Why do dogs eyes roll when sleeping? Is it normal?

Why do dogs eyes roll when sleeping
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    A dog staring at you may seem scary, and you might find it abnormal, especially if their eyes start to roll. Our Cavapoo Rosie does this all the time, but is it a natural part of their sleep process or something something that we should be concerned with?

    It is normal for a dog’s eyes to roll when sleeping, especially in the REM stage, followed by certain behaviors such as twitching and slight muscle movements. You should check out how your pet sleeps regularly to determine whether there are any health concerns that need to be addressed.

    Like humans, dogs close their eyes or act like they are asleep, but more often than not their eyes are still open. At this time, you might observe that your dogs eyes roll back. This is attributed to your pet’s sleeping patterns and certain physical characteristics. Below we explain more…

    Does a dog roll its eyes when awake or asleep?

    A dog’s eyes roll back in their head when they sleep with their eyelids open, leaving just the whites of the eyes exposed. At this time, if you look closely, you will see the eyes rolling.

    This is because dogs go through two types of sleep stages. These are the short wave sleep (SWS), where the body is not fully relaxed but the mental processes are quiet, and REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, whereby the dog is calm and in deep sleep and dreams.

    At the SWS stage, the dog is easily woken by slight movement or a little noise. Although this is not true for all dogs, various breeds are more predisposed than others at showing their eyes while asleep. For instance, dogs with bulbous eyes and other breeds such as Greyhounds often sleep with their eyes open and the whites exposed.

    Why are my dogs eyes rolling around when they sleep?

    When falling asleep or deep asleep, you may not that your dog often rolls its eyes. Typically, at this time, the skin pulls their eyelids open slightly, so that only the white part of the eye is visible. There are various reasons why dogs roll their eyes.

    First, most dogs move their eyes when trying to stay awake, but are exhausted or sleepy. They might roll their eyes under their eyelids, indicating that they are at the REM stage. They might also roll their eyes when debris gets into the eyes or when there are underlying health issues.

    Why are my dogs eyes open and moving while sleeping?

    Although not all dogs do it, it’s pretty common to find dogs such as Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and Cavapoos sleeping with their eyes open to keep them alert of their surroundings. A dog breed such as a Pug has prominent eyes that appear open while asleep. Such breeds have an additional inner eyelid for protection purposes while they sleep.

    What Causes Dogs’ Eyes To Roll Back?

    When a dog has its eyes rolled, its nictitating membrane is acting up. There are various reasons why the dog’s eyes roll back, which are:


    Many dogs sleep with their eyes open when in the REM sleep stage. Their dreaming is accompanied by heavy breathing and twitching. When the dog dreams, it will roll its eyes frequently.


    Although they have some similarities, a seizure is different from dreaming. Instead of being comfortable, a dog with a seizure will be tense, make noises of distress, snap jaws after every few minutes, and look uncomfortable while asleep. This is because seizures cause an abnormal electrical activity to the eyes. Proper diagnosis by a vet is necessary to determine whether the dog is having a seizure.

    Abnormal eye movement can also signify various diseases or disorders that might require medical attention. This is vary rare, but it is best to seek veterinary advice if you are worried.

    Why do dogs sleep with one eye open?

    Dogs are more exposed to potential dangers when they sleep with their eyes closed. Therefore, a dog will sleep with its eyes either open or half-open to keep them alert from human intrusion, predators, bad weather, and other potential dangers.

    Dogs also sleep with one eye open as a normal part of the REM stage and SWS stage and should not cause any alarm. They will blink slowly to prevent the eyes from drying out. However, if the pupils are dilated and in a fixed position, the dog might have a seizure.

    Should you wake a sleeping dog?

    With a furry companion around, such as a Cavapoo and Cavachon, you might be tempted to have your dog sleeping in your bed. However, in their natural part of REM sleep, they might disturb you with sudden body movements. If you want to wake them up, gently call them, assure them that they are safe, and help them remain calm. However, just like a sleeping baby, you should not wake a dog if it’s sleeping peacefully.

    How do I know if my dog is sleeping well?

