Why Do Dogs Cry in Their Sleep?

Do you ever hear your dog whimpering or crying in its sleep? It can be quite worrying, especially if it’s a sound that it doesn’t usually make. You might wonder what’s wrong and whether you should wake your dog up. In most cases, there’s no need to worry. Dogs cry in their sleep for all sorts of reasons, some of which are perfectly normal. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the most common explanations for why dogs cry in their sleep.

They’re Dreaming

You may not be surprised to learn that dogs (and most mammals) experience dreams in much the same way as humans. Dreams can be caused by all sorts of things, from events that happened during the day to anxiety or fear. If your dog is crying in its sleep, it’s possible that it’s dreaming about something that’s bothering it. 

It’s usually tempting to wake your dog from what sounds like a bad dream, but disrupting REM sleep (the sleep stage in which dreaming occurs) may actually cause more harm than good in the long run, especially if you make it a habit to do so. 


In some cases, dogs may cry in their sleep because they feel lonely or anxious. Many dogs are excessively attached to their owners, so whenever they’re separated, it becomes anxiety provoking. This impacts their sleep, and can even result in crying or whimpering in their sleep. 

If you notice that your dog cries in its sleep more when you’re not in the same room, it’s likely due to anxiety. Try setting up their bed or kennel in the same room. Avoid sharing a bed with an overly attached pet, but sleeping in the same room promotes both independence as well as mutual comfort.

Physical Pain 

Dogs may also cry in their sleep if they’re experiencing physical pain. This could be anything from a toothache, to a sore muscle, to a more serious medical condition. 

Arthritis is a common problem among older dogs, and makes it almost impossible for them to get a good night’s rest. In some cases, just laying down on a hard surface can cause joints to ache with pain, and moving around during the night only amplifies the problem. If you have an older dog, make sure it is a comfortable place to rest.

Bloating may also be a cause of discomfort. Despite what they tell you on the television, not all dog foods are actually good for dogs, and irregular feeding schedules can exacerbate the issue. Many dogs react differently to different foods, but it will only help to provide them with the highest quality food you can.

If your dog has been unusually restless and is whimpering or crying during its sleep, it might be a good idea to take your dog to the vet for a check-up. 


Dogs may also cry in their sleep if they’re feeling physically uncomfortable. This could be anything from being too hot or cold to having an itch that they can’t scratch. Fleas are no friend of dogs, and might keep them up whimpering and scratching throughout the night. Always check your pets for fleas, and bathe them regularly. Medication for fleas can be found at any pet store or veterinarian’s office, as well as treatments for flea bites. 

They’re a Lonely Puppy

The first few weeks of a puppy’s life can be very stressful. You might be ecstatic to have adopted a new puppy into your life, but it’s just been separated from its mother and litter. This might be hard to believe because it’s just a dog, but this type of transition early in the dog’s life causes a lot of loneliness and stress. Being separated from family can result in crying or whimpering during their sleep, but will pass after just a few weeks. 

During this period, it will be extremely tempting to comfort your dog every time it whimpers, as it’s its only way of asking for attention and company. But doing so positively reinforces the behavior of whining, which is something any dog owner likely prefers to avoid. 

They’re Having a Seizure

Although seizures are relatively rare in dogs, they can still occur. If your dog is having a seizure and cries out during it, try to remain calm and keep your dog as safe as possible. Move any objects that might be harmful away from your dog, and place something soft under its head in case they fall over or repeatedly bang their head into the floor. Do not put anything in its mouth because it may bite down reflexively without realizing it. Seizures usually last for less than two minutes, but if they continue after that or if you’re worried about your dog’s health, take it to the vet immediately.

They Don’t Get Enough Exercise

As you know, dogs experience emotions in much the same way as humans. When your dog is happy, afraid, upset, or almost anything else, you know it. When dogs are bored though, they might express it while asleep by crying or whimpering. This is the only way to let this emotion out. Make sure you allow your dogs to get at least a half hour of exercise every day to prevent boredom and crying at night. They just want to play!

How to Distinguish a Seizure From Normal Crying

It’s extremely important to be able to tell the difference between a seizure and normal crying, as the wrong response could be potentially harmful to your dog. It’s difficult to tell a seizure from crying by just listening to them. Pay close attention to the intensity of their movements—seizures are much more rigid and violent. Dogs often relieve themselves (urinate and defecate) during a seizure, and are disoriented when they wake afterward. 


There are plenty of reasons why dogs might cry in their sleep, but the most common ones are loneliness, anxiety, and discomfort. If your dog is having a seizure, it’s important to remain calm and take it to the vet immediately. Try to get at least half an hour of exercise every day to prevent boredom-related crying. As always, if you’re ever unsure about what’s happening with your pet, take it to the veterinarian for a check-up!