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Why Does My Dog Whimper in His Sleep? Understanding Your Pup’s Resting Noises

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

Why Does My Dog Whimper in His Sleep

You may have seen your dog move, twitch, or shake in their sleep, but have you ever heard your pup whimper in their sleep? As a pet parent, you will naturally do anything to help when it sounds like they are in distress. So, is there something you can help when your dog whimpers in their sleep? You could try to address the cause. Some examples include stress, pain, and discomfort.

Providing a comforting sleeping environment with a good dog bed can help. It goes a long way in ensuring your pup is physically comfortable. That, in turn, can help ease their anxiety and provide them with a peaceful night’s rest. However, comfort may only be part of the problem.

To answer your questions about why your pup whimpers in their sleep, we are going to take a deep dive into Canine Behavior Insights by Dr. Bonnie V.G. Beaver, DVM. So, let’s take a closer look at why your pup whimpers in their sleep.

So let’s take a closer look at why dogs whimper in their sleep.

The Top 6 Reasons a Dog May Whimper in Their Sleep

Is It Normal for a Dog to Whimper in Their Sleep? Understanding why your dog is whimpering in their sleep can help you act appropriately. The main reason that dogs twitch, yelp, bark, whimper, kick their feet in their sleep is today with something called REM. 

So when we discuss dogs whimpering or crying in their sleep, we will focus mostly on the concept of dreams and the sleep cycle. 

1. Dreaming and REM Sleep When Dogs Whimper

Dogs, like humans, probably have vivid dreams while they sleep. Although we can’t prove that they dream, their brain waves during REM sleep suggest that they dream just like we do. Dogs, just like us, have different sleep stages, and one of them is called REM sleep, which stands for Rapid Eye Movement.

During REM sleep, dogs experience intense brain activity, and their eyes move rapidly under their adorable eyelids. And yes, it is possible that your dog is whimpering because they are having a nightmare.

Now, here’s the scoop on sleep cycles. Dogs go through different stages of sleep, including light sleep, deep sleep, and REM sleep. They cycle through these stages multiple times during their slumber. It’s important to note that REM sleep is when dogs are most likely to show movement, like wagging their tails, twitching their paws, or even whimpering.

So, are those sweet whimpers a sign that our furry buddies are dreaming? Well, it’s highly possible! Dogs tend to dream during REM sleep, just like we do. So, when you see your pup whimpering or making those adorable noises, it’s like they’re acting out their dreams. 

Should I Wake My Dog When They are Whimpering in Their Sleep?

If your dog is dreaming and whimpering, it’s usually better not to wake them unless they sound extremely distressed. This is because dreaming is a normal and healthy cognitive process and part of the sleep cycle we will discuss more below.

Dreaming in dogs has a purpose that scientists are still studying and trying to understand. We believe that dreaming helps dogs consolidate memories, learn new things, and process emotions. When dogs dream, they may replay experiences they’ve had, which can help them strengthen their memory and problem-solving skills.

Dreaming may also help dogs regulate their emotions, allowing them to work through and cope with stressful or challenging situations. While we may not know exactly what dogs dream about, it is clear that dreaming plays an important role in their mental well-being and cognitive development. So if your dog is whimpering while sleeping, it’s best to let them sleep and their brain complete its natural function.

Remember, it’s all part of their normal sleep behavior, and there’s no need to worry. If your dog seems comfortable and isn’t showing any signs of distress while sleeping, then sit back, relax, and enjoy the adorable show.

Is Whimpering While Sleeping in Dogs Normal? What We Need to Know About the Dog Sleep Cycle

Dogs have a sleep pattern that consists of different sleep-wake episodes. On average, they have around 23 of these episodes per hour during an 8-hour period of sleep. Each episode involves a period of sleep lasting 5 to 16 minutes, followed by a 5-minute period of wakefulness.