    Like humans, dogs need to rest to exert energy and be in a good mood for the rest of the day. When your dog is sleeping well, it shows various behaviors such as soft barks or grunts, leg kicks, twitching, and wagging. For young dogs, apart from their eyes moving, moving their bodies frequently is a natural part of REM sleep that shows they are sleeping well.

    If you would like to ensure that your dog gets the right amount of sleep, then check out our blog on how much sleep does a Cavapoo need?

    What causes my dogs eyes to roll when they are not sleeping?

    Sometimes, your dogs eyes roll even when they are not asleep. This is common in older dogs, although it also happens in younger dogs. Apart from old age, there are various reasons that this happens.

    These include:

    Eye injury

    A third eyelid can make your dog’s eye roll in strange ways even when they are not asleep. In the process, the inner eyelid might get damaged.

    Cherry eye

    A cherry eye is another term for a swollen third eyelid gland. This condition can cause discomfort to the eyes, and in severe cases, surgery will be required.

    Vestibular disease

    This disease can appear suddenly and affect the balance of a dog. Vestibular disease is caused by ingestion of certain drugs, tumors, eye injury, hypothyroidism, or an inner or middle ear infection. This affects the balance mechanisms in the inner ear.

    Tumors or cysts

    Cysts are lumps that develop under the skin. If they develop in the eye, then they make the eye make strange movements and can cause a lot of discomfort to your pet. Tumors cause irregular eye movement and affect the neurological system. Just like cysts, tumors cause abnormal growth of the third eyelid causing discomfort to your pet.


    Vestibular disease is an underlying cause of this strabismus. The disease affects the coordination of the brain and the eyes forcing them to work differently. With this condition, you will find the eyes moving in different directions.


    It can be difficult to differentiate a stroke from a vestibular disease since they have many similar signs, such as loss of balance and spatial awareness, head tilting, and jerking eye movement. A stroke can cause changes in eye movements due to the lack of blood supply in the brain. It’s caused by the blockage or rupture of a blood vessel. This happens without any warning signs, and its impact can be terrible.

    If your dog does suffer from an eye injury or illness, then you may want to consider using an eye patch. Check out our reviews of the 3 best eye patches for dogs.


    Do dogs have a third eyelid?

    Yes! Dogs do have a third eyelid. This membrane wipes away any debris that might land on the delicate eyeball and keeps the eye moist. Unlike humans, dogs are unable to wipe their eyes. With the eyes closed, the dog’s eyelid blinks frequently and retracts when the eyes open. You will find the whites exposed when the dog sleeps with its eyes open.

    How can I tell if my dog is dreaming?

    Dogs seem to react to dream images as they sleep. When dogs dream, they tend to move their legs randomly, whine, purr, growl, whimper, and twitch their muscles. Besides, the breathing of dreaming dogs becomes shallow and irregular. They are sometimes described as “chasing squirrels in their dreams.”

    Why do dogs twitch in their sleep?

    The amount of twitching differs depending on the age of the dog. The brain processes information and the day’s experiences through dreams when the dog sleeps. A dog’s brain contains pons, a part of the brain stem that contains the off switches. Pons inhibit muscle movements, with the intensity varying depending on the time taken to process information.

    Do dogs have seizures in their sleep?

    Seizures are abnormal responses that are triggered in the brain to neurons. Most dogs have a seizure shortly after they wake up or while awake. However, they can also have a seizure in their sleep. A seizure commonly occurs in dogs experiencing conditions such as neoplastic growths, metabolic disorders, and epilepsy.

    Do dogs roll their eyes when annoyed?

    Dogs express their emotions with their bodies. If annoyed, you will find the dog rolling its eyes, yawning excessively, licking its lips, and shaking its head.

    What are eye boogers?

    Eye boogers can be described as the buildup of mucus in the eyes. Like in humans and other animal species, the dog’s eyes produce mucus in small quantities. When it blinks, the eyes flush away the secretions produced. With Cavapoos, sometimes their eye boogers fall and get caught in their hair and this is known as tear staining.


    It is normal for a dog to roll eyes, and this should not be a reason to cause alarm. When a dog is sleeping, its body is usually relaxed. However, if you notice changes in your dogs behavior, such as being distressed, breathing faster and shallower, or excessive eye movement and head tilting, then there might be a problem, and you should call a vet immediately.

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