A dog is lying on its back.

Can Dogs Sleep with Their Eyes Open?

3 min read

Probably, nothing can relax you more than watching your favorite pet sleeping in a funny position. However, you may get skittish when you notice that the pooch is dreaming with its eyes open. Fortunately, there are no reasons to worry about it because a lot of dog owners face a similar issue.

Nothing Is What It Seems

A dog is sleeping in its box.
Have you heard about the dog's nictitating membrane? See below what it is.

Just like the majority of other animals, dogs aren’t able to sleep with their eyes open. But still, these wonderful pets keep an amazing secret. In case you take a careful look at your pooch’s eyelids, you’ll notice that it has actually three of them instead of two. The third one is called the nictitating membrane.

The pinkish membrane always covers the animals’ eyes to keep them moist during sleep. Also, it removes debris and mucus to prevent any damages to the eyeball. And according to the words of doctor of veterinary medicine, Deborah S. Friedman, the nictitating membrane produces about one-third of the pooch’s tears. What is more, its lymphoid tissue generates the antidotes necessary to protect the eyes from infections.

Besides, take into consideration that the third eyelid may be more visible in case your canine has small eyes and a long head. This refers to such dolichocephalic breeds as Afghan hounds and bull terriers.

How Does It Work?

The interesting fact is that the dog’s membrane is totally passive. It means that your pet can’t move it because there are no muscles attached to it. The membrane comes across the eyeball only when the pet closes its other eyelids. When the dog wakes up, it gets back to the previous position.

However, in case you notice that the third eyelid can be seen clearly even when your pet is awake, you should go to the vet immediately. It may be a warning signal of an eye injury or nerve damage.

Difference between Dream and Seizure

A dog is lying in bed.
A dog cannot open its eyes widely during sleep.

A seizure may be another reason why your dog’s eyes are opened when it sleeps. However, there are some significant differences between it and the usual dreaming.

For example, in case your pet is just sleeping, as a rule, its eyes will be a little open. Plus, you may call its name quietly. If there’s nothing wrong, the dog will wake up quickly.

Things are completely different in case your pet has a seizure. First of all, it won’t be able to respond to your words. In addition, its eyes will be opened completely and it’ll be staring blankly. It also can howl, moan, or make strange noises. If your four-legged companion falls in such a situation, the best thing you can do is to ensure he is home and dry. But still, don’t forget to examine it afterward.


A tiny dog is sleeping and smiling.
There's no need to worry if you can see a bit of the dog's eyes during sleep.

As you can see, usually, there is nothing to worry about in case you’ve noticed your dog sleeping with its eyes slightly open. At the same time, you should remember that there are clear warning signs, which indicate that your dog has health problems. In such cases, you should certainly consult with a vet to start treating your little friend.

by GetESA

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Pet Care