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Can a Dog’s Leg Fall Asleep? Understanding Limping in Dogs Upon Waking Up

Can a Dogs Leg Fall Asleep

Have you ever noticed your dog waking up from a nap and limping? It can be concerning for pet owners to witness their furry friend struggling to walk after a nap. One question that may come to mind is whether a dog’s leg can fall asleep.

Dogs sleep 12 to 14 hours daily, so we need to keep them comfortable with cozy and supportive dog beds to avoid joint or muscle stiffness issues from lying down for so long.

Since any limping in dogs can be a serious sign, we referred to the work of Dr. Mark C. Rochat, DVM, MS, to answer this question best. This way, you can better decide if you have nothing to worry about or if your dog needs to see a veterinarian.

However, it is rare for a dog to wake up with a dead leg. It is more common in overweight dogs or large and giant breeds. But whenever we see a dog limp, we must be alert for other reasons.

How Do I Know If My Dog’s Leg Has Fallen Asleep?

How Do I Know If My Dog's Leg Has Fallen Asleep?

However, some signs may indicate that your dog’s leg is experiencing temporary numbness or tingling from a dead leg:

  1. Your dog may exhibit a slight or noticeable limp, showing reluctance to put weight on the affected leg. This is usually in their hind legs if they tend to lay on them.
  2. If your dog’s leg has fallen asleep, they may struggle to rise or have difficulty walking normally.
  3. You may observe your dog dragging their paw or knuckling the toes, indicating reduced sensitivity in the leg.
  4. Your dog may exhibit a diminished response to touch or pressure applied to the leg that has fallen asleep.
  5. They may lick, yelp or bite their leg when it begins to give a tingling sensation, called paresthesia, or pins and needles.

If this happens once in a while, it’s probably nothing to worry about, but if you notice a pattern of your dog struggling or refusing to walk when they get up, it may be a sign of underlying muscle, nerve damage, or joint issues. In these cases, it’s essential to call a vet immediately.

Other Reasons A Dog May Limp When They Get Up

Other Reasons A Dog May Limp When They Get Up

There are other reasons why a dog may wake up limping, many of which are a reason to worry. 

Muscle Strain or Sprains

 Dogs can easily overexert themselves during playtime or exercise, leading to muscle strains or sprains. The limping may persist for a few days, and the dog may need rest or medical treatment to recover fully.


Another reason why a dog may limp after waking up is due to arthritis. As dogs get older, their joints may become stiffer and more painful, leading to limping or difficulty walking. If you notice your dog regularly limping after waking up, it may be worth consulting with your veterinarian to see if they have arthritis or another underlying health condition.

General Body Stiffness

When a dog is stiff upon waking up, it can indicate various factors. Some common reasons for stiffness in the morning include:

  1. Lack of exercise: Inactive dogs or those with minimal physical activity may develop stiffness from reduced muscle tone and joint mobility.
  2. Cold temperatures: Cold weather can cause muscles and joints to become stiff, leading to temporary morning stiffness. Providing a warm and comfortable environment can help alleviate this.
  3. Overexertion: Dogs that engage in intense physical activities or strenuous exercise without proper warm-up or cool-down periods can experience muscle fatigue and stiffness.
  4. Sleeping positions: Certain sleeping positions can strain muscles or joints, leading to temporary stiffness upon waking up.

Panosteitis in puppies

Panosteitis, or “growing pains,” is an inflammatory bone disease characterized by the sudden onset of lameness or limping. It primarily affects large or giant breed dogs during their rapid growth phase, typically between the ages of 5 to 18 months. If you notice your puppy standing up with a limp, consider having your vet evaluate them for panosteitis.

Why A Dog Limp May Come And Go

If you see your dog limping occasionally, you must consider underlying issues. Distinguishing between gradual and sudden onset lameness in dogs is essential in understanding the underlying causes and appropriate treatment.

Gradual onset limping develops slowly over time, often with subtle signs that may initially go unnoticed. This lameness may come and go, making it challenging to detect, such as when a dog only limps after waking up. Conditions like arthritis, joint degeneration, or chronic muscle strain can cause gradual onset limps. 

The discomfort may be more apparent after rest periods, like sleeping, when the joints and muscles have stiffened.

On the other hand, sudden onset limping occurs abruptly, without prior signs, and is usually more noticeable. Acute injuries like fractures, sprains, strains, dislocations, or damaged dog nails often cause these limps. Dogs with sudden onset limps may exhibit severe pain, swelling, or an inability to bear weight on the affected limb.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, a dog’s leg can fall asleep like humans. However, if your dog regularly wakes up limping, it may indicate an underlying health issue or injury. It’s always best to consult your veterinarian to ensure your dog’s health and well-being. With proper care and attention, your furry friend can continue enjoying happy and healthy naps for years.


Tamsin De La Harpe


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.

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