You are wrapped in your bed, wrapped in a blanket, and all cozied up. Suddenly you hear the dog crying, whimpering, or whining in its sleep. This can be scary and also disturbing.
Why does the dog behave so? Is it hurting? Is it in pain? Did it have a bad dream? Or is it upset about something?
There are many reasons behind the dog’s crying.
It could have been a nightmare. If it is a puppy or you have recently changed houses, the pet may take time to adjust to its new surroundings. The dog may not have a comfortable environment to sleep in and may be continually disturbed.
These reasons are not problematic and can be managed with time and a few changes.
But other reasons, like anxiety, seizures, and other medical issues, can require vet intervention.
The article will explore the possible reasons for the question, why does my dog cry in his sleep? We will also try to understand what you can do best in such situations.
Why Does My Dog Cry in His Sleep? – 10 Reasons
It is not uncommon for dogs to cry in their sleep. The reason may vary depending on age, daily routine, and health issues. Let us explore 10 such reasons in detail.
1. Your Dog is Dreaming
Your dog will not wake up from its sleep and elaborately describe its dream but know that dogs can dream. A dog’s brain structure is similar to that of a human.
According to the neuropsychological researcher Stanley Coren, dogs display similar brain wave patterns as humans while sleeping. Also, electrical activity identical to the one observed in humans while dreaming can also be seen in dogs.
This leads researchers to believe that your furry friend dreams just like you.
Once dogs fall asleep, they may start seeing their first dream as early as 20 minutes. The dog’s eyes may start moving behind its closed eyelids, indicating it is watching the dream as if it is happening in real time.
The dogs may dream about breed-specific behavior, everyday experiences, or you.
The dog may twitch, try to move, whine, or cry when dreaming. You may be tempted to wake the dog if it keeps crying. But it would be best to let the dog wake on its own.
2. Change in Environment
Did you bring home a new puppy? Did you adopt a dog from the shelter? Did you move to a new house? The dog is put into a new situation in all of these cases. It will take time to adjust. And until it does, it may cry in its sleep.
Puppies, in general, may cry more than adult dogs. The puppy may miss its mother. It may have gotten used to sleeping snugly surrounded by its littermates. So, it is natural for the pet to feel lonely when you bring it to its new home.
It is ok to comfort the puppy occasionally but do not make it a habit. For example, keep reassuring the puppy and cuddling it whenever it cries. It will start behaving to get your attention.
In the case of adult dogs, if they have had a traumatic past, they may take more time to get comfortable in a new place. Negative experiences can leave an impact on dogs. You will have to keep patience and work on building trust. If needed, please consult with a behaviorist or vet.
3. Separation Anxiety
If your dog suffers from separation anxiety, there is a high chance of crying when it sleeps alone. The crying may not be limited to sleep time, but the dog is away from the owner every other time.
If the dog does not sleep with you on the same bed or in the same room, then it may cry the moment you step away from its sleeping place. You may try placing its bed outside your bedroom, so you can be available in case something is wrong.
Separation anxiety is common among dogs. So, starting with practices like crate training at the earliest would be best. In addition, using positive reinforcements like treats, cuddles, and reassuring the dog by spending quality time with it during the day may help it sleep alone at night.
If training does not work, please consult a behaviorist who can provide a one-on-one session to deal with your dog’s situation.
4. External Disturbances
Where does the dog sleep? Are there large windows in its room? Does your apartment face a busy road?
If yes, there are high chances of external noises not letting your dog sleep peacefully. For example, there could be people passing by, cars honking, construction work, fireworks, or thunderstorms.
Moreover, your dog’s hearing is much more sensitive than yours. For example, a human’s hearing range lies between 20 – 20,000 Hz. On the other hand, a canine’s hearing range lies between 40 – 60,000 Hz.
So, you may not hear any sounds, but your dog will. And crying could be its reaction to the external sound. It is also possible the dog may try to alert you or it got scared suddenly hearing the noise.
