As a veterinarian I am often questioned if pets dream? According to recent research, there is now doubt that many animals dream. Dogs and other animals aren’t that different from humans when it comes to some phases of sleep.
Humans, dogs and other animals experience two stages of sleep, slow wave sleep (SWS) and rapid eye movement REM the sleep phase in which we experience dreams. During the REM phase, the brain is very active. When your dog whines, growls twitches, the legs move like they are running, the eyes roll back, or you see and hear heavy breathing, they are in REM sleep. Oversee your pet, and you may even notice when they enter this phase of sleep.
I find it very interesting that research has learned the part of the brain that is active during REM sleep is the same part of the brain that is active when an animal is awake hunting his prey. So, if it looks like your pet is chasing something in his sleep, he just might be!
It is also true that small dogs and puppies dream more than big dogs. For instance, toy poodles may dream every ten minutes compared to a mastiff who may wait to over an hour between dreams.
What Do Pets Dream About?
If I could choose an answer, it would be they are dreaming about their loving, caring owners. And dreaming about how much they love their veterinarian. In truth, recent research on cats suggests that they dream about the same things they experience every day when they are awake and active. So, whatever their day to day experience may be, like chasing balls, going to the vet, playing with a family member, is what they most likely are dreaming. Some of these day to day actives are broken up and regrouped in different ways for some greater point, but research is not sure.
Should You Wake Up a Dreaming Dog?
My dog is a dreamer. She will whimper or run in place while sleeping. I always want to wake her up as I am worried she is afraid, or painful in her dream. I don’t want her to experience either of those things. However, as the old saying goes, it is best to let sleeping dogs lie. It is not so bad if you interrupt the dream but nudging a dog out of REM sleep suddenly can be startling and confusing for them and even cause some aggressive behavior.
How do I know my pet is having a seizure or a dream?
This is an important question. If you’re concerned that you might confuse these behaviors with a more severe health issue, take ease in understanding that these noises and motions are noticeably different from anything that should be a problem. Natural sleep behavior in dogs is and can be pretty dramatic, but still distinct from a seizure. During an actual seizure, the body movements tend to be more rapid and more pronounced, and unlike a dream-filled sleep, you can’t bring a dog out of it by calling their name. If you are unsure call your veterinarian right away or call us at 937-748-1378 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions.