog hurts a leg, that same leg may experience some involuntary movement known as dog muscle spasms. These may also occur due to misfiring in the nervous system, particularly in the brain, where voluntary and involuntary movement is controlled. Therefore, some conditions that cause dog muscle spasms are directly related to neurological disorders, which often cause seizures.
Both non-epileptic seizures and epileptic seizures in dogs are made up of many recurring muscle spasms, the root of which is based on electrical activity in the brain. However, dog muscle spasms can and do occur outside of seizures, too. When they do occur independently, it is typically a symptom of a less severe medical condition or health issue. It’s important to know the specific cause of dog muscle spasms before treating this condition yourself. Here’s everything you must know about it.
ALSO READ: Epileptic Seizures in Dogs – Symptoms and Treatments
Dog Muscle Spasms
What You Need to Know (and Do)
Causes of Dog Muscle Spasms
There is no single reason for dog muscle spasms to occur, and each cause has its own set of symptoms and means of treatment.
1. REM Cycle Twitching
If you observe muscle twitching while your dog is asleep, there’s likely nothing to be concerned about. During the REM cycle, your dog’s deepest sleep is achieved. During this time, the animal’s brain experiences a higher level of activity, which could explain why some dogs (and people) often twitch in their sleep.
Research has proven that dogs dream, so they’re probably just chasing a squirrel around in dreamland; however if you suspect this is an adverse cause (like a seizure), attempt to wake your pet up carefully. If it isn’t a seizure, they’ll jolt right awake, but if they are experiencing a non-epileptic seizure, they’ll be much more difficult to awaken.
Dogs’ muscles, bones, veins, nerves, and cartilage all come together to form a complex system, which is why issues with muscles often coincide with or cause joint problems, just as worn cartilage can lead to muscle wasting or atrophy.
When the dog’s body experiences a damaged joint or muscle, the muscles surrounding it will cramp or stiffen, which can look like spasms and typically cause the dog to limp or change its gait. Additionally, head trauma which affects the brain’s ability to calibrate limb movement could lead to dog muscle spasms.
Although a rare side effect, low blood sugar in hypoglycemic canines may cause muscle spasms and seizures. It’s very uncommon, but sometimes diabetic dogs will experience muscle twitching and similar dog muscle spasm condition symptoms.
When a dog plays or runs a little too hard or too long, its muscles can suffer from heavy activity. Lactic acid, naturally produced by the overexerted muscle tissue, builds up and creates soreness and cramps in the dog’s body, just as it does in humans.
Fatigued, your pet’s muscles will twitch, but this will typically subside on its own and relatively quickly. Time spent outdoors without water, in addition to running or playing, will cause severe dehydration or heat stroke in dogs, which are also associated with seizures.
Toxicity is another word for poisoning and is common in dogs as they tend to sniff out items not intended for their consumption. Wobbling is a defining characteristic of canine toxicity but could be mistaken by pet owners to be dog muscle spasms. If gone without treatment, poisoning in dogs can lead to kidney failure and the nervous system’s over-activity, which both cause seizures in dogs.
Read more Chances of a Vaccinated Dog Getting Rabies
This is a well-known contagious virus that affects puppies and dogs without up-to-date vaccines and may result in symptoms like dog muscle spasms. Canine distemper can be spread in various ways, making it extremely easy for an unaffected dog to become infected. The dog doesn’t even have to interact closely with an infected animal to contract the distemper virus.
For this reason, doggie hotels, rescue organizations, and kennels always require up-to-date vaccinations of your pup, as even contact with a canine suffering distemper’s bedding or food bowl will spread distemper virus if not disposed of. An infected animal with viral contagion is dangerous to other dogs even before they begin to show symptoms.
Canine distemper virus affects the dog’s nervous and respiratory systems, among other organs. In particular, the virus’s attack on the canine’s nervous system is what causes seizures. It can lead to paralysis, dog muscle spasms being just a transitional period before more serious symptoms appear.
A condition rarely talked about; dystonia may be inherited or developed within dogs and severe neurological disorder. Its most common and recognizable symptom is chronic, involuntary (sometimes disabling) dog muscle spasms. A pet with dystonia is likely to experience anxiety and depressive disorders, often due to constant discomfort caused by the muscle twitching and contracting.
