For the love of you pet: Let sleeping dogs lie
My dog just started to have crazy dreams. I would call them nightmares. Do dogs have nightmares? What can we do?
Dogs do dream while sleeping. What they dream about, we may never know. Some people think maybe it's a good run on the beach or a squirrel chase. Dreaming is not bad for your pet - as long as we are sure it truly is a dream.
The one thing that you want to rule out is seizures. When a dog has seizures, he or she usually falls to the side and may twitch or appear to be running. Not all seizures look this way.
A seizure can be any abnormal, uncontrollable muscle movement. Anything from an eyelid twitch to a full body shake can be seizure activity. Some animals even lose control of their bowels or urinate during this seizure activity.
You can usually tell the difference between a seizure and a dream/nightmare by the timing. For the most part, dogs with epilepsy will not exhibit signs only while asleep. They are bound to have one also while awake. If you think your pet might be having seizures, you should keep a log.
Write down the date, time, duration and description of the activity. You will sometimes find that every time there is a full moon or every time "Aunt Sue" comes to visit, your pet has a seizure.
If you can find a trigger, then you can possibly eliminate or plan for such activity. A veterinarian should examine your dog to make sure there is not a contributing problem that is causing such activity and to decide if anti-seizure medication is needed.
If your pet is dreaming or seizing, you should never attempt to wake it up by touching it. The old saying: "Let sleeping dogs lie" becomes very appropriate. Dogs that are not fully awake might bite at something touching them or rousing them. If you want your pet to wake from his/her dream, try calling out their name, gently tossing a ball at them or clapping.
Embrace your dog's dreaming activity. It is becoming a very popular subject. Many owners are recording their pets dreaming. Some have seen howling, digging, running, etc. It can be a source of good entertainment. If you have any other questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me.
Dr. John Beck has a veterinary practice at Hillcrest Animal Hospital in Victoria. Submit questions to Dr. Beck at firstname.lastname@example.org.