Why is My Dog Shaking in Their Sleep? Is This Normal?

Do you have a dog who often shakes in their sleep? Are you worried about what this could mean? Is sleep shaking a big cause for concern in dogs?

If you’re asking yourself these questions, you aren’t alone. Although many dog owners frequently wonder whether shaking while asleep is a sign of a serious underlying problem, it is also completely normal to not know the answer to this question. In the article below, we’ll help you learn more about some of the most common causes of shaking in sleep so you can tell when your dog may be dealing with a crisis.

Possible Reasons Your Dog is Shaking in Their Sleep

There are several explanations for why your dog might be shaking while they rest.


Most of the sleep shaking in dogs is caused by dreaming. Just like humans, dogs dream when they are in the deeper stages of sleep, and they may even act out some of their dreams while sound asleep. If your dog is paddling their feet or acting as though they are chewing or licking something while sleeping, these are all signs that they are likely having a dream.

If your dog is whining or growling in their sleep, they may be having a nightmare. While it is best not to wake them up from a nightmare, you can try calling your dog’s name from a safe distance away to see if they wake up. This way, you won’t be at risk of an accidental bite from your dog upon waking, and they will still be spared from the bad dream they are dealing with.

Dog Shaking in Sleep in Matthews, NC

Shaker Syndrome

If you have a very small breed dog, and especially if they are a white dog, they may have shaker syndrome. This condition can be found in any dog, but is considerably more common in little white dogs. For this reason, it is sometimes also referred to as “white dog syndrome”.

Shaker syndrome may cause dogs to shake uncontrollably, especially when they are experiencing a strong surge of feelings. If your dog is very excited and often starts shaking along with excitement, they may have shaker syndrome. Although shaker syndrome is not commonly seen in dogs who are asleep, it is possible that more severe cases can be exhibited while dogs are sleeping. If your dog’s shaker syndrome seems to be causing distress, or if it happens so often that they have trouble functioning normally, talk to your vet for solutions.


It is very unlikely that your dog would have a seizure while they sleep. However, it is still possible, and it’s important to learn how to recognize the signs of seizure in dogs. If you believe your dog is having a seizure for the first time, or if they are having a worse seizure than usual, take them to the emergency vet right away.

Dogs may become very stiff or paddle their legs uncontrollably while having a seizure. They may gulp for air, and they may also urinate or defecate without warning. They may fall down or run in circles in confusion as well. These symptoms typically occur while dogs are awake, but if you see them happening while your dog is asleep, understand that they may indicate a seizure is happening.


If your dog is suffering from any type of toxicity or poisoning, they may experience shaking while asleep. This shaking could be contributed to convulsions or seizures, and it could also be related to pain.

If your dog is shaking and seems to be in and out of consciousness, or if they are suffering from uncontrollable diarrhea and vomiting, take them to the emergency vet immediately, as these are all signs of poisoning.


Some dogs, especially as they get older, may be in a lot of pain while sleeping. This problem is typically caused by arthritis, but it can also be related to other long-term health problems associated with aging, too. If your dog’s shaking seems to be focused on one part of the body—such as a back leg—then they may be shaking due to pain.

Try giving your senior dog an orthopedic dog bed or a self-warming mat to lay on. Both options can help them feel more comfortable when dealing with painful joints. If your pet seems to be in constant pain, call a vet to discuss your options.


As you can see, the many of causes of this behavior are nothing to worry about. Many dogs shake in their sleep because of dreaming or shaker syndrome, and both of these causes are entirely benign.

However, since it is possible for dogs to shake in their sleep due to other, more serious causes, you should always have your pet checked out if they are exhibiting new or concerning behavior. If they often shake while sleeping, then it’s probably nothing to worry about, but if it comes on suddenly and is seen with other symptoms, then a vet visit is likely the best solution.

If your dog is shaking in their sleep near Matthews, NC contact our team at Caring Hearts Animal Hospital. We’ll find the root cause of this issue and help you and your pup move forward. Our team is also Fear Free Certified.  Make an appointment for your dog by calling us at (704) 893-2799 or by scheduling an appointment online.