Three Dachshund Puppies In Bed

Dog Sleeps With Eyes Open – Dreaming Or Seizure?

Ever had your dog laying down with their eyes open and have no response when you approach it. You waive your hands, call his/her name, or even walk up and pet it but… nothing? Maybe it’s sleeping, but how can that be?

Why does this occur?

Not all dogs have this ability to sleep with their eyes wide or partially open. This habit is traced back from a dogs heritage. The third eyelid acted as a defense mechanism that allowed dogs to appear awake and get some rest. Why would dogs want to appear awake? So they wouldn’t be hunted by larger mammals.

Third Eyelid

When a dog is sleeping and appears to be awake, what you are really seeing is a third eyelid. This light pink/red tissue is a membrane that allows to keep the eye moist and protect the eyeball. According to American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologist, this membrane is estimated to be responsible for 40-50% of the dog’s tears.

Truthfully, the only time a dog has their eyes open while sleeping is when they are under anesthesia. Otherwise, they are either sleeping or having a seizure. There are many ways to determine if the dog is actually having a seizure or just dreaming peacefully. It is very important to know the difference between them.

Difference between the two

Just like people, dogs can have seizures too and some of the characteristics of a seizure are the same. Here is a short list of differences between dreaming and seizures.


  • May or may not have eyes open. Sometimes dogs have their eyes closed a little bit
  • Usually cry once or twice
  • Occasional short bark
  • May paddle, twitch, shake or check their legs (Example: running around in a dream)
    • Motions are brief and only last seconds
  • Easy to wake up a dog up from a dream


  • Usually have seizures when the dogs are awake but can sometimes happen when the dog is asleep
  • Eyes are wide open when a seizure is happening
  • Tend to be stiff and more rigid
  • Motions are typically last longer during a seizure
  • Impossible to wake up a dog from a seizure

What if my dog had a seizure?

The first thing you will notice if your dog is having a seizure is uncontrollable shaking. Imagine a person having a seizure and apply it to your dog. Yikes. Not a pretty picture but don’t freak out. Seizures in dogs can last a few seconds to a few minutes. Do not try to hold down the dog in anyway, you may end up harming it. A dog may bite their tongue and have foam or drool around the mouth. This is normal even though it may not seem normal.

After the seizure has passed, you will notice that the dog will have trouble walking and may be disoriented or confused. The recovery of a dog could happen instantaneously or may take up to a day. This all depends on the dog but your dog should be back to normal in no time. So after the seizure, what do you do next?

Trip to the Veterinary Hospital

Take your dog to the vet to get checked up and to see if treatment is necessary. If the dog is less than two years old, it should respond well to treatment. Older dogs treatment success is dependent on a case by case basis. Below you will find find some causes of seizures and tips for treating dogs with seizures.

Causes of seizures

  • Environmental – dogs can accidentally swallow something that is poisonous
  • Health issues – Ongoing health issues which could be a result of kidney disease, liver disease, anemia, brain cancer, strokes, electrolyte problems or if the blood pressure is too high or low
  • Sex – males are more prone to experience seizures
  • Breeds – some breeds have a history of having seizures. For example these dogs are more common to have seizures:
    • Vizsla, Belgian Tervuren, Golden Retriever, Keeshond, Labrador Retriever, Beagle, Shetland Sheepdog, English Springer Spaniel, Bernese Mountain Dog, Finish Spitz and Irish Wolfhound.

Tips to treating dogs with seizures

  • On going blood tests – regular blood tests will be needed to be done to identify the root cause of the seizures
  • Diet change – it is important to adjust the diet of the dog. This is because medication for the dog has a chance of causing the dog to gain weight.
  • No sodium – say no to salty foods and treats. If the dog is on potassium bromide, a lot of salt can induce seizures
  • No pools – dogs can drown if they have a seizure if they are in water.
  • Consistency – if the dog is experiencing consistent seizures that are lasting longer than five minutes, it is important to take the dog to the vet as soon as possible
  • Cool places – make sure your dog is not left out in the sun. Duh! Dogs can overheat easily if the seizure is long enough but remember, never put water on the back of a dog (to cool it)

If another seizure does happen, take your pet to the doctors for another blood test. In order to have a healthy dog, please take your dog right away to the vet. Do not put this off, it is very important to take advice of the professionals (vets!).


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