If possible, close the windows and draw curtains so the dog does not get disturbed by sudden sounds and flickering lights.
5. Digestive Issues
If the food the dog eats does not agree with its stomach, it will be up all night whining and crying. Dogs can have a range of digestive issues, and they can have different causes as well.
For example, suppose your dog’s food contains gluten and is allergic to the ingredient. It may show symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, and gas in that case.
Or if you do not maintain a regular feeding schedule, the dog may feel hungry and overeat during the last meal of the day. This may lead to bloating.
If you feed the dog a new food item in the evening, it may not give you ample time to monitor it. In addition, if the food does not agree with the dog, it may cry and whine at night while sleeping.
According to PetMD, ideally, the canine should be fed around 5 in the evening to get enough time to digest the food and poop before bedtime.
6. Pain or Discomfort
One of the concerning answers to the question, why does my dog cry in his sleep, is pain caused due to health issues?
An aging dog could be suffering from joint pain due to wear and tear or a condition like arthritis. The vet may prescribe medications to manage the pain, but the condition is not curable.
So, some nights may be more difficult than others. As the dog is in pain, you find it whimpering or crying.
If there is an issue with the dog’s lungs or heart, it may have difficulty breathing while lying down. This, again, may cause pain and discomfort.
If the cause for your dog’s crying is a health issue, it may also show symptoms during the day. For example, suppose it is a joint issue. In that case, the dog may show signs like limping, hesitating to take stairs, and reduced tolerance to exercise.
It would be best to contact the vet for a thorough physical check-up.
Your pet needs a healthy dose of physical and mental stimulation. The amount and type of exercise required by dogs will differ according to their breed, age, and health.
For example, breeds like Chihuahuas, and Pomeranians will require moderate exercise. You can take them for 30-minute walks daily.
On the other hand, breeds like Siberian Huskies, Dalmatians, and Labradors will require a high level of exercise. You may take the dog for walks, hikes, and swims. You must also invest in mental stimulation activities to keep them productively engaged.
In the absence of such exercise and playtime, dogs can get bored. They may develop undesirable behaviors if you do not give them a suitable outlet for their energy.
They may whine or cry at night to get your attention. Instead of going to sleep, they might want to play with you.
Thus, you must take care of your dog’s physical and mental needs.
8. Encouraged Behavior
When you bring home a new dog, it will take time to adjust to its surroundings. So, in the beginning, it is normal for dogs to cry while sleeping.
For you, the situation can be understandably difficult. First, you may want to rush to your dog’s side, pet, cuddle, and reassure it. Then, you may want to sit beside it until the dog falls asleep.
You can certainly do so, but the dog will make this a habit. It will learn that crying at night is the way to get you to tend to its needs.
If the dog is healthy, fed, and exercised, and you have spent quality time with it, there is no need to rush to its side every time it cries at night.
If the pet’s behavior is getting out of hand, please contact a behaviorist or the vet. Lack of training can lead to the dog developing undesirable behaviors, which will be challenging to break as it grows older.
Seizures happen in dogs while awake or shortly after they wake up from sleep. But in some cases, the pet may have a seizure while sleeping.
There is a difference between twitching and seizure movements. If the dog twitches while dreaming, the movements may be more fluid and last for a few seconds.
Upon waking up, the dog may seem disoriented and drool and pant excessively. The movements during a seizure, though, will be rigid and violent and may last longer. The dog may also urinate or poop while having an episode.
You mustn’t try to wake the dog. The dog does not understand what is happening; it may get aggressive toward you.
If you think the dog has seizures, please discuss its condition with the vet. There could be underlying medical issues causing seizures.
10. REM Behavior Disorder
This is one of the rare sleeping disorders found in dogs. If your dog has REM behavior disorder, it will lead to the dog perceiving dreams as reality.
For example, if your dog dreams about chasing the cat, playing with the ball, or pulling on the rope in the game of tug of war, it will display the corresponding action in its sleep.
