Dog Screaming in Sleep: Causes, Concerns, and How to Help?

Dogs differ from each other in their sleeping pattern. It’s common for your pup to sleep throughout the night. However, he may sometimes get restless and wake in between, especially if there are any distractions around. Now, have you seen your dog behaving weirdly in sleep? Maybe he shrieked or screamed or began to whine out of the blue. Perhaps he had a bad dream or a nightmare.

Yes, dogs have nightmares as well, just as we do. His stress or anxiety in his waking hours may culminate in his dreams. It may be a physical problem as well. The reasons could be umpteen. Let’s look into the causes of your dog screaming in his sleep. Also, let’s figure out how you can help your dog then.

5 Probable Causes of Dog Screaming in Sleep

Your dog could either let out a whine or cry or begin screaming in his sleep. Does he do it quite often, or is it just once in a while? Let’s check out the probable reasons why your dog may scream, whine or cry in his sleep.

1. He Might Be Having Nightmares

He Might Be Having Nightmares

You may be astonished, but dogs, too, have nightmares, just as we humans. Stanley Coren, known for his work on dogs’ history, intelligence, and mental abilities, mentioned that dogs dream and may even have bad dreams or nightmares like their human friends.

Their nightmares mostly comprise what they fear in their waking hours. The imagination of dogs isn’t as strong as humans. So it’s less likely that they won’t dream of abstract things.

Instead, their dreams will mostly comprise past experiences or incidences that they faced that weren’t unpleasant. They may have had a tough time at the vet’s office during their vaccination schedule.

Your dog may even have picked up a fight with another dog when he was out on a walk. Or, they faced difficulty at the groomer’s place during a hair-trimming or nail-clipping session. He may even have had a tedious session out in the field while chasing a squirrel.

All of these could surface through their dreams, becoming a nightmare. When your dog has a bad dream, you’ll understand it through his gestures. He may twitch his body and kick or paddle his legs.

He might also vocalize through growls, screams, howls, whines, and cries. If you’ve adopted a dog from a shelter home, then it’s quite evident the unpleasant experiences may haunt him in his dreams.

2. He Is In Pain

It could be another possibility for your dog to scream or cry at night. He may not be in the best of health or pain. The reason could be an injury or wound that he may have been affected of late.

The pain may even be a side effect of a medication. Another possibility might be joint or muscle pain, mostly seen in older dogs.

3. He Has Been Put In A New Environment

He Has Been Put In A New Environment

If you’ve bought a puppy home, it’s natural for him to take time to adjust to his new environment. Feelings of insecurity might grip him, making your pup whine, scream or cry in his sleep. It will also happen in the case of dogs adopted from shelter homes.

New homes or even a room change might even make your dog anxious. When you take your dog away from its comfort zone, it could make him insecure. All these may compel your canine to behave differently during sleep.

4. Your Dog May Be Bored

When your dog isn’t exercised properly or is left alone for long periods, he gets bored. A bored dog may resort to destructive activities like chewing, damaging furniture, eliminating places he shouldn’t, eating or sleeping excessively, etc. His boredom will, at times, even be reflected when he sleeps.

Lessened activities throughout the day could impact his mind, and these suppressed thoughts may be reflected through the cries, screams, or whines he may let out when asleep.

Seeing your dog that way, you might think he is having an unpleasant dream. But, sometimes, it may not be the dreams. It’s just that your dog has entered a state of sleep and is expressing his emotions then.

5. Your Dog Might Be Having an Episode of a Seizure

Your Dog Might Be Having an Episode of a Seizure

It’s a grave situation and needs to be addressed at the earliest. When dogs twitch, turn or kick in their sleep, alongside making loud noises, many owners could think that they are having a nightmare. An episode of seizure is often mistaken for a nightmare. You would also need to watch out for these red flags when your dog screams, whines, twists, and turns in his sleep.

  • Dogs may defecate or urinate involuntarily.
  • His leg movements appear rigid and stiff. It’s not the same when he is dreaming. The kicks and paddles appear smooth. Leg movements due to a nightmare do not last for long. But, if your dog has a seizure, the leg movements may be prolonged.
  • It’s easier to wake up a dog having a nightmare. But, during a seizure, your dog won’t get up even if you yell at him.
  • His movements appear violent and uncontrolled.
  • When your dog has woken from a seizure, he’ll look disoriented and might even pant or drool excessively.

So, when your dog screams in his sleep and shows the symptoms mentioned above,  please do not pass it as a nightmare. Intervene immediately, and seek medical help.

How to Help a Dog Screaming in Sleep?

When your dog screams in his sleep, it makes you anxious. You need to stay calm and identify the root cause. It will help you to solve the problem at the earliest. Here are a few things you can do when your dog screams in his sleep.

  • If you think that your dog’s screaming is a result of the nightmare he is having, then you need to behave tactfully. Avoid touching your dog to wake him up. It may leave him startled and anxious. Your dog might wake up with a jolt and bite you in fright. Instead, you must call out your dog’s name loudly and gently. Once he’s awake, you can even soothe him to sleep through soft and caring gestures.
  • If your dog is in pain, he’ll not just vocalize excessively but will also show restlessness. If he has back or tummy pain, he may be unable to lie on his back or stomach for long. He’ll keep shifting positions.

If recurrent bouts of pain are perhaps hampering your dog’s sleep, you will have to talk to the vet in this regard. Older dogs are more prone to muscle pain, which may temporarily be managed with a cold compress. Yet, a vet’s intervention will help to reach a proper solution.

