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Dr. Gabby
Dr. Gabby, Veterinarian
Category: Dog
Satisfied Customers: 12498
Experience:  DVM for 19 years. Compassionate, Caring, Experienced.
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Hello,Last night my Doberman was sitting on the floor next

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Hello, Last night my Doberman was sitting on the floor next to me while I was in a recliner. My recliner rocks and when I got up to get out of the chair, he got up and went crazy and start growling and barking really loud. He was in attack mode and I thought he was going to go for my throat. Do dogs sometimes have nightmares and will react this way if they are awakened suddenly? He has  never done this before.

Hello and thank you for asking your question. My name isXXXXX will try to help.

Yes, they can have a nightmare, or night terror, disorder.

If it continues to happen, the most likely cause is a sleep disorder. It is called a "rapid eye movement" disorder in dogs because that is the part of the sleep cycle in which the disorder occurs. When he is attacking you, part of his brain is turned off so he does not know what he is doing. Dogs with this problem, can be very aggressive, and bite, when woken up.

During dreaming, the brain is electrically very active This includes the portion of the brain that controls movement. During this stage of sleep, a region in the brain stem actively paralyzes motor neurons to prevent that activity in the motor center from causing movement. The exception to this are the motor neurons that control breathing and eye movements. That's why you see the rapid eye movement (REM) during certain stages of sleep. In some patients, this active paralysis of motor neurons fails. This results in excessive, sometimes violent motor activity during dreaming. In some cases this is associated with vocalizations such as growling and even biting/attacking movements. The dog is basically acting out his dreams.
The main risk is the dog hurts themselves or hurts anyone or anybody nearby. Management consists of having the dog sleep in a confined, well-padded area, such as a crate to prevent any injury.

There are two medications, clonazepam and bromide, that can be used to treat it. Your vet can prescribe those medications for you.

Seizure activity can cause this type of behavior as well.

If it is seizure activity, you can not wake the dog up during a seizure.

If you google "REM sleep disorder" you can see some videos, on YouTube, of dogs and people with this problem which may help you tell the difference.

You will need to video tape a couple of episodes so your vet can see what is going on and to help your determine the cause as well as a treatment.

Your vet will want to do blood work, and a urinalysis, to make sure there is not an underlying medical cause as well.

I hope this helps.



Customer: replied 4 years ago.

This must be why he was shaking so bad after the attack. He realized that he almost bit me and could have hurt me bad. Or at least I want to think he realized it. I don't know. My other Doberman was getting ready to pounce on him if he would have lunged at me. I will keep tabs on him. Are you saying that his eyes will flinch while he is sleeping? Both my dobies eyes flinch most of the time when they are sleeping, but they have never done what G did yesterday. I thought eye flinching was just normal for dogs while they sleep.

It is normal for dogs to have eye movement while sleeping. My dobie does it too. But if they wake up frenzied, then they woke up in the eye movement stage of sleep which is not normal.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

He woke up because I woke him up while he was in the REM stage. He didn't just wake up on his own. I'm thinking that there is not anything wrong since it was my fault he woke up at that time. Am I right?


Well. most dogs do NOT wake up in the REM stage. They would come out of the REM stage quickly and wake up like normal. If it happened once, I would not worry. If it continues to happen, then he needs to be checked for the sleep disorder.
Dr. Gabby and other Dog Specialists are ready to help you
Hi Marie,

I'm just following up on our conversation about G. How is everything going?

Dr. Gabby