Why Does My Dog Sleep With His Eyes Open?

Is your dog catching some shut with his eyes cracked open? Learn the reasons behind this strange behavior and when to visit the vet.

dogs sleep with their eyes open

1. Is This Normal?

Most dogs sleep with their eyes closed, just like humans. However, some dogs may appear to sleep with their eyes partially open, exposing the whites of their eyes or even their pupils. This can look quite alarming, especially if you are not used to seeing your dog sleep this way. But is this normal, or is it a sign of a problem?

2. Reasons Why Dogs Sleep With Their Eyes Open

There are several possible reasons why dogs sleep with their eyes open. Some of them are harmless, while others may indicate a health issue. Here are some of the most common ones:

Light Sleep

Dogs have different stages of sleep, just like humans. One of them is light sleep, where they are not fully asleep and can be easily awakened by sounds or movements. During light sleep, dogs may keep their eyes slightly open, as if they are still alert and ready to react. This is more common in dogs that are nervous, anxious, or have a high prey drive.

REM Sleep

Another stage of sleep is REM sleep, which stands for Rapid Eye Movement. This is the stage where dogs (and humans) dream and have vivid mental images. During REM sleep, dogs may twitch, bark, or move their legs, as if they are acting out their dreams. They may also have their eyes partially open, as their eyes move rapidly behind their eyelids. This is normal and does not mean that they are awake or in distress.

Breed and Genetics

Some breeds of dogs have eye anatomy that makes them more likely to sleep with their eyes open. For example, bulldogs, beagles, and pugs have prominent eyes that protrude from their sockets. This can make it harder for them to close their eyelids fully, especially if they have wrinkles or folds around their eyes. Other breeds, such as border collies and huskies, have almond-shaped eyes that may appear to be open even when they are closed.

Instinctual Alertness

Another possible reason why dogs sleep with their eyes open is that it is a leftover instinct from their wild ancestors. In the wild, dogs had to be constantly alert for predators and threats, even during sleep. Keeping their eyes partially open may have given them an advantage in detecting any movement or danger in their surroundings. Even though domestic dogs are safe and comfortable in their homes, they may still retain this instinctual behavior.

Medical Conditions

Finally, some medical conditions can prevent dogs from closing their eyelids fully or cause them to sleep with their eyes open. These include:

  • Dry eye: This is a condition where the dog’s eyes do not produce enough tears to lubricate and protect them. This can cause irritation, inflammation, and infection of the eyes. Dogs with dry eye may keep their eyes open to avoid the discomfort of blinking.
  • Cherry eye: This is a condition where the third eyelid, which is a protective membrane that covers the corner of the eye, prolapses or pops out. This can cause redness, swelling, and discharge of the eye. Dogs with cherry eye may have difficulty closing their eyes or may sleep with them open to relieve the pressure.
  • Facial nerve paralysis: This is a condition where the nerve that controls the muscles of the face is damaged or injured. This can cause drooping or sagging of the eyelids, mouth, and ears. Dogs with facial nerve paralysis may not be able to close their eyes completely or may sleep with them open due to muscle weakness.
dogs sleep with their eyes open

3. When to See a Vet

If your dog has always slept with his eyes open, and he does not show any signs of discomfort, pain, or infection, then there is probably nothing to worry about. However, if your dog recently started sleeping with his eyes open, or if he has any of the following symptoms, you should consult your veterinarian as soon as possible:

  • Eye irritation, redness, or inflammation
  • Eye discharge, crust, or debris
  • Squinting, rubbing, or scratching the eyes
  • Sensitivity to light or changes in vision
  • Difficulty blinking or closing the eyes
  • Changes in behavior, appetite, or energy level

These could indicate an underlying medical condition that needs to be diagnosed and treated. Your vet may perform a physical exam, an eye exam, and some tests to determine the cause and the best course of action. Depending on the diagnosis, your dog may need medication, surgery, or other treatments to improve his eye health and comfort.

dogs sleep with their eyes open


Dogs sleep with their eyes open for various reasons, some of which are normal and harmless, while others may indicate a problem. If you are concerned about your dog’s sleeping habits, you should always consult your vet for advice and guidance. By understanding the reasons behind this strange behavior, you can help your dog get the best sleep possible and enjoy a happy and healthy life.

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