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Ask A Vet: Do Dogs Have Dreams?

Photo via epicture on Flickr.com

Welcome to our weekly 'Ask a Vet from the SF SPCA' feature on 7x7.com. They've enlisted their Co-President, Dr. Jennifer Scarlett, to answer your questions every week. Got a question for Dr. Scarlett? Ask away in the comments!

Q: Do dogs really dream? Sometimes my beagle squirms, moves her legs and howls while she's sleeping - I assume she's dreaming. Could it be a nightmare? Should I wake her up?

A: Yes, they dream and dream big.  We know that dogs have very similar sleep phases as us—including the REM sleep—the phase in which most, but not all, dream activity occurs in people.  There are also some studies in rats that not only support dream activity but show that they too seem to be dreaming about the activities engaged in during the day.  We can assume our dogs are often reliving their day.  And just like with us, you’ll see muscle twitches, (thanks to an area of the brain called the pons, we don’t completely act out our dreams), and the telltale rapid eye movements associated with dream sleep in people.  Most likely your beagle is just inches away from catching that squirrel or snarfing up that half-eaten hot dog on the sidewalk in her dream so unless the vocalizations are distressing I say its best to let her finish her dream.

You have questions? We have answers! No question is too silly or too gross…we’ve heard it all! “Ask A Vet” every Friday from 12pm-1pm on Twitter: @sfspca.

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