In most cases, dogs tremble during sleep due to cold, fear, or stress. In exceptional cases, however, poisoning, pain, or even illnesses can also be behind it. However, there are usually other symptoms as well.
There are also some breeds that naturally tremble more often when they sleep. These include Chihuahuas, Maltese, West Highland White Terriers, and Miniature Pinschers.
Then let’s go through the 12 most common causes together.
Poisoning is one of the most common reasons for visiting veterinarians. Typical triggers for poisoning in dogs are:
- Toxic plants
- Alcohol and hop intoxication
- Products with sugar alcohol “xylitol”
- Medicines for humans
- Avocados and macadamia nuts
- Rat poison
- Insecticides and snail killers
- Grapes and Raisins
In rare cases, intensive passive smoking of drugs such as cannabis can also be behind it. The most common symptoms of poisoning are:
- Heavy drooling
- Diarrhea and vomiting
- Severe shaking
- Breathing problems
- Feeling weak
The veterinarian should be consulted immediately for treatment. Depending on the cause of the poisoning, therapy can range from simple waiting to emergency surgery.
Various types of poisoning can cause dogs to tremble both when they are awake and asleep. The most common triggers here are poisonous plants, medicines for humans, and insecticides. Here the veterinarian should be consulted.
Dogs, like humans, shiver when it’s cold. These are very fast muscle contractions that stimulate blood circulation.
And when more warm blood is pumped through the body, the body temperature rises as a result. In addition to cold temperatures, drafts can also be the trigger.
Short-haired dogs and low-fat breeds tend to freeze the quickest. The Dobermans and Greyhounds are therefore very sensitive to cold.
When dogs are cold while sleeping, there are usually other symptoms besides trembling:
- Stiff muscles
- Nocturnal Howl
- Strongly curled up sleeping position
- Whining and squeaking
- Search for physical contact
Warm blankets and coats can help here. You can also position the cup close to a heart’s body. On the other hand, you should avoid cold drafts.
Long exposure to the cold can even lead to life-threatening “hypothermia”. This is when the body temperature is below 32°C.
When the temperature is too cold, dogs start to tremble even when they sleep. Hairless and underweight dogs are most commonly affected. However, this can be prevented by warming-up measures.
3. Cushing’s Syndrome
Cushing’s syndrome is a hormonal disorder in which the dog’s body produces too much of the stress hormone cortisol.
It is colloquially known as “trembling syndrome”. Because the increased cortisol level signals to the body that it is always in an emergency situation.
The tremors can occur both during the day and at night during sleep. Dogs over the age of 8 years are statistically most frequently affected. Typical symptoms here are:
- Strong thirst
- Frequent urge to urinate
- The dog has a big belly
- lack of energy
- Constant panting
In 80% of cases, a tumor in the pituitary gland is responsible for this. In 20% of cases, other diseases can also be behind it.
Drugs are usually used to treat this. Depending on the cause, surgery may also be necessary. The veterinarian is the right contact person here.
Dogs with Cushing’s syndrome produce too many stress hormones due to the disease so they are constantly on alert. The tremors can manifest themselves during sleep as well as during the day. The veterinarian should be consulted for treatment.
Dogs experience severe anxiety both when they are awake and when they are asleep. The most common triggers here are:
- Alzheimer’s disease in dogs over 10 years of age
- Noise and noise above 85 decibels
- Moving to an unfamiliar environment
- Strangers and dogs
- Separation anxiety
Very young as well as very old dogs tend to be the most fearful. In addition, many smaller lap dog breeds often struggle with fear. Typical symptoms here are:
- Excessive panting
- Retracted rod
- Severe shaking
- Sudden incontinence
- Behavior change
If the trembling during sleep is actually due to fear, then you will often notice this because your dog is restless and constantly changing places to sleep.
Increased attention and anti-anxiety medication help to treat it. Getting used to the cause step by step can also help here.
Dogs will tremble both during the day and when they are asleep when they are very frightened. In young and small dogs, this is usually due to separation anxiety. Older dogs, on the other hand, are usually anxious due to dementia. For treatment, the exact cause should first be identified.
Distemper refers to a viral disease that has been a mandatory vaccination in Germany since the 1980s. Because it is highly contagious and spreads to all other animals.
The disease is usually transmitted via saliva, urine, or blood. But sneezing and coughing can also be the sufficient transmission.
Puppies that have not yet been vaccinated and dogs kept illegally are the most frequently affected in Germany. Typical symptoms include:
- High fever
- Discharge from the nose
- Diarrhea and vomiting
- Tremors and convulsions
If the brain is also affected by the virus, tremors can occur during sleep, among other things. In many cases, the disease is also fatal.
Distemper is currently considered incurable. Medications can only alleviate the symptoms. It is not for nothing that this viral disease is part of mandatory vaccinations.
Distemper can also be responsible for shaking during sleep in dogs that are not vaccinated or not sufficiently vaccinated. This highly contagious disease is also associated with numerous other symptoms. Since the virus is considered incurable, dogs should be vaccinated against it as a preventive measure.
Dream researchers have found that dogs go through the same stages of sleep as we do. Dreams, on the other hand, mostly take place during REM sleep.
Dogs should also use dreams to process what they have experienced and to satisfy longings. In many cases, this also manifests itself physically:
- Muscle twitches
- Howling and barking
- Eye Movements
If your dog does start shaking at night because of a dream, it’s usually a sign of intense joy or fear.
You can often recognize nightmares by the dog becoming increasingly restless and suddenly waking up. Constantly changing the lying position can also indicate this.
However, that is not a cause for concern. Even the opposite is the case. Because dreams are basically a sign of good physical and mental health.