One interesting stage of sleep for dogs is active sleep, which is believed to be their equivalent of REM sleep. During this stage, dogs may exhibit behaviors like paddling with all four limbs and vocalizing, as air is pushed through their larynx. It’s just like our own REM sleep, where dreaming occurs in humans. 

While it’s impossible to prove definitively whether dogs dream, the presence of REM sleep suggests that they might experience dream-like activities. In a span of 24 hours, the average dog spends approximately 9.7 hours in quiet sleep, which includes both light and deep slow-wave sleep. 

They typically spend between 2.3 and 3.3 hours in active REM sleep. It’s important to note that dogs in REM sleep can be easily awakened by external stimuli, which might explain why they seem alert and responsive even during their dream-filled slumber. This is one reason dogs like to bark at night and you may wonder if they ever get tired of barking.

2. Physical Discomfort

Another possible cause dogs may whimper while resting is physical discomfort. Just like humans, dogs can experience muscle twitches, cramps, or other forms of pain that lead to whimpering during sleep. Dogs with chronic pain may grunt from a problem like arthritis may grunt or cry at times. 

Other problems like acid reflux in dogs can be a problem when they sleep, as lying down can push stomach acid up along their esophagus, causing discomfort. Similarly, dogs with congestive heart failure, CHF, can have trouble sleeping because the fluid build-up disrupts their ability to breathe.

If you hear your dog whimpering while lying down, make sure they are really asleep, and the whimpering is not happen from pain or other issues while the dog is actually awake.

Be aware of sudden behavioral changes like a dog seeming to grow distant if you suspect your dog’s whimpering when lay down has a medical cause. 

3. Emotional Responses like Anxiety and Stress

It is possible that the emotions or stress dogs feel when awake can continue into their dreams, or even cause nightmares just as it does for humans. One reason for whimpering in sleep may be anxiety, including separation anxiety

4. Sleep Talking

Whimpering can be a form of sleep-talking for dogs. These vocalizations can range from soft whimpers to more audible sounds. 

5. Advanced Age

Old age can lead to changes in a dog’s body and brain, possibly contributing to whimpering during sleep. As dogs age, they may experience arthritis, joint pain, or general discomfort. In addition, cognitive dysfunction disorder, or CDD, affects their perception. 

6. Healthy Conditions

Scientists don’t know for sure yet, but it would seem that preexisting conditions that cause seizures can contribute to whimpering in dogs during sleep. That may be down due to the impact on their neurological system. 

Health conditions like brachycephalic airway syndrome in short-nosed breeds, heart, or respiratory conditions can all affect a dog’s ability to sleep and sometimes leads noises when they rest.

When to Be Concerned About Dog Whimpering in Sleep

Whimpering in their sleep is generally harmless to dogs. However, there are situations where it’s essential to respond and contact a vet. If visible signs of distress accompany the whimpering, it may indicate a more serious problem. Concerning symptoms include intense shaking, excessive drooling, or abnormal breathing patterns. 

How to Help Your Dog Stop Whimpering in Their Sleep

Create a Cozy Sleeping Space

Ensure your dog has a comfortable bed or crate with soft bedding. A familiar and cozy environment can promote better sleep and reduce the likelihood of whimpering.

Establish a Bedtime Routine

Dogs thrive on routine, so establishing a consistent bedtime routine can help them feel more secure and relaxed.

Address Underlying Anxiety

If your dog has anxiety issues, consult a professional dog trainer or behaviorist to develop a plan for managing their anxiety. 

Increase Exercise and Activity

Tired dogs are deep sleepers. The more activity your dog gets in their day, the deeper they should sleep, and the less restlessness they should have at night. See our articles on how to workout with your dog.

Check for Underlying Health Problems

Dogs who have problems sleeping at night because they have sleep apnea, chronic pain, heart conditions, or neurological issues, may need veterinary treatment.

