Why is My Dog Screaming in Sleep? 7 Reasons and 3 Solutions (2024)

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When we sleep, we dream; the same goes with your dog. It isn’t unusual to notice your canine moving during his sleep and groaning or whining softly.

What’s scary is if he growls, screams in his sleep, or reacts aggressively, that may seem like he is in pain or discomfort. Have you noticed something like this with your canine? It might have sent a chill down your spine. Right? So, before you panic further, it would help to know why your dog screams in sleep. We’ll also learn about the preventive measures to control the same.

Table of Content

7 Causes of Dog Screaming in Sleep?

If you saw your canine behaving weirdly in sleep and screaming terribly as if he were in pain, it may have scared you no end! Let’s understand why your dog screams in his sleep. Here they are:

1. Your Dog Might be in Pain

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If your dog received an injury or a wound, the pain might have triggered at night, making him cry in his sleep. He might even be under a medication that may have resulted in pain and discomfort. The outcome would, therefore, be your dog crying, whimpering, or screaming in pain at night.

2. It Could be a Change of Environment

A change in environment often takes a toll on one’s emotional well-being. So, was your pup separated from his mum recently? You may have brought it home from the breeder’s place of late. Your pup will take some time to adjust to his new surroundings. He might even miss the comfort of being and sleeping with his mother.

It could trigger anxiety and make your pup cry in his sleep out of insecurities. The same will happen with dogs brought home from shelter homes. They’ll take time to get used to their new environment and might often cry or scream in their sleep out of anxiety.

3. He’s Perhaps Bored

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When your dog is exercised well, he will be rejuvenated physically and mentally. Lack of adequate physical activities could make your dog bored and destructive. When your dog isn’t physically exercised, it could affect his mind, and the agonies may reflect through his sleep. So, the next time you see your dog crying, whining, or screaming in sleep, don’t just pass it off as a dream. Instead, you should analyze if your dog is getting sufficient exercise or not.

4. You have a Senior Dog

Do you have a senior dog? The age for dogs to be seniors varies as per their age. Small dogs could be considered seniors when they are 11-12. For big dogs, the age limit is around eight years. Whereas for medium dogs, it is approximately ten years.

Senior dogs may suffer from many health problems with age, like stomach pain, joint pain, etc. This will lead to uneasiness and discomfort, making your dog pant and cry in his sleep.

5. Your Dog Might be Stressed

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Did anything happen of late that made your dog anxious and stressed? You may have gone on a vacation without taking your dog. Or, it could be that you brought another dog at home, which has made your first dog insecure about his space being invaded. All these and many more could leave your dog anxious.

The bouts of anxiety that trouble your dog during the day may peak at night during bedtime. He will either have trouble sleeping or reflect his anxiousness and stress when he sleeps. You should find out if your dog is under stress when you hear the screams, growls, and whines too often. A stressed dog will not just have trouble sleeping. He’ll show other symptoms also. These include whining or barking a lot, licking his lips, exhibiting a back-and-forth movement, and so on. When you see your dog doing all of this during the day and crying or screaming at night, you can conclude that your dog is stressed.

6. He is Likely to be Going Through Seizures

This one is a more severe issue. If your dog is having an episode of seizure or convulsion in his sleep, then his movements will lack flexibility. If it’s a dream, your dog will wake up on being called. But calling your dog by his name will not awaken him in case of a seizure. Moreover, the episodes of seizures last for no more than thirty seconds. If you see your dog experiencing the same in his sleep, do not delay contacting the vet.

7. It’s a Dream or, Rather, a Nightmare

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Human beings dream, and so do dogs. The dreams that dogs see vary according to their size. For instance, small dogs have shorter dreams, lasting more than sixty seconds. On the other hand, big dogs have longer dreams that can last up to five minutes. Not all dreams are pleasant. When your dog has nightmares in the form of the unpleasant experiences they may have had throughout the day, it could be visible through their gesture.

He could twitch, turn, breathe heavily, whine, whimper, and even scream. These symptoms could be similar to a seizure, the difference being that the dog will wake up if called in case of a nightmare.

What to do if Your Dog Screams in Sleep?

When your dog screams in his sleep, it isn’t pleasant for you as an owner. It will stress you for sure. You must do your utmost not to panic and calm your dog if required. What’s more important is to identify the reasons behind your dog’s screaming in his sleep. Does he whine or scream in his sleep quite often? Or does he do it once in a while? If it’s a regular occurrence, you need to find out the triggers causing the same. If needed, you must even speak to a vet at once.

How to Help a Dog Screaming in Sleep?

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If your dog regularly screams in sleep, you must find ways to calm and soothe him. These are some of the things that you can do from your end.

  • Try to give him quality time, especially before bedtime. Those soft cuddles and hugs from your end will make your dog more relaxed. It will even lessen the chances of anxiety, which can be triggered because of loneliness and insecurity.
  • Make sure your dog’s bed is comfortable. Also, place the bed in that corner of the house where there is minimal disturbance, especially if your canine gets perturbed by the slightest noise.
  • Make bedtime soothing and relaxing. You could play soft music before your dog sleeps. It will help him remain calm and minimize the chances of your dog getting haunted by any bad dreams or traumas of the past.
  • If you have a pup who cannot bear being separated from his mother, soft cuddle toys work best for him. It will give him that feeling of safety and security.
  • If your dog is screaming or panting in sleep, you can comfort him by petting him. Gently rubbing your dog’s back will give him the much-needed comfort.
  • When you notice that your dog is screaming and panting because he had a seizure, take him to a vet at once. If your dog is heated during the seizure attack, place a wet towel on his groin, head, and neck to prevent him from heating.

