It's very disconcerting when a part of your body falls asleep.
Like when you've had your legs crossed, start to stand up, and your foot starts tingling and feels like it's not there. Or if you've been asleep and wake up to realize you temporarily have no feeling in one arm and you have to pick it up with the other hand to move it. It's an uncomfortable feeling nearly everyone has experienced at some point. You recognize the sensation and know it will pass soon—although that doesn't make it any more pleasant at the time.
The medical term for that condition is "paresthesia." It happens when there is so much prolonged pressure on nerves that the connection is lost or erratic between the brain and the affected limb. And yes, it can happen to dogs, too.
If your dog sleeps on her leg wrong and it falls asleep, she may be fine when she first awakes until she feels the sensation. It will likely make her limp. She may bite or lick her leg, even yelp, if she is particularly sensitive. As with humans, once she walks around a bit and gets the circulation going, she'll be fine.
Limbs Falling Asleep is Normal, but Pay Attention
Having a foot or a leg fall asleep shouldn't happen often. If you notice this occurring frequently, take note of how your dog is sleeping and see if there's a pattern. If this happens several times in one day, repeatedly over a short period of time, or every time your dog wakes up, take her to the vet.
There may be other things that cause your dog to limp when she first wakes up. This is a common sign of arthritis, but arthritis will often be accompanied by her walking slowly or differently. She may also have more problems jumping, sitting, squatting or lying down.
She may limp if she's been injured. Dogs often spend time outside without supervision. She could step in a hole, trip, or otherwise hurt a joint, fracture or even break a bone, or have a soft-tissue injury that you are unaware of. Since dogs often mask their pain, it's important to take note if she consistently favors a leg or paw.
Limping can also be a symptom of hip or back problems. If your dog's limp seems severe and/or frequent, take her to the vet to make sure it's nothing serious.
Having a leg or foot fall asleep is certainly nothing to worry about. Encourage her to walk and get the circulation going and she should be fine. But be sure to take her to the vet right away if the problem is recurring or doesn't get better: the earlier a problem is caught, the better the chances for a good recovery.
Pam Hair is a pet industry copywriter with Fuzzy Friends Writer, where she combines her three passions: a love of animals, a strong desire to help other people, and the joy of writing. She has been a pet parent over the years to dogs, cats, and a variety of rodents. Currently she and her husband share their home with two guinea pigs.