In some cases, the dog can go to extreme physical activity levels. This means it may cry, make loud noises, run into the wall or thrash around in the bed.
This is different from seizures because the dog will behave normally once it wakes up. It will not feel confused or disoriented, as with seizures.
Please contact the vet if your dog tends to move around in its sleep. Once the diagnosis is confirmed, the vet may prescribe medication to reduce physical activity during sleep.
What Should I Do When My Dog Cries in His Sleep?
Now that we have seen the reasons behind your dog’s cries at night, let us look at practices that can help you deal with the situation.
1. Do Not Wake the Dog
Seeing your dog crying, twitching, and moving around in sleep may overwhelm you. But do not try to wake the dog up.
In case of a dream or seizure, the dog will wake up disoriented. It may get up, walk into an inanimate object around the room, and hurt itself. It may unknowingly harm, scratch, or bite you.
If you need to wake the dog, you can try calling out its name or making a loud noise by clapping. While doing so, stand at a safe distance from the pet. Once the dog wakes, it comes to its senses; you should only approach to reassure it.
2. Give it a Comfortable Sleeping Place
Ensure the dog has a comfortable place to sleep. The design of the bed helps imitate the feeling of sleeping in a cozy burrow. For example, you can invest in a circular bed with raised edges.
Place the bed away from doors and windows. This way, the dog will not be disturbed by external sounds and lights. Investing in thick curtains is one way to go about it.
Also, ensure there are not many furniture pieces or house décor items placed right next to the dog’s bed. If the dog moves around during sleep, these items may cause injury.
3. Maintain Feeding and Exercise Routine
Whether you feed the dog twice or thrice a day is up to you. But ensure you stick to the same schedule. If you want to introduce new food to its diet, start slow. Preferably give it new food during the day when you have time to monitor its effect.
Keep the exercise routine interesting with different activities like swimming, hiking, obstacle races, and other training courses.
A well-fed and exercised dog will enjoy a much better sleep quality than dogs that do not eat right and do not exercise.
4. Train the Dog to Stop Whining
If you let the dog be, the whining and crying may become a habit you must deal with every other night.
So, the next time the dog cries, you should slowly approach the room it is sleeping in instead of rushing to its side. Command the dog to stay quiet.
Wait for it to calm down. Once it is quiet, you can pat it or tell it what a good boy it is and return to your room.
This way, the dog learns you do not appreciate its whining and crying at night. If your training techniques do not work, you can consult with a behaviorist for further training.
5. Talk to the Vet
If the dog is crying in pain while sleeping or you suspect it is suffering from a medical issue, please call the vet at the earliest.
For example, a seizure could be a symptom of various causes, like epilepsy, cancer, kidney failure, or brain trauma. These are severe conditions that may require medication, therapies, or surgeries.
Joint issues can be painful for dogs and might keep them awake at night. Conditions like arthritis are not curable, but drugs like NSAIDs and other pain medications can help manage the symptoms and provide some relief to the dog.
So, apart from crying at night, if you notice other signs like weakness, loss of appetite, lethargy, or unwillingness to exercise or move around, please talk to the vet.
Why does my dog cry in his sleep? Your dog could have a bad dream, and twitching and crying could be a reaction.
Other reasons for crying include change in environment, uncomfortable sleeping areas, boredom, separation anxiety, or REM behavior disorder.
Health issues like bloating, stomach upset, joint pain, and kidney, heart, and brain issues could also be causing the dog pain and discomfort.
Do not try to wake the dog in between a twitching or seizure episode. Please consult a vet or a behaviorist for further treatment and training.
Elena Gherman is a highly skilled and knowledgeable animal care expert. At the start of her career, she gained practical expertise with multiple animals. In addition to that, she works as a DVM veterinary editor for Joy Pet Products, which focuses on offering reliable information on pet health and wellbeing. She meticulously reviews each piece of writing before it is published to make sure pet owners get the most precise and updated information possible.