Why Does My Shih Tzu Sleep With Their Eyes Open?

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If your Shih Tzu is anything like mine, they take naps regardless of the time of day. Even though they seem sound asleep, if you take a close look, you notice that their eyes are partway open. That might get you to wondering why does my Shih Tzu sleep with their eyes open? Well, here’s why…

Why Does My Shih Tzu Sleep With Their Eyes Open?

First off, dogs sleeping with their eyes open is completely natural.

So, there is nothing to worry about most of the time although sometimes, but rarely, there can be an issue that you need to have checked out.

But why do they do it?

There are a couple of reasons for this behavior.

1. For Defense

When dogs lived in the wild, they had to worry about becoming prey for a larger animal that was looking for an easy meal.

By having their eyes partway open, they could fool the attacker into thinking they were awake.

This could lead to the attacker moving on and looking for an easier meal.

It also helps them stay alert even while sleeping.

It is hard to imagine being able to get any real rest if you are on the alert for dangers, but dogs are able to use one part of their brain to keep watch while the rest of their brain actually gets some shut-eye.

While your Shih Tzu certainly doesn’t need to worry about being attacked in their sleep, the habit of sleeping with their eyes partway open is just imprinted on their DNA.

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2. They Aren’t Actually Asleep

While you, hopefully, sleep for hours at night without waking, dogs have a sleep cycle of about 20 minutes.

That means they wake up every 20 minutes or so.

That worked well for them out in the wild.

They could get a little sleep, wake up to check things out and then go back to sleep.

They do the same thing now.

So, if you see their eyes open a bit, it could be you’ve just caught them when they woke up and before they went back to sleep.

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How They Stay Comfortable Sleeping With Their Eyes Open

While the thought of sleeping with your eyes open might sound really uncomfortable, and it would be for you, it’s not an issue for your Shih Tzu due to their third eyelid.

All dogs have a third eyelid which is called the nictitating membrane.

When your dog is awake, this membrane hangs out in the corner of their eye.

When they are asleep, it moves over the eye to protect it and to keep the eye lubricated.

So, while they are sleeping and their eye is slightly opened, it is being protected, so they can snooze and relax and get into a deep sleep.

When Should You Worry About This Behavior?

There are times that you should be concerned about your Shih Tzu sleeping with their eyes open.

No doubt, you have noticed that your dog’s eyes are only partially open and not fully open.

If your dog’s eyes are completely open when sleeping there could be a couple of issues.

One, they might not actually be asleep.

They could be epileptic and having a seizure.

The second issue is narcolepsy.

If your Shih Tzu has narcolepsy, they might just suddenly fall to the ground and lay there and either twitch or be completely still.

Their eyes will typically be partway open.

In both of these cases, you will want to take your Shih Tzu to the vet as soon as possible.

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What Are Normal Sleep Patterns for Shih Tzus?

Just how many hours per day should your Shih Tzu be sleeping?

Part of that will depend on their activity levels and age.

The more exercise they get and the older or younger they are will play a big part in the number of hours of sleep they need.

A medical condition will also impact their energy level and sleep patterns.

Puppies sleep for longer periods of time just like babies do.

Adult Shih Tzus sleep fewer hours, and senior Shih Tzus sleep for longer periods of time.

  • Puppies (weaned) 19-21 hours per day
  • Older puppies – 16-20 hours per day
  • Adults (1-year-old and older) 12-16 hours per day
  • Seniors 14-19 hours per day

I know that my, Truman, who is 17 years old sleeps pretty much all day and night.

He gets up to eat and to go outside.

Otherwise, it is nap time for him.

So, don’t be surprised if you have a very old Shih Tzu that they sleep all the time.

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To Sum it All Up:

For the most part, sleeping with their eyes open is normal for Shih Tzus. Physical activity, health conditions, and age will play a big part in how much sleep time they need. If your dog seems to be sleeping normally and is well rested then there shouldn’t be anything to worry about.




Please Note:
This article is informational only and does not substitute for veterinary advice. Always check with your veterinarian if you are concerned about your Shih Tzu. This article should not be considered in any way as veterinarian advice.

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