What to Do If Your Dog Is Having “Nightmares”? 4 Useful Tips

Does your dog wake up screaming in sleep quite often? Or is it something he does once in a while? If this is a regular occurrence, it could become bothersome.

Before you think about ways to help your dog, it’s also important to understand whether the screams and cries are associated with nightmares. When your dog has a nightmare, these are the signs he will show:

  • Vocalizing excessively through growls, pants, barks, screams, and whines
  • Breathing irregularly
  • Twitching or jerking their muscles
  • Rapid movement of eyelids beneath their eyes
  • Twitching whiskers

Now if your dog shows these signs, it is highly probable that he is having a nightmare. Here are a few things you can do to help your dog during a nightmare.

1. Avoid Touching Him

Avoid Touching Him

When you see your dog twitching and moving around in discomfort in sleep, you may be tempted to touch and caress him. Remember, you’ll be making a grave mistake then. Doing so might make your dog wake up with a jolt.

He will be as surprised as you are, and out of an instant reaction of fright, he might bite or snap at you or even attack you. You want to save yourself from this unpleasant occurrence. Right? So it would be best if you didn’t touch him. Instead, call out his name in a gentle but firm tone. If he doesn’t have a seizure episode, he will respond in most cases.

2. Watch Out for the Triggers

It’s another important thing to do. If your dog has recurring episodes of nightmares, you will have to figure out the triggers. It could be a horror show that you watch each night with your dog by your side.

Your household gets super noisy before your dog’s bedtime. There’s chaos everywhere, with kids fighting, the tv running at top speed, and so on. These may sound simple but impact your dog’s mind surfacing through his dreams.

When you know or can at least guess what’s causing the nightmares, you need to address the problems. If the chaos in the house is becoming bothersome for your dog, take him to a quiet corner of your home before bedtime.

3. Give Your Dog A Comfortable Place to Sleep

Give Your Dog A Comfortable Place to Sleep

A quiet, comfortable sleeping area will help your dog get a peaceful night’s sleep. Make sure the bed is cozy and has ample space for your dog. It will help him remain calm and also lessen the chances of nightmares.

4. Calm Him Before Bedtime

Make sure that your dog has no unpleasant encounters before bedtime. You could play relaxing music just before your dog is about to sleep. It would help if you also made a conscious effort to keep your dog away from any stressful event that distracts your dog and makes him anxious.

If you have a dog with a high anxiety level, you could even get in touch with a vet. Many vets recommend alternative measures instead of medicines. A ThunderShirt, available as a vest, is one remedy to control and calm anxiety in dogs.

When you have puppies at home, troubled by the pangs of being separated from their mother, cuddling toys would be apt to comfort them at bedtime.

Another option is DAP or Dog Appeasing Pheromone, which mimics the pheromones that nursing mothers produce. They are available in the form of collars, room sprays, and plug-in diffusers. When your dog has a calm and clear mind., the possibility of a nightmare is less.

When to Seek Veterinary Assistance?

When to Seek Veterinary Assistance

Nightmares aren’t a cause for concern, as just like us, dogs too forget the happenings of the night once they wake up in the morning.

However, suppose the nightmares are a regular occurrence and happen almost every night, compelling your dog to scream and whine. In that case, a vet’s consultation is needed. Anxiety could be the reason for the same.

In most cases, the vet prescribes medicines to manage anxiety. If your dog has had an episode of seizure in his sleep, you must also get in touch with a vet at once.

3 Preventive Measures for Dog Screaming in Sleep

Your dog could scream in his sleep not just because of a nightmare but for several other reasons. When you can identify the cause behind such behavior, you will need to take steps to prevent the occurrence in the future.

Here’s all that you can do from your end:

1. Try Eliminating the Triggers

When you notice that your dog is screaming in his sleep quite frequently, you need to find out the triggers and try eliminating them. If he is screaming because he sees unpleasant dreams, you would need to figure out what is stressing him the most.

When you identify the reason, try to remove that particular trigger. If pain is the cause of frequent screaming, contact a vet at the earliest.

2. Fulfill Your Dog’s Exercise Needs

Irrespective of the size, every dog must get their daily dose of exercise as per their requirements. It will keep them physically and mentally rejuvenated and lessen the chances of getting bored.

When your dog has a lot of things to do throughout the day, he is less likely to be anxious. So, the chances of screaming in his sleep lessen as well.

3. Get Your Dog Checked By a Vet

Get Your Dog Checked By a Vet

If you sense that your dog is in pain and discomfort, with has triggered the screaming alongside other physical symptoms. Then, contact a vet immediately. The sooner your dog is treated, the quicker his chances of recovery.


Can nightmares be bad for dogs?

No nightmares aren’t bad for dogs unless they occur regularly. Frequent occurrences could mean your dog’s heightened anxiety level and need to be managed. Also, seizures are often confused with nightmares. So, if that isn’t detected timely, it could be life-threatening for your dog.

Do dogs dream quite often?

How much a dog dream depends on its age and size. For instance, puppies dream more than their adult counterparts. They acquire a lot of experiences all day long, which take the form of dreams at night – pleasant or unpleasant.

Moreover, it is even said that small dogs dream more than big dogs. E.g., toy Poodles dream every ten minutes. On the other hand, Labrador Retrievers dream every one or one and a half hours. However, the dreams of Poodles last for a maximum of a minute. In contrast, a Labrador Retriever’s dream lasts 5-10 minutes.


Your dog screaming or crying in the middle of the night is alarming. But by giving them good experiences throughout the day and helping them to remain stress-free, you may help your dog to get a good night’s sleep.

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