Dog Shaking In His Sleep: What You Need To Know About This Common Behavior

Last Updated: 8 months ago

If you have noticed your dog shaking in his sleep, you might be concerned, but fortunately, in most cases, it is nothing really serious.

But there are a few different possibilities for what it could be and in some cases, it may be worth going to the vet.

Read on to learn more about why your puppy twitches while sleeping and when you should be worried about it.

But just be confident that it is most likely nothing serious. It’s just good to know what the possibilities are in case you have a rare case that is serious.

What Does It Mean When My Puppy Twitches While Sleeping?

Dog Shaking In His Sleep

There are a few different reasons your puppy is twitching while sleeping. The most common cause is just plain, simple dreaming, but there are other, less common causes that might be reasons for concern.

Here are some of the potential reasons your puppy shakes while sleeping:


As mentioned, this is the most common reason. Just like humans, dogs can dream. In the middle of a dream, a dog might twitch, tremble, or move their legs in a running motion.

They may even make a muffled barking sound. It’s sort of like a mild version of sleepwalking. They are just moving in response to their dream. This is nothing to worry about.


Remember, if you feel cold, your dog feels cold as well. Their fur coats may provide some protection, but they still need some warmth to sleep comfortably.

If your dog didn’t start trembling during sleep until winter, this is likely the reason. Even if they have shown signs of shaking while sleeping before, it’s a good idea to give them a blanket and a warm, cozy place to sleep.


Many dogs will tremble when they are hurt or in pain. If your dog is old and has recently started trembling, this may be a sign of arthritis.

If they have recently been injured or in an accident and started trembling shortly after, this is likely a sign of pain resulting from the accident. Both of these cases are worth taking to the vet. You want to make sure there is no internal damage or get arthritis treatments.


if trembling happens while they are awake or asleep, it may be a sign of illness.

Check for fever or runny eyes, as these are two other common symptoms of illness in dogs. It could also be a sign of nerve damage, but only if it is a fairly frequent occurrence (i.e., not just when he sleeps).

In most cases, it is one of the first two options. If it is just dreaming, there is nothing you need to do. If it’s likely related to the cold, you just need to make sure he has a warm place to sleep—perhaps snuggled up next to you in bed!

If it is one of the last two options, you will likely know. In a puppy, it is almost certainly not arthritis, but it may be injury or illness. If you notice other symptoms of illness (like fever and runny eyes), take them to the vet.

Likewise, if you suspect it might be an injury, examine your puppy for wounds or sore spots by gently coming through their fur with your fingers and pressing on their muscles.

What To Expect At The Vet

What To Expect at the Vet

If you do have a case where you need to go to the vet, make sure you are prepared for the process.

You shouldn’t just tell the vet, “My puppy is shaking while sleeping,” because they will most likely tell you it is just because he is dreaming and your trip will be a waste. Make sure that you start with other symptoms and include those later on the list.

If you suspect an injury, tell them if you noticed a wound or if you witnessed the injury take place. If you suspect illness, make sure you mention the other symptoms you have noticed so that they can make a more well-informed diagnosis.

The vet will likely ask you for a list of all the symptoms and ask if your puppy has ever had any other health problems. It is important to tell them about any known food or medicine allergies as well as any other special health information.

If you suspect the trembling might be the result of having eaten something strange, you also want to make sure you let them know this.

In some cases, you may need to spring for an X-ray to determine if everything is okay—especially in the case of injury or eating something they shouldn’t eat. This won’t be as expensive for a puppy as it is for a full-grown adult, but you should be prepared to pay for it if necessary.

If the injuries are severe or it has ingested something toxic, you will probably be looking at an overnight stay to help nurse your puppy back to health. As you probably expect, overnight hospital stays can get pricey.

You may want to call around to different vets in your area to find the one with the most affordable rates, just in case you need to get extra special care for your puppy.

Finally, if you aren’t sure what is making your puppy shake while sleeping, you can always just call your vet and ask if it is something you should be concerned about.


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