3 Preventive Measures for Dog Screaming in Sleep

Besides the points mentioned above, there are other preventive measures you can take when your dog is screaming in sleep:

1. Watch Out for the Triggers

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It’s the most important thing to do; if your dog is screaming or crying in his sleep frequently, you need to find out the triggers leading to the same. It could be due to stress. Try thinking if there have been any changes in the house lately which has made your dog anxious.

His room may be noisy, and he is likely to get agonized by the outside sounds. You aren’t there to accompany him during the day, which could make him remorseful. Your dog could also be bored. Once you find out the reason, it will help you find ways to address it.

2. Manage Your Dog’s Separation Anxiety

All dogs love their masters, though some could be clingier than others. When you have a dog high on separation anxiety, you must find ways to help him get rid of the same. When a dog develops separation anxiety with time, it is hard to manage it. That is why training puppies to love in a crate, at least for some time a day, is advisable.

You could even walk your dog around before you leave home. Also, feed your dog well so it’s full for at least some time. You could also give your pup a food puzzle to keep him busy throughout the day.

3. Exercise Your Dog Well

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It would help to exercise your dog regularly as per its needs, regardless of size. When your dog is worked out well, he will remain stimulated, physically and mentally. This way, your dog will have fewer chances to suffer from unpleasant experiences, especially while sleeping.

Dog Nightmares: Things You Should Know

Like humans, dogs also have dreams and nightmares. The reasons for nightmares in dogs are unclear. It could be some dog-like things that could haunt him in his dreams. Maybe he chased a squirrel in the park and couldn’t get hold of it.

It could even be that you brought your canine from a shelter home. He isn’t able to overcome the past trauma he went through there. Dogs could even have frequent nightmares when suffering from CDS (Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome). It is a neurodegenerative disorder affecting dogs aged nine or older.

Dogs with this condition go through stress, anxiety, fear, and trauma, often triggering nightmares. When your dog has nightmares frequently and appears stressed or afraid most of the time, you must contact the vet.

What to do if Your Dog is Having “Nightmares”?

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When your dog is having repetitive episodes of nightmares, there are certain ways in which you can help your dog. Let’s look at some of them:

  • Many owners think of waking their dog during an episode of a nightmare. That’s, however, isn’t always a good idea. It may interfere with your dog’s sleep cycle, making him all the more irritable. However, try waking your dog up if the nightmare lasts a few minutes. Never make physical contact with your dog. It could stress him out, and your dog might bite you if he is suddenly woken from sleep. Instead, calling out your dog’s name loudly but gently would be best.
  • Try putting your dog’s bed in a quiet corner of the house, free from disturbance. Sometimes, loud noises can trigger anxiety and might manifest as nightmares.
  • Give them everything needed for a comfortable night’s sleep, like a soft bed, sufficient chew toys, a cozy blanket, etc. Your dog will likely have a good night’s sleep when they have all their essentials.
  • If your dog has woken up from a nightmare, play soothing music that may help him relax and get back to sleep.
  • When your dog has nightmares too often, you must observe your canine’s behavior when sleeping and even awake. You could make a video of your dog when he has a nightmare and show it to the vet.

REM Sleep Disorder in Dogs

Rapid eye movement sleep (REM) is that part of your dog’s sleep when there is an irregular and fast-paced movement of the brain waves. While the muscles appear relaxed, the brain is immensely active in your dog’s REM sleep.

His eyes will dart beneath his eyelids, and your dog will also show other gestures in his sleep. There will be rapid movement of his legs. He will whine immensely and even breathe heavily. It is in this phase of their sleep that dogs dream intensely.

When your dog has REM sleep disorder, he will exhibit it through several violent motor activities. He may also indulge in growling, biting, howling, and chewing. When your dog has this sleep disorder, he will do it at night and even when he sleeps during the day. He could even hurt himself or anyone who gets close to him then.

Diagnosis of REM Sleep Disorder

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When your dog is aggressive in his sleep, you should take him to the vet immediately. It will help if you capture his behavior on your phone to give the vet a better idea of what’s happening. The vet may advise an EEG and other brain imaging tests to get a confirmation. He will even ask for other preliminary examinations like bloodwork.

When to Seek Veterinary Assistance?

Suppose your dog screams in his sleep because of a seizure attack or REM sleep disorder that will be displayed through his violent movements. In that case, you shouldn’t delay contacting the vet. Early intervention will help your dog to recover sooner from the condition he is going through.


Is it bad for your dog to scream in his sleep?

If your dog does it occasionally, there isn’t much to worry about. However, if your dog screams in his sleep quite often and shows signs of aggressiveness,

How will you know your dog is having a nightmare?

When your dog has a nightmare, he will growl in his sleep and twitch his eyes and paws. He may even whimper, whine, or let out an alert bark. Your dog may even wake up with a jerk if the nightmare is stressful.


We need a good night’s sleep to maintain good physical and mental health. So do our dogs. When you have created a favorable sleeping environment for your dog, he will likely have a good night’s sleep. Proper exercise and less stress will help keep your pup healthy and hearty, eliminating the chances of nightmares.

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Dr. Lillian Green

Dr. Lillian is a D.V.M. passionate about promoting awareness of dogs. She shares her expertise through her blogs on canineweekly.com and provides animal care services, including internal medicine, dermatology, and emergency care. Dr. Lillian is committed to contributing to animal welfare.

Why is My Dog Screaming in Sleep? 7 Reasons and 3 Solutions (2024)
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