My Dog Woke Up Screaming! (Reasons And Remedies)

My Dog Woke Up Screaming

There are two types of sounds that you don’t want to be hearing at night.

One, the sound of strange voices in your house. And two, the sound of your dog screaming.

It can be very chilling and disturbing for any dog owner to hear the sound of their dogs screaming upon waking up.

But what can cause your dog to scream in such a manner?

Your dog might be experiencing a bad dream, feeling sudden pain from a medical condition or reacting to an external stimulus like a loud noise. Understanding the exact cause can be challenging and seeking professional veterinary advice is required if this behavior persists.

This article explores the possible reasons behind this behavior, how you might prevent such episodes and you should take your dog to the vet.

Why Did My Dog Scream When It Woke Up?

When I use the word ‘scream’, I’m not referring to a simple howl or yelp.

When a dog screams, it is a high-pitched continuous, relentless yapping, crying or howling.

It does make your dog sound as if it is in pain and can’t do anything about it.

Here are some potential reasons that can cause it.

Your Dog Is Having A Nightmare

“During this phase, your dog can twitch, jerk and even vocalize in its sleep”

dog sleeping soundly having dreams

Many dog owners are surprised that their dogs are capable of having dreams.

Cats too are able to dream.

Dogs have the same sleep phases as humans but they go through each cycle a lot faster than us.

Your dog can have up to 20 sleep cycles as compared to your 4-5 cycles.

Non-Rapid Eye Movement

The first sleep phase that your dog enters is called Non Rapid Eye Movement (NREM). Your dog will enter a light sleep with deep, rhythmic breathing.

Your dog might seem that it is deep asleep but it is still aware of what’s going on in the environment.

Rapid Eye Movement

The next sleep phase after this is called Rapid Eye Movement or REM.

This happens after 15-20 minutes of light sleeping and your dog goes into a deep sleep.

During this phase, your dog can twitch, jerk and even vocalize in its sleep. Some dogs even look as if they have their eyes rolled back while sleeping.

That’s because it is having a dream.

No one really knows what our dogs dream about.

Scientists speculate that it could be anything from chasing squirrels or remembering a nasty incident.

Your dog could have been dreaming about past trauma, abuse or just a plain old nightmare.

That can cause your dog to wake up screaming in fear.

It isn’t a good idea to wake up your dog when it is dreaming. Your dog can wake up startled or scared and lash out at you accidentally.

Your Dog Is In Pain

Another possible reason that can cause your dog to wake up screaming is physical discomfort.

Physical discomfort can happen in various ways.


Certain illnesses can cause your furry friend a fair amount of pain.

Medical conditions like pancreatitis, urinary tract infections, or gastrointestinal problems can cause severe discomfort that can interrupt your dog’s sleep.

Haven’t you woken up before with a really bad tummy ache that made you roll around in bed in pain?

Dogs cannot express their pain with words and screaming or whining might be their way of communicating their discomfort.

Physical Injuries

dog injury

Our dogs can get really physical and boisterous when playing or running about and they could have injured themselves that way.

The pain from these injuries becomes more apparent when your dog is at rest, for example, during sleep.

Your dog’s screaming upon waking might be an indication of an unexpected joint or muscle pain that abruptly roused your dog from sleep.


“A lot of dogs have back issues as they get older, especially for certain dog breeds like the sausage dog.”

No one likes getting old as aging brings about its own set of issues.

As your dog age, it can develop various health issues such as:

  • Arthritis
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Degenerative diseases
  • Neurological problems

These conditions can cause chronic pain in the dog’s body, especially when the dog is trying to rest.

A lot of dogs have back issues as they get older, especially for certain dog breeds like the sausage dog.

During deep sleep, older dogs might move in ways that exacerbate these conditions or stiffen up after being motionless for a period of time.

This can cause the dog to wake up suddenly in pain.

Muscle Cramps

Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night with your calf or toes all cramped up?

I know I have and it hurts like heck.

Lo and behold, our furry friends can get muscle cramps while sleeping too.

Muscle cramps are involuntary contractions of a muscle or group of muscles.

This issue can happen for a variety of reasons:

  • Lack of minerals
  • Over exertion
  • Bad sleeping positions
  • Age
  • Health problems (diabetes, nerve damage)

We are able to rationalize what is happening when we get a cramp but your dog can’t.

A study conducted in 2021 on 14 dogs with muscle cramps showed that 42% of them showed “overt pain” when the cramps occurred.

Waking up with a strong pain in the leg can be horrible for your dog.

Your Dog Is Having A Seizure

Seizures are a terrifying experience for any dog owner to witness and for the dog to go through.

Seizures are caused by abnormal electrical activity in the brain and can lead to physical convulsions

A seizure could just involve a specific part of your dog’s body or the entire body.

Most seizures happen when your is awake or just after waking up from slumber.

Symptoms of having a seizure include:

  • Vocalization
  • Drooling
  • Foaming at the mouth
  • Convulsions

There’s not much that you can do while your dog is having a seizure except to ride it out and ensure it doesn’t hurt itself.

Do Dogs Scream When Having A Seizure?

It may seem that your dog is in pain during a seizure, given its screaming. But that’s usually not the case.

During a seizure, dogs tend to be in a state of unconsciousness or semi-consciousness and the activity in its brain may lead to involuntary vocalization.

Although the noises may be distressing, it’s essential to understand that your dog isn’t aware of any pain during a seizure.

Should I Take My Dog To The Vet?

doggie at vet

While dogs may express distress vocally, certain signs shouldn’t be ignored as they could signify serious health problems.

A dog waking up and screaming is a clear sign of distress and should be addressed.

If your dog is just showing signs of having a bad dream, I wouldn’t worry too much about it.

Your dog will be fine once it has calmed down.

For the below scenarios, you need to take your dog to the vet immediately.

In some cases, dogs may scream due to an underlying medical condition that’s not visible to the naked eye.

You need to look out for other symptoms such as:

  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Change in toilet habits
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Seizures

If the screaming is accompanied by other symptoms such as limping or visibly swollen or injured areas, it could be a sign of physical injury.

Even if your dog seems fine and such extreme behaviors have been occurring more frequently of late, it’s best to get your dog checked for peace of mind.

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