Identifying the Cause of Dog Whimpering in Sleep

To effectively address the matter, it’s essential to identify the underlying cause. Pay attention to any patterns or triggers that may distress your dog. Keep a journal to note the frequency and duration of whimpering episodes. You can then see if the whimpers match up with changes in their environment or routine.

Solutions & Preventing Your Dog from Whimpering in Their Sleep

  • Stick to a consistent sleep schedule: Maintain a consistent sleep schedule for your pup. It can help regulate their sleep cycle and reduce potential disruptions during the night.
  • Provide regular exercise: Ensure your dog gets enough exercise during the day. That can help them burn off excess energy and promote better sleep at night. Physical activity can also contribute to reduced anxiety.
  • Minimize environmental stressors: Create a calm and peaceful environment for your dog to sleep in. Keep the sleeping area free from loud noises, bright lights, or anything that may cause unnecessary stress.

Should You Be Concerned if a Puppy Whimpers in Their Sleep?

Should You Be Concerned if a Puppy Whimpers in Their Sleep?

Generally, occasional whimpering or movements during sleep is normal for puppies and shouldn’t cause immediate concern. Puppies may experience dream-like activity during their sleep.

Their dreams may manifest as twitching, vocalizations, or even whimpering. It’s important to remember that puppies are still developing physically and mentally, and their sleep patterns can be quite active.

However, if your puppy frequently displays signs of distress or is in pain during sleep, it is worth keeping an eye on the situation and consulting your vet. Excessive or continuous whimpering, crying, or restless behavior during sleep could indicate an underlying issue.

In such cases, It would be best to consult a veterinarian to ensure your puppy’s well-being.

It is important to observe your puppy’s overall behavior, appetite, energy levels, and any other signs of discomfort or illness during their waking hours.

If there are no other concerning symptoms, occasional whimpering during sleep is likely a normal part of your puppy’s development. It should not be a major cause for worry.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What do dogs dream about?

We don’t know for certain yet what a dog experiences while dreaming. But if they do dream, it probably involves people and things they are familiar with. This could be the humans they know, or their home. Their brain may be processing emotions and memories at this time.

What to do if a dog cries in sleep?

If your dog cries in their sleep, observe their behavior to ensure they are not distressed. If the crying persists or accompanies other symptoms, you can gently wake them. If it becomes a consistent issue and you suspect an underlying cause, then you may need to see a veterinarian.

Why does my dog cry in his sleep every night?

Dogs may cry in their sleep every night due to anxiety, discomfort, or recurring dreams. Identifying the underlying cause can help you address the issue.

Is it okay to wake a dog if he’s crying in his sleep?

Rather allow your dog to transition out of the dream state naturally. If the whimpering continues after they wake up, watch their behavior for any signs of distress, pain, or discomfort.

Why does my dog cry out in pain while sleeping?

If your dog cries out in pain while sleeping, it could indicate an underlying medical condition like a seizure or some kind of injury. Consult your veterinarian to rule out any health issues.

Why does my rescue dog cry in his sleep?

Rescue dogs may cry in their sleep due to past traumas or anxieties, however, usually it just vocalizations common when dogs. Provide a safe and nurturing environment, along with professional guidance if it’s needed.

Why is my old dog crying in their sleep?

Aging dogs can experience changes that may contribute to whimpering or crying during sleep. Advanced age often brings physical discomfort associated with arthritis or joint pain. Cognitive decline can also lead to confusion, anxiety, or nightmares. Diet is one way to help aging dogs deal with dementia.

In Conclusion 

Dogs whimper in their sleep for various reasons. It can be a response to dreams, physical discomfort, anxiety, or stress. Creating a cozy sleeping space, establishing a bedtime routine, and addressing underlying anxiety can help alleviate whimpering.

Providing regular exercise and minimizing environmental stressors can also help prevent whimpering. When it comes to puppies, occasional whimpering is typically a normal part of their development. Still, persistent distress should be monitored and evaluated by a vet. 

Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe

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Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.