VET’S VIEW: Do dogs dream like humans do? Look out for the signs...

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SO, who reckons their dogs dream? I’m sure you’ve noticed lip quivering, leg twitching, or even a growl or snap at an imaginary squirrel, giving the impression that they’re busy dreaming.

Structurally, dog brains are very similar to human brains, with much the same sleep brainwave patterns going on, and almost identical stages of electrical activity – all consistent with the idea that doggy dreams are similar to ours.

With our own dreams much associated with our daily activities, it’s no surprise that evidence shows dogs dream about their activities, too.

Highly social and even emotional, dogs have good memories, so are just as likely to ‘process’ their day’s events – committing new things to memory, even coping with strong emotions. It’s well documented that people need to dream in order to streamline their memories.

We still don’t really know why people dream, but we do know that the pons (a structure present in human and dog brains) contributes to dream activity and even keeps us from acting out the actions we’re dreaming about.

Dog owners can tell if their dog’s dreaming by watching them sleep, with the first dreams starting after about 20 minutes.

Signs may include breathing becoming shallower and irregular, accompanied by odd muscle twitches, even eyes moving behind closed eyelids – caused by your dog looking at dream images as if they were real.

These rapid eye movements (or REM sleep phase) are most characteristic of dreaming sleep. When humans are awakened during this phase, they’re usually dreaming.

We’ll never know exactly what dogs dream about, but knowing how their brains function provides clues.

They may process memories in a different way than humans – for example, remembering smells and sounds, or less visual memories because vision is not their strongest sense.

In fact, a dog’s nightmare could very well involve smelling something frightening! Sweet dreams, everyone.