Does My Pet Dream?

dog

If you've ever watched your pet twitch, twist, and growl when sleeping, you've probably wondered if he or she is having a particularly interesting dream that involves chasing mice or rooting through your trash can. For years, people have wondered if their furry friends experience the same vivid dreams that humans do. We've taken a look at the latest information and research on pet dreams in an attempt to answer the question.

What Happens During Sleep?

Whether you're a pet or a person, you pass through similar stages of sleep. When you first drift off to sleep, you enter the non-rapid eye movement (REM) phase of sleep. The Non-REM cycle involves three stages of increasingly deeper sleep. During the first stage, your body becomes very relaxed, and your brain becomes less active. The second non-REM stage is marked by a slower rate of breathing and a lower heart rate. Relaxation intensifies and brain activity slows further as you prepare to transition to the deep sleep that occurs during the third non-REM phase. Dreams do occur during this stage but usually aren't remembered.

After you've been sleeping for about 1 1/2 hours, you'll enter the rapid eye movement phase. As you've probably guessed, your eyes begin moving back and forth during this phase. If you watch a family member sleep, you may actually be able to see their eyes moving beneath their eyelids during this phase.

Brain activity, breathing and heart rate increase during this shallower phase of sleep. REM dreams are often vivid and surreal and easily remembered when you wake up. Fortunately, your limbs and muscles are temporarily paralyzed during this phase of sleep to prevent you from harming yourself during a particularly disturbing dream. You'll cycle between non-REM and REM sleep several times during the night, with each REM cycle lasting between 10 minutes and one hour.

What Does the Research Reveal?

Because the non-REM/REM sleep cycle occurs in all mammals, researchers believe that pets also dream. Unfortunately, your furry friends are never going to wake up and say, "You won't believe the dream I just had!". Although your pets can't share their dreams, Koko, a gorilla who has been taught sign language, has the ability to discuss what she sees while she's asleep.

In a People magazine article, researcher Penny Patterson mentioned that Koko has shared information about events that haven't actually taken place or people she hasn't met after she wakes up in the morning. If Koko can dream, it's perfectly reasonable to assume that your dog, cat or rabbit also has nightly dreams.

French sleep researcher Michel Jouvet decided to find out if cats dream during a 1959 experiment that involved destroying the part of the feline brain that stops them from moving during REM sleep. When the cats entered REM sleep, Jouvet reported that they jumped, pounced and stalked invisible prey.

A 2001 study by Massachusetts Institute of Technology researcher Matthew Wilson explored the issue by comparing the brain activity of rats while they were awake and asleep. Rats in the study often exhibited the same brain patterns during REM sleep as they did while running a maze while awake. The results lead Wilson to conclude that the rats were dreaming of running through the maze during the REM cycle.

Size matters when it comes to dreaming. Small animals, like rats, have very short REM cycles. Dogs and cats have longer cycles, but cycle length may still depend on the size of your pet. For example, a Rottweiler may experience longer REM stages than a Chihuahua.

Should I Wake My Sleeping Pet?

If your pet seems to be distressed by a dream, your natural reaction may be to wake and comfort him or her. Unfortunately, it takes a little while for a sleeping pet or person to transition from a dream to a fully awake state. Until that happens, your pet may think you're part of the bad dream and bite or scratch you. Unless your pet is in danger of harming himself or herself during a dream, it's best to let sleeping dogs (or cats) lie.

Do you have a question about your pet's health or need to schedule a checkup? Give us a call and let us know how we can help you keep your furry friend happy and healthy.

Sources:

People: What Is Your Cat or Dog Dreaming About? A Harvard Expert Has Some Answers, 10/13/16

http://people.com/pets/what-is-your-cat-or-dog-dreaming-about-a-harvard-expert-has-some-answers/

LiveScience: What Do Dogs Dream About, 2/17/16

https://www.livescience.com/53743-dog-dreams.html

AKC: Do Dogs Dream, 11/09/15

http://www.akc.org/content/entertainment/articles/do-dogs-dream/

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep

https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Understanding-Sleep

MIT News: Animals Have Complex Dreams, MIT Researcher Proves, 1/24/01

http://news.mit.edu/2001/dreaming

Call to schedule your pet's wellness or urgent care exam now: (952) 758-6722

Testimonials

  • We have been clients of New Prague Animal Care for over 13 years. They have provided exceptional and compassionate care for our “pack” (6 dogs and 3 cats). As a professional dog trainer, breeder of Best in Show and Master Hunter Retrievers as well an owner of multiple kennel/ doggy daycare facilities (30+ years), I have worked with numerous veterinary clinics both in the Twin Cities and nationwide. Dr. Steve and his crew rate among the finest I have worked with. The clinic has all of the fea

    ...
    Show More - Kathryn N
  • My dad has taken all of his dogs there for years, and I take mine there as well. Dr. Lavalle's bedside manner is amazing, and his staff are so genuine and caring. I always have, and will continue referring people to take their pets here. They are hands down the best veterinary care in the area!

    - Amber C
  • Have taken our dogs to Dr. Lavallee for over 10 years and he is great with each of them. He and his staff are very caring and helpful.

    - Barb S
  • Middle of a snow storm a few days ago. My little puppy was injured. I live in Faribult. Vet offices were closed in town. They actually called me while in route to see if I was ok. They were so good with the puppy. The cost was very reasonable. Called today to see how everything was going. I really was very impressed with this office. I recommend this place.

    ...
    Show More - Wendy E
  • Awesome experience! My pets love the care they get from Dr. Lavallee and his staff! They are not just a number; they care for them like my babies are family! Would highly recommend them!

    - SGGM
  • Found a 6-wk old kitten on the side of the highway and brought it in at 7pm on emergency basis. I was blown away by the compassion of Dr. Johnson's team. What a great experience. True animal people!

    - Anna H
  • Moved to New Prague and found this place for our dog.. Such great service, friendly staff, amazing Dr. and very accommodating to all of our needs!! Highly recommended by my pet family!!!

    - Kerri N
  • We love New Prague Animal Care, they are always so kind and caring, from the phone calls to when you walk in. We take our Siberian Husky Bandit in and he gets so much attention, well loved. We've had to take him in twice for emergencies, the in house testing was great, Dr. Johnson was able to resolve the issue almost immediately. I wouldn't take him anywhere else.

    ...
    Show More - Myra C

Contact Us

We look forward to hearing from you

CURRENT HOURS

Pending further developments, we are open MWF 8am-6pm, TTh 8am-8pm, and Sat 9am-Noon.

Monday

8:00 AM - 6:00 PM

Tuesday

8:00 AM - 8:00 PM

Wednesday

8:00 AM - 6:00 PM

Thursday

8:00 AM - 8:00 PM

Friday

8:00 AM - 6:00 PM

Saturday

9:00 AM - 12:00 PM

Sunday

Closed

Monday
8:00 AM - 6:00 PM
Tuesday
8:00 AM - 8:00 PM
Wednesday
8:00 AM - 6:00 PM
Thursday
8:00 AM - 8:00 PM
Friday
8:00 AM - 6:00 PM
Saturday
9:00 AM - 12:00 PM
Sunday
Closed

Our Location