Looking over and seeing your dog deep in slumber is both adorable and entertaining. Especially, when their paws start twitching, maybe even run a little, and they begin to get a little vocal in their sleep. You may even engage in what seems to be an intense staring competition only to find that they are, in fact, sleeping with their eyes open.
Can Dogs Sleep with their Eyes Open?
Before you rush to a vet, it is important to know that it is perfectly normal for dogs to sleep with their eyes open. Some breeds are more likely to do this than others as it has become an evolutionary trait, whereas some dogs sleep with their eyes firmly closed.
A dog’s sleep cycle can vary depending on its breed, size, and age. Yet it is completely normal for your dog to sleep up to a seemingly abnormal amount of hours compared to humans due to the amount of energy they burn throughout the day. A pup and most older dogs may need a little more sleep due to the different levels of energy they produce and burn whereas a healthy adult dog sleeps anywhere between 12-14 hours a day.
When your dog settles down and drifts into slumber, eventually they’ll enter deep sleep. Their heart rate and breathing will slow down and they will begin the REM (rapid eye movement) stage causing them to dream when sleep mode is fully active.
You can spot a dreaming dog by some of these common telltale signs such as; slight twitching, modest running motions, and the occasional low grumble or bark. What they dream about, however, is open to debate, whether it’s the great walk you took them on, or the dog treats you keep stashed away for when they’ve been especially good.
The Biology Of It All
Where debris, dust, and other offending filth attacks the eyes, humans are capable of merely wiping or washing the dirt away unlike cats and dogs. Dogs do have eyelashes that protect the eye from debris, dirt, harsh sunlight, and such but did you know that dogs have a third eyelid?
If you notice your dog sleeping with eyes open as opposed to eyes closed, you may notice a pinkish film over your dog’s eyes. This is known as a nictitating membrane, it serves as a fine layer to protect your dog’s eyes from debris or dirt in addition to its other eyelids. However, this third eyelid is only prominent and noticeable when your dog is sleeping with its eyes partially open. This membrane will also keep the eye moist if you worry that the exposure may leave the eyes dry.
Third Eyelid Related Facts
As an added fact, the third eyelid retracts to the inner corner when your dog has its eyes open, hence why you may not have noticed it previously. Also, whereas your dog’s eyelids are controlled by the pooch, the movement of this third eyelid is involuntary and blinks only when your dog closes their eyes.
Also, people, at some point during evolution, had a third eyelid but it is believed that since we have other methods of protecting our good vision, we no longer have use for them. What may have been the third eyelid is now the bump located on the inner corner of our eyes.
Why does my Dog Sleep with his Eyes Open?
First and foremost, there may be no specific reason why a dog will sleep with its eyes open. Sometimes it is a genetic trait passed down by their parents due to their breed and innate behaviors. Some dogs were bred to be more aware of their surroundings, so sleeping with their eyes open becomes a defense mechanism. Whereas other dogs, who are often bred for appearances and are most commonly known to have flat faces, carry this trait due to their bulging eyes.
Specific breeds such as Beagles and Great Danes were bred as hunting dogs and are accustomed to sleeping with their eyes ajar. This is so that they remain somewhat aware of their surroundings in the event that they should need to wake suddenly with their wits sharp. Which is the definition of sleeping with one eye open!
Other breeds such as Pugs or Chihuahuas are known to have protruding or bulgy eyes and are also used to sleeping with their eyes open. Dog owners may worry when they see their dogs’ eyes remain open when sleeping as humans will struggle with dry eyes if their eyes are kept open for a significant amount of time however, the translucent aforementioned eyelid will protect them and keep the eye moist.
Potential Medical Conditions
When it comes to dogs sleeping with their eyes open there are a few things you may need to take note of to ensure your dog is happy, healthy, and well-rested. If you spot any unusual signs using the helpful list below, you may be able to identify an underlying cause behind potential issues in the future, so that you may work with your veterinarian to get the best care for your best fur friend.