One of the ways that dogs can manifest dreams and nightmares is that they start shaking while they sleep. In most cases, this is accompanied by muscle twitching, barking, and moving eyelids. There is no need for action here.
Dogs usually try to hide pain as best they can. It’s an instinct they inherited from their wolf ancestors.
Because weak-looking wolves were and still are the target of other predators. In addition, weakened wolves are more often repelled to protect the pack.
In other words, if your dog is really shaking from pain, it’s usually more serious. The most common symptoms of pain include:
- Constant whimpering
- Nocturnal restlessness
- Retracted rod
- Limping or limping
- Howl on physical contact
In older dogs, inflamed joints (“arthritis”) or joint pain from wear and tear (“arthrosis”) are often responsible for the pain.
Irrespective of age, splinters in the paw, stomach problems, and stomach and back pain can also be the cause.
In order to avoid unnecessary agony, you should visit the veterinarian immediately. Depending on the suspected cause, an X-ray or blood test is usually carried out.
Dogs only communicate pain when they are above a certain tolerance level. Among other things, pain can also manifest itself in tremors during sleep. On the other hand, restless behavior and constant whistling are much more common.
Epilepsy is a brain disease in which the dog’s nerve cells are suddenly overstressed. In most cases, this leads to severe cramps.
For this reason, an epileptic seizure is also known as a “seizure.” Other typical symptoms are:
- Foam in mouth
- Muscle tremors
- Sudden fall
- Tongue Biting
Depending on the underlying cause, epileptic seizures can also occur at night. Dogs tremble uncontrollably in their sleep and are not responsive during this time.
According to studies, around one in 120 dogs suffer from it. Statistically, male and young dogs are more likely to be affected.
These seizures are not painful. Rather, they lead to great confusion, fear, or even panic. For diagnosis and treatment, you should visit the vet here.
Epileptic seizures at night can cause dogs to tremble while they sleep. Affected dogs are not responsive during this time and often foam at the mouth. The veterinarian should be consulted immediately.
As fearless as dogs may look at times. Many breeds are very sensitive to environmental and psychological stress. Typical causes for this are:
- Loud noises over 85 decibels
- Violent handling
- Territory threat from foreign dogs
- Storm with thunder or hail
- Visit to the vet
In the case of very severe or chronic stress, the effects can be seen throughout the day. The tremors can therefore also occur during sleep. Other typical symptoms are:
- Strong panting
- Unusual hair loss
- Dog is restless
When there is a lot of stress, a lot of attention is the be-all and end-all. Long walks and lots of mental and physical activity also help.
If the cause of the stress is known, it usually helps to get the dog used to the trigger step by step.
Chronic stress can affect dogs all day long. In addition to shaking during sleep, dogs are also more prone to panting and restless behavior. In many cases, increased attention and activity already help as a solution.
10. Kidney Problems
The kidneys perform numerous functions in the dog’s body. Kidney problems can therefore make themselves felt with a wide variety of symptoms.
However, visible symptoms usually only appear when ⅔ of the kidneys are no longer functioning. In addition to tremors, there are usually other signs:
- Loss of appetite
- Strong thirst
- Vomiting and diarrhea
Poisoning and swallowing cleaning agents are among the most common causes. But heat stroke and dehydration can also be triggers.
For diagnosis, the vet usually takes a urine and blood sample. Treatment is then individualized depending on the underlying cause.
Kidney failure or kidney weakness can be noticed in dogs, among other things, by tremors during sleep. In addition, severe thirst and constant vomiting are common. In most cases, swallowing toxic substances is responsible for this.
Blood sugar is responsible for ensuring that all organs and muscles in the dog’s body are supplied with sufficient energy.
On the other hand, if the blood sugar level is too low, this affects almost all processes in the body. Typical symptoms here are:
- Feeling weak
- Loss of coordination
- Tremors and convulsions
Low blood sugar is relatively rare at night. However, since dogs also sleep a lot during the day, the trembling can still manifest itself during sleep. Typical causes are here:
- Inflammation of the liver
- Excessive training
- Certain tumor diseases
- Low carbohydrate feed
- Too long breaks between meals
For diagnosis, a small amount of blood is usually taken and examined. Administration of glucose is usually sufficient for acute treatment.
However, in the long term, treatment is aimed at the underlying cause. In any case, you should visit the veterinarian.
If the blood sugar level in dogs falls too low, then, in addition to seizures and listlessness, they sometimes tremble during sleep. In most cases, the cause here lies in excessive training in combination with malnutrition.
12. Addison’s Disease
Addison’s disease is a disease of the adrenal glands, which disrupts hormone production. Among other things, too little cortisol is produced as a result.
Compared to the opposite “Cushing’s syndrome” Addison’s disease is much rarer. In most cases, it is triggered by injury, inflammation, or cancer.
Typical symptoms here are:
- Severe fatigue
- Slow heartbeat
- Severe shaking
- Increased thirst
The tremors of this condition can also occur during sleep. In addition, this disease is considered so rare that few veterinarians know more about it.
A stress test is usually carried out to diagnose the condition in order to check the release of cortisol. Treatment then takes place through medication and injections.
In rare cases, tremors during sleep can also be due to Addison’s disease. Here, the disease of the adrenal gland causes the dog’s hormone production to be disrupted. Affected dogs also usually suffer from severe fatigue.
Other Potential Causes
In addition to the above causes, the following diseases can also be responsible for night tremors:
- Nerve diseases in the brain
- Heat stroke
- Brain tumor
When should you go to the vet?
- If it is a permanent condition
- If your dog suddenly behaves differently
- If other pathological symptoms appear