8. Canine Stress Syndrome (CSS)
Canine Stress Syndrome is a neurological disorder that certain breeds, such as Labrador Retrievers, are susceptible to. CSS is an uncommon yet hereditary condition and may only show symptoms due to psychological stress, sometimes referred to as hyperthermia syndrome in dogs.
Studies have shown that over-exercising dogs can also induce it, and it can be successfully treated if done in time and aggressively. Canine stress syndrome symptoms include anxiety, hyperthermia, and involuntary dog muscle spasms, as well as severe seizures.
Veterinary Care for Dog Muscle Spasms
Unless you’re uncertain whether the dog muscle spasms are no more than isolated twitching (such as a dog involuntarily moving while asleep – see above), contact your veterinarian immediately. You should especially seek an appointment if the spasms are constant and paired with vomiting or immobility.
At the vet’s office, you’re likely to be asked a series of questions as well as provide your animal’s medical history.
If epilepsy or any other neurological disorders are suspected, the vet and their staff will utilize Electroencephalogram (EEG) testing to observe and record the dog’s brain’s electric activity. If diagnosed with epilepsy, the vet will discuss dog antiepileptic drug therapy, which seeks not to cure the disorder but to stabilize the dog and reduce their seizure threshold as much as possible, therefore allowing them to lead a relatively normal life.
The staff may suspect that the muscle spasms is a result from poisoning, they will give your pet injections to induce vomiting (typically a drug called Apomorphine). They may also choose to utilize IV fluids to flush any toxicity from the dog’s major organs.
Whenever dog muscle spasms or seizures are present, veterinarian staff will run blood work to check enzyme levels of important internal organs. Other laboratory testing may include analysis of the urine, fecal matter, as well as spinal fluid. If a limp is present or you share information of a recent fall or other injuries, they’ll take x-rays and/or CT scans.
For non-epileptic episodes in dogs, the veterinarian may prescribe an anticonvulsant medication to be taken for a trial period, determining the pet’s responsiveness to the drug. The staff is also likely to suggest a change in your dog’s diet, replacing kibble full of chemicals and food dyes with all-natural ingredient-based meals. An elimination diet may be recommended, and most common foods for dogs with muscle spasms will usually be more holistic, organic human-grade, and the vet recommended brands.
At Home Care for Dog Muscle Spasms
With a diagnosis and advice from your dog’s veterinarian, you can now take the proper steps to alleviate discomfort and possibly even stop dog muscle spasms from occurring in the future.
A few things you can do while dog muscle spasms are occurring:
Gently massage and pet your dog.
Gentle pressure to a tight or inflamed muscle will help alleviate tenseness. Less tension means muscle spasms are less likely to occur again. There are several pet massage techniques and types that you can utilize.
Apply a cold compress
Icing an injured muscle restricts the blood vessels, helping ease inflammation and lowering the likelihood of current and future dog muscle spasms and related symptoms.
Remain calm and stay focused
Whether your dog is experiencing non-chronic muscle spasms or has been diagnosed with a seizure condition, it’s important to note that they are often not conscious during these events. While it may be scary for you to witness, you can find comfort in the fact that they don’t have to experience first-hand mentally.
Another comforting fact for pet owners is that spasms and/or seizures in dogs typically only last at most 60-80 seconds and at least 10 to 30 seconds. Dog seizures lasting five minutes or longer are considered life-threatening and are rare. Although not ideal, dogs suffering from conditions that may cause mild to severe muscle spasm fits are perfectly capable of living long, happy lives when given the proper care and/or medication.
Knowing this will help you remain calm should they experience a fit, which helps them stay calm and makes the experience less frightening for everyone involved.
How to Prevent Muscle Spasms in Dogs
Ensure your dog stays hydrated
Dehydration can exacerbate dog muscle spasms. Always keep a cool and full water bowl both in your yard and in the home. For senior dogs, or animals recovering from an injury that makes getting around more difficult, place water bowls in multiple locations around the house so they don’t have to travel far.
Read more How to Get Dog Pee and Other Pet Waste Out of Carpet
Chaperoning playtime with other dogs
Watch carefully when your dog interacts with others, whether at the dog park or in your own backyard with a dog they know very well. Chaperoning your pet’s social life will better your chances of observing injury or the potential for injury at the moment it occurs.
