Canine Restless Legs Syndrome

By Betty Lewis

People who just can't not move their legs have a condition called restless legs syndrome, or RLS. Their legs may have an itchy, irritated feeling, resulting in an uncontrollable urge to move them to get a little relief. The sensation usually happens when the person is relaxed, such as bedtime. No one knows if dogs suffer from RLS. If your pup's paddling his feet during nap time, it may be for some other reason.

Restless Legs Syndrome

Pins and needles, throbbing, creepy crawlies -- these are just a few of the descriptions of restless legs syndrome, or RLS, described by people who suffer from the overwhelming need to move their legs. Movement means relief, so the person with RLS moves his legs. People can explain what they're feeling and why they feel the urge to move their legs, so the condition can be labeled and explained. However, it's not so with dogs. If your pup suddenly paddles his legs while snoozing in his bed, you have no way to know if it's because his legs feel so odd he can't help but move them. Since your dog can't talk, you can't know for sure if he has RLS.

Sweet -- or Busy -- Dreams

Dogs can't talk, so humans are left to guess what's going on in their minds and bodies, especially when they act out in their sleep. Your dog experiences three stages of sleep: nonrapid eye movement or NREM, rapid eye movement or REM and short-wave sleep or SWS. According to PetMD, animal experts believe dogs dream during the REM stage of sleep. If your pup starts moving his paws or legs in his sleep, he may be frolicking in a field or chasing your cat -- in his dreams.

Muscle Trembling

Your pup may be asleep, or he may be relaxing on the couch with you, and suddenly start to tremble uncontrollably. He may have tremors, which are repetitive, rhythmic muscle movements causing him to twitch. Tremors can be fast or slow, occurring anywhere, including his legs. There are a variety of reasons for tremors, including pain or weakness, nervous system disease, injury or trauma or medicine side effects.

Seizures in Dogs

You may walk into a room and find your pup lying on his side paddling his feet. Pay attention because though his legs are restlessly moving, he may be experiencing a seizure. Seizures often include drooling, foaming at the mouth, stiffening and loss of consciousness. He also may poop or pee during his spell. After a seizure, a dog tends to be disoriented, unsteady and temporarily blind. There's a host of reasons for seizures, including electrolyte imbalances, stroke, kidney disease, head injuries and poison ingestion.

Talk to the Vet

If you suspect your pup isn't happily chasing bunnies in his sleep, it's time to have a professional examine him. There could be any number of reasons behind his restless legs. Your vet will consider your dog's medical history, symptoms and physical condition in a diagnosis.