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The Truth Behind Your Dog Sleeping With His Eyes Open

The Truth Behind Your Dog Sleeping With His Eyes Open

PupVine friends, please help me out… I think my hooman is broken! Every time I wake up, she’s standing above me and staring like she never saw me before. I love my owner, but this weird behavior creeps me out a little bit. Can you tell me what’s going on? Is it me or her? I’m really confused.

Dear doggie, there’s no need to worry about your hooman. Although I do understand your concern, you can rest assured that everything is okay with your owner.

It seems that you often sleep with your eyes open, and your owner is just worried that there might be something wrong.

Make sure to show her this article, so she can understand why you behave in such a way.

Why Can’t Your Pooch Keep Its Eyes Closed?

dachshund dog sleeping in the bed with his eyes open

Dear owner, you must be just as confused as your pooch after seeing it sleeping with its eyes open.

I remember the first time I saw my doggo lying on the sofa with his head hanging above the floor and eyes wide open, staring into empty space. I still think I had a mini heart attack at that moment, but soon after, I realized he was actually asleep.

I got used to it after some time, and I’m sure you will, too, once you determine whether it’s related to a health issue or simply the way your pup sleeps.

1. Your Doggie Is Still (Partly) Awake

By keeping its eyes open while laying on the sofa or its bed, your pooch might be signaling to you that it’s still not fully asleep.

There is a high chance your pup has entered the early phase of sleep, where its nervous system relaxes and the brain enters “peaceful” mode. This phase is often described as the slow wave sleep (SWS) stage, or NREM (non rapid eye movement). [1]

Some canines will keep their eyes closed during this stage, but there is a high chance your pup will remain with its eyes open throughout its sleeping cycle.

It might seem to you that your pooch is staring into space, but it’s more likely that it’s actually going through its early sleep phase, so there’s no reason for concern.

2. The Pup Is Off To Dreamland

weimaraner dog lays his head on a pillow while sleeping

Have you ever seen Bizkit, a cute doggie that crashes into the wall while sleeping? I have to admit I had a good laugh watching him, but the reason why I mention this doggo isn’t just to make you laugh, but to represent a scientific fact that might be of great importance to you.

The reason why Bizkit jumps into the wall while sleeping is because he enters the REM stage of sleep, according to the VCA Animal Hospitals’ article. During this phase, dogs often leave their eyes open, produce noise, twitch their legs, or even try to run, depending on what they’re dreaming about.

Although it might sound funny, canines can have dreams just like we do. Your pup might dream of getting its favorite treat or chasing a squirrel, which can cause leg-twitching and rapid eye movements.

I know this might freak you out, but your doggie is probably having the best time of its life, just like this furry buddy.

3. Always On Duty

According to a theory explained by Dr. Sandra Mitchell, in PetMD’s article, it’s in your dog’s blood to be alert 24/7, as their ancestors had to keep an eye on their enemies in the wild. [2]

This type of behavior wasn’t typical only for canines, but other animals as well, especially those that were usually considered prey.

Your house might not be a jungle (mine is, most of the time), and your doggie might not feel threatened by anything, but it still might have the need to keep its eyes open.

Some animals might have kept this trait even after domestication, which now serves to scare their owners. Jokes aside – it’s really not pleasant to see your pup unconscious with its eyes open.

4. It’s Time To See A Vet

veterinarian checking dog's eye at clinic

Unfortunately, almost every specific behavior in dogs, including this one, might be a symptom of an underlying health issue

When it comes to dogs sleeping with their eyes open, it sometimes can be a sign of a certain eye condition.

Cherry Eye

There’s nothing sweet about this cherry, as it represents a health issue that appears in animals that have the “third eyelid”, also known as the “nictitating membrane”, as stated on the Davies Veterinary Specialists’ website

You might not notice it, as it’s practically “invisible”, but this membrane has a significant role in keeping the doggie’s eyes clean and protected while they’re open.

However, if the third eyelid is swollen, your furry buddy’s eyes will become pink/red and swollen to the point that they can’t be closed.

A study from Royal Veterinary College has shown that cherry eye appears more often in brachycephalic breeds. Therefore, if you own a Pug or a Bulldog that sleeps with its eyes open, it would be best to check their eyes more often for any symptoms of this condition.

Lagoph… Big Eyes!

Thank God I’m not filming a video, so I don’t have to pronounce Lagophthalmos. This condition appears in canines with eyes bigger than their eyelids, which is why they cannot fully close them. [3]

Unfortunately, this health problem is primarily related to brachycephalic canines as well because most of them have large, flat eyes, with shallow eye orbits.

Lagophthalmos is just another reason why you should take your pup to the vet if you notice it sleeping with its eyes open. In case your doggie is diagnosed, this issue can be treated surgically, but the success will still depend on the type of breed and the size of the dog’s eyes, according to professor Ralph E. Hamor.

Is My Dog Sleeping With Its Eyes Open Or Having A Seizure?

retriever sleeping with eyes open in his bed

In some cases, dogs that are having a seizure might look like they’re sleeping with their eyes open because they stare into space, twitch their legs, and seem drowsy while laying on the floor or on their dog bed (depending on where they are during the epileptic episode). [4]

I know it sounds scary, but dog seizures can be handled well if they’re discovered in time. Although there’s no definite cure for canine epilepsy, there are certain medications that can prevent the majority of seizure episodes and lower the side-effects it might have on your pooch.

Also, I recommend that you not panic before taking your pup to the vet. There might be a possibility that your pup is going through a seizure if it’s laying down with its eyes open, but there’s also a chance that this is just their way of sleeping.

However, if you notice that your furry companion doesn’t follow its regular sleeping patterns, and seems to fall to the ground rather than laying down as usual, along with other symptoms mentioned above, it’s time to pay a visit to the doctor.

Wrapping Up

If your furry buddy could speak, it would probably ask for help, as it certainly doesn’t seem pleasant to have someone standing over your head and staring at you while you’re sleeping.

But, as a canine owner, I completely understand the worry that you might have regarding your pooch sleeping with its eyes open.

As you can see, the majority of reasons why your dog sleeps with its eyes open are not serious, but if it bothers you, I always recommend visiting a vet. You know how they say: “Better safe than sorry!”

READ MOREWhy Does My Dog Make Weird Noises: 9 Purring Reasons


1. Llera Ryan, Buzhardt Lynn. “Do Dogs Dream?”. VCA Animal Hospitals Website.

2. C. Mitchell, Sandra. (April 29, 2022.) “Why Your Dog Sleeps With Their Eyes Open”. PetMD Website.

3. E. Hamor, Ralph. (February, 2023.). “Eyelids in Animals.” MSD Veterinary Manual Website.

4. American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation. (November 22, 2011). “How to Handle a Seizure in Your Dog.” American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation’s website.