July 8, 2024

Why Is My Dog Shaking When He Breathes in While Sleeping?

Shaking during sleep in dogs is a fairly common behavior and is often similar to what humans experience when they dream. Like us, dogs may act out their dreams by paddling their feet or making noises while they are asleep. However, not all shaking in dogs is benign or connected to dreaming.

Potential Causes of Sleep Shaking


Dogs, much like humans, enter a deep sleep stage called REM (Rapid Eye Movement) where dreams occur. During this stage, they may paddle their feet, twitch, or even make noises as they dream. This type of shaking is typically harmless and a normal part of their sleep cycle.

Potential Causes of Sleep Shaking Description Action Required
Dreaming Occurs during REM sleep stage where dogs may paddle their feet, twitch, or make noises. Typically harmless, no action required.
Shaker Syndrome Common in small, white-furred dogs; causes uncontrollable shaking, especially during excitement. Veterinary attention may be necessary if frequent or severe.
Seizures Rare but serious; includes convulsions. Emergency veterinary care required.
Toxicity or Poisoning Exposure to toxic substances; symptoms include convulsions, vomiting, and diarrhea. Immediate veterinary attention required.
Pain and Discomfort Common in aging dogs or those with arthritis. Comfort measures like orthopedic beds; monitor behavior and pain levels.
Emotional Distress Can indicate anxiety or stress due to environmental changes or traumatic events. Identify stressors and provide comfort.
Cold Temperatures Dogs can shiver when they are cold. Ensure your dog is warm and comfortable.
Underlying Medical Issues Includes serious conditions like distemper, kidney disease, and cardiovascular issues. Consult veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Shaker Syndrome

Shaker Syndrome is more common in small, white-furred dogs and can cause uncontrollable shaking, particularly in moments of excitement. This condition may require veterinary attention, especially if the shaking becomes frequent or severe.

"Dog Shake" by Scott 97006 is licensed under CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/.


While rare, seizures during sleep can occur in dogs. These seizures are more serious and could necessitate emergency veterinary care. Recognizing the signs of a seizure, such as convulsions, is critical for proper intervention.

Toxicity or Poisoning

Exposure to toxic substances can cause trembling or shaking in dogs. Symptoms of poisoning include convulsions, vomiting, and diarrhea. Immediate veterinary attention is crucial in such cases to prevent further complications.

Pain and Discomfort

Aging dogs or those suffering from arthritis may shake due to pain during sleep. Providing comfort measures like orthopedic beds can help alleviate this discomfort. Monitoring your dog's behavior and pain levels is essential for ensuring their well-being.

Other Reasons for Dog Shaking

Emotional Distress

Shaking can also indicate emotional distress, such as anxiety or stress. Recent changes or traumatic events in the dog's environment might contribute to this condition. Observing your dog's behavior and identifying potential stressors can help mitigate these issues.

Cold Temperatures

Similar to humans, dogs can shiver when they are cold. Ensuring that your dog is warm and comfortable, especially during the night, can prevent shaking caused by low temperatures.

"Dog body shake" by Scott 97006 is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/.

Underlying Medical Issues

Serious medical conditions such as distemper, kidney disease, and cardiovascular issues might also cause shaking. Distemper, more common in puppies and adolescent dogs, presents symptoms like eye and nose discharge, fever, and coughing, in addition to shaking.

When to See a Vet

In most cases, sleep shaking is benign and not a cause for concern. However, if your dog suddenly starts shaking or the shaking is accompanied by other symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, or limping, a visit to the veterinarian is advisable. Caring Hearts Animal Hospital in Matthews, NC, for instance, can help determine the root cause and offer appropriate treatment.

Ensuring your dog's health and comfort is paramount. If you notice any sudden or severe symptoms, consulting your veterinarian will provide peace of mind and ensure that your furry friend receives the care they need.

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