At the Vets: Twitching paws? Quivering lips? Yep, Fido is dreaming

Puppy Charlie enjoys some shut-eye
Puppy Charlie enjoys some shut-eye

So who reckons that they’ve witnessed their dogs dreaming?

I’m pretty sure most of you will have noticed some degree of canine lip quivering, leg twitching, or even a growl or snap at some imaginary squirrel while your dog’s asleep, giving the impression that they’re busy dreaming.

Structurally, brains of dogs are very similar to those of humans with much the same sleep brainwave patterns going on and almost identical stages of electrical activity; all of which is consistent with the idea that doggy dreams may actually be very similar to ours.

Much of our own dreaming is associated with activities we’ve engaged in earlier that day, so it’s no surprise that evidence shows dogs dream about their daily doggy activities too.

Highly social and even emotional, dogs have good memories, so are just as likely to ‘process’ their day’s events; committing new things to memory, even coping with strong emotions.

It’s well documented that people need to dream in order to streamline their memories.

We still don’t really know why people dream, but we do know that the pons (a structure present in both human and dog brains) contributes to dream activity and even keeps us from acting out the actions we’re dreaming about.

Dog owners can tell if their dog’s dreaming by watching them sleep with first dreams starting after about 20 minutes; breathing becoming shallower and irregular, accompanied by odd muscle twitches, even eyes moving behind closed eyelids – due to your dog looking at dream images as if they were real images of their world.

These rapid eye movements (or REM sleep phase) are most characteristic of dreaming sleep.

When human beings are awakened during this rapid eye movement, they virtually always report that they were dreaming.

We’ll never know for sure what dogs dream about, but knowing how their brains function can provide clues.

They may process memories in a different way than humans e.g. remembering smells and sounds, or less visual memories because a dog’s vision isn’t their strongest sense.

In fact a dog’s nightmare could very well involve smelling something frightening!

Sweet dreams everyone.