Know the signs
Knowing how an animal acts moments before a seizure occurs will help you prepare for future dog muscle spasm attacks. The most common four signs are:
- Excessive licking and/or pacing (a sign of nervousness)
READ NEXT: 5 Things to Do If Your Dog Is Paralyzed
Common Questions about Muscle Spasms in Dogs
If you still have lingering questions about muscle spasms in dogs, the following FAQs should help clear them up for you.
What Can I Give My Dog for Muscle Spasms?
You should always consult your dog’s vet before giving him medicine for muscle spasms. Some of the most common options include methocarbamol and diazepam. Methocarbamol is beneficial with muscle spasms from IVDD. Diazepam not only acts as a muscle relaxant but also calms your pooch.
Why Is My Dog Twitching All of a Sudden?
Muscle spasms aren’t the only potential reason for your dog twitching. He may also experience injuries, muscle strains, or other malfunctions that lead to ticks or tremors beneath your dog’s skin. Myoclonus, a muscle contraction disease, is one potential cause. A thiamine deficiency is another potential cause. Physical injury or a pinched nerve can also cause muscle spasms in dogs.
You should always consult a vet for veterinary treatment. This is to ensure that the cause of the muscle contractions is not life-threatening. Your vet will check the pup’s spinal cord and hind legs. In addition, they will search for neurological damage and physical injuries. He will find the underlying cause and confirm no serious issues like muscle damage or a slipped disc. Expect him to check for degenerative myelopathy, nerve damage, a pinched nerve, and physical injury. And they will check additional issues outside of the affected body part. He will also ask about lameness, depression, pain, or other issues related to the dog’s muscle spasms. Different recent injuries can cause similar tremors, so this diagnosis is important.
What Does It Mean When a Dog Starts Twitching?
Your dog twitching can be due to a medical cause, such as in the case of muscle contractions. If he is asleep, he may be twitching in his sleep. You can typically tell the difference between a dog’s muscle spasms or seizures and movements in a dream. Expect dreaming movements to last half a minute or less and be intermittent. This is normal muscle contraction. By contrast, if your dog is seizing, the movement will be more violent, and his limbs will be stiff and rigid. Either situation could be involuntary muscle movements.
How Do You Stop a Dog from Having Muscle Spasms?
You can use the above home remedies and veterinary treatments to reduce or prevent muscle spasms. Your dog’s vet will help you develop a plan that will likely include regular myotherapy sessions. A vet will treat the root cause of the issue after a proper diagnosis. Your vet may also suggest a more supportive diet, cold therapy, exercises or medicines to help with nerve function or physical therapy. They may tell you to stretch your dog’s limbs gently. Treatment will also depend on your dog’s fitness levels.
If you notice further spasms or muscle strain in the affected dog, contact your vet for additional treatment and further tests. Hopefully, you can avoid muscle spasms in the future for a long period.
Can Dehydration Cause Muscle Spasms in Dogs?
Yes, dehydration can be a cause. That is because a dog’s muscular system needs water to function. Without it, they aren’t able to contract properly. Luckily, it is easy to prevent dehydration-related spasms as you need to ensure your dog always has access to enough fluids. This is especially important after physical activity or if you notice your dog’s skin is dry.
How Much Does It Cost to Treat Muscle Spasms in Dogs?
The cost of treatment will depend on what your vet suggests. You can typically buy your canine companion electrolytes for about $10 to $24. Costs of medication, recent sprains, and other treatments vary. If you pay for a professional doggie massage, an hour will typically cost $55 to $75.
The overall cost for proper treatment depends on numerous factors. These including the affected nerve, the affected muscles, which muscle relaxants your vet suggests. You can use herbal muscle relaxers or pain relievers if there is a muscle injury.
If there is physical damage, notice other symptoms are present, whether there are localized twitches and your pup’s associated pain.
Expect extreme cases cost more to treat. Especially if the other symptoms have been at the affected area for a while and your dog is in pain.
Are Some Breeds More Likely to Shake than Others?
Certain dog breeds have a higher chance of tremors than others, with or without pain or additional symptoms. These include Weimaraners, springer spaniels, Samoyeds, Labradors, English bulldogs, Dalmatians, Doberman pinschers, and chow chows. These breeds still need to see the vet for issues with a dog’s muscular system, including localized twitches and pain.