Recognizing An Issue
Most dog owners will know when something is wrong with their pup by the way they behave when they’re awake however, it is important to be able to recognize any abnormalities in the way they sleep too. So far, we know that a dog sleeping with its eyes open isn’t uncommon or a cause for concern although you must take note of how relaxed they are and if they’re breathing normally.
As mentioned previously, when a dog begins to fall asleep their breathing and heart rate will slow down, so keep a good eye on the rise and fall of its tummy and/or chest. You may notice your dog’s eyes open and close a few times during their snooze however if you look over and they have their eyes wide open this may be a sign of something wrong. Make sure you couple this signal with any other abnormalities and consult your vet if you begin to worry over this though, it never hurts to get a professional’s opinion.
A seizure can give off similar traits to that of a dog who is dreaming in which they will have their eyes partially open, they may make noise, and even twitch. However, A dog experiencing a seizure may appear tense and its movements will be more violent with stiffer and more rigid limbs. Their eyes will also appear vacant as opposed to relaxed and it is also entirely possible that they may urinate or defecate. If your dog has any medical conditions and appears to struggle with seizures, consult your vet immediately to prevent further harm to your pup.
What To Do If Your Dog Has A Seizure
First, always check to see if the dog reacts to you gently saying their name as a dreaming dog will wake up quickly and is then able to fall back asleep. Epileptic dogs especially can suffer absent seizures where they lose awareness of their surroundings and won’t react to you calling their name.
If you have established confidently that your dog may be having a seizure it is important to stay calm. It is understandable that you may feel powerless to help however, there are things you can do to support your dog through their seizure.
1 – Stay Calm. Reduce Further Dangers
Talk to your dog gently and remind them that you’re present. Ensure that the space around your dog is clear from further hazards and they are on the floor. If they are on a bed or couch, they may fall and cause further injury to themselves.
2 – Steer Clear Of Touching Them
During a particularly violent seizure where your dog may snap or kick, do not attempt to pet them. If you shock your dog awake, you will put yourself at risk of being bitten or scratched. The last thing you need to deal with is a fresh wound as your attention will need to be on your fur friend.
3 – After Care
Allow your dog the time to calm down and re-orientate themself. A seizure is a difficult thing to endure so it is likely that they will be confused and anxious. Make sure that you remain calm still and talk to them softly in a reassuring voice.
If this is an uncommon occurrence and you find yourself in a state of worry, consult your veterinarian and request a consultation. It is always talking to your vet in regards to feeding and hydrating them immediately after.
When dogs go to sleep with their eyes open it can also suggest a sleep disorder. It isn’t uncommon for dogs to struggle with similar illnesses as people such as sleep apnea, insomnia, and epilepsy, etc These disorders, and illnesses are rare however they still occur and it’s always better to understand this as they may be passed down through their genes. As an example, Doberman Pinschers are known to inherit narcolepsy much like Poodles and Dachshunds.
EKS is a condition that affects the surface of a dog’s eye which can occur in any pooch but especially those will bulging eyes. EKS can be very uncomfortable and painful for dogs so make sure to talk to your vet if you suspect your dog could suffer from this. Symptoms may include reddening, cornea ulcerations, increased tear production, and sometimes a cloudy cornea.
Other Medical Conditions To Look Out For
- Cherry Eye
This occurs when the tear gland in the third eyelid becomes inflamed resulting in a prolapsed gland of the nictitans. It may not be painful at first however your dog may feel compelled or uncomfortable enough to try and scratch it causing further eye injury.
A dog with Lagophthalmos will not be able to completely close its eyelids which will eventually dry out its eyes and make them vulnerable to microbes. This condition will be apparent in the periods where your dog is awake so you’re more likely to notice it sooner.
- So In Conclusion
Whether your dog sleeps with eyes open or not hopefully, we’ve asked the burning questions; can and do dogs sleep with their eyes open, and even why do dogs sleep with their eyes open, along with some more helpful information to support you in keeping your beloved pet safe and healthy!