why is my dog shaking

Why is My Dog Shaking?


Megan had always been a devoted dog mom to her loyal Golden Retriever, Bailey. One evening, while they were snuggled on the couch watching a movie, Megan noticed that Bailey was shaking uncontrollably. Panicked and unsure of what was happening, she immediately called her veterinarian for advice. The vet explained that there could be numerous reasons behind a dog’s shaking, some harmless and others more serious.

When your dog shakes, shivers, or trembles, he’s probably trying to tell you something. He wants you to help him feel safe again. But sometimes, shaking means something else entirely. For example, it might mean that your dog has cancer. Or it might mean that he’s having trouble breathing. In either case, you should get your vet checked out immediately.

If your dog starts shaking, check his ears first. Make sure there aren’t blocked with wax. Then look inside his mouth. Check his teeth and gums for signs of infection. And make sure he doesn’t have any cuts or sores anywhere.

Stress and Anxiety Can Cause Shaking in Dogs

stress and anxiety

Stress and anxiety can instigate shivering or shaking in dogs, manifesting their emotional and physiological reactions to unsettling situations. Various anxieties afflict 70% of dogs. In addition, analogous to humans, dogs exhibit a fight-or-flight response when confronted with circumstances they perceive as intimidating or stressful, with shaking or trembling being a significant part of this reaction.

Emotional Reaction

Like humans, dogs can endure various emotions, including anxiety and fear. For example, confronted with a stressful situation such as a thunderstorm, fireworks, an unfamiliar environment, or separation from their pet parent, dogs may display anxiety symptoms, including shaking. This reaction is their way of expressing discomfort or distress, and you might notice that your dog may be shaking in response to such triggers.

Physiological Reaction

When a dog is stressed or anxious, their body secretes adrenaline, a hormone that readies its body to react to the perceived threat. This adrenaline surge can trigger physical symptoms like an elevated heart rate, rapid breathing, and trembling, which could appear as a small dog shivering or a large dog shaking noticeably.

Anticipation of Unpleasant Experience

Dogs, particularly fearful dogs, can also associate specific experiences or stimuli with negative results. For instance, if a dog has previously had an adverse experience at a veterinary clinic, such as receiving a vaccine or undergoing a procedure, it may shake in anticipation of discomfort when brought to the clinic again.

Self-Soothing Mechanism

Shaking can also serve as a means for many dogs to alleviate tension or self-soothe during or after a stressful event, especially if the trigger is a loud noise or something that causes fear.

Pet parents must realize that while occasional shaking due to stress or anxiety can be considered regular, constant shaking can indicate that your dog suffers from chronic anxiety or other health issues common in older dogs. Therefore, if you observe that your dog is regularly shaking and displaying other signs of distress, it’s recommended to consult a veterinarian or an emergency vet if needed. They can help determine whether the dog shivering or shaking is due to anxiety, muscle weakness, or a physical health problem and recommend appropriate treatment or management strategies. These are some common reasons dogs get stressed; many may exhibit these symptoms.

Pain Can Be a Reason Why your Dog Shakes

Pain is a significant cause of shaking in dogs. Like humans, dogs may tremble when experiencing discomfort or pain. This could be a result of injury, an underlying medical condition, or after undergoing surgery.

Shaking can serve as a protective mechanism, attempting to soothe the discomfort or as a response to the distress caused by pain. However, it can also signify that your dog is trying to cope with discomfort or emotional distress. For instance, a dog with joint pain due to arthritis might shake, particularly after physical activity.

If your dog is persistently shaking or showing other signs of pain like whimpering, limping, or changes in behavior or appetite, it’s critical to consult a vet. They can identify the cause of the pain and recommend appropriate treatment.

Ear Problems Make Dogs Shiver

Ear complications can indeed induce dogs to shiver or shake. The ear, a vulnerable part of a dog’s body, is easily affected by discomfort, infection, or inflammation, resulting in noticeable reactions such as head shaking, ear scratching, or even full-body trembling.

For instance, ear infections is common in dogs and can cause significant discomfort. These infections can incite inflammation and augment wax production, resulting in itchiness and pain. In response to this discomfort, a dog may frequently shake its head or display signs of dogs trembling.

Furthermore, if a foreign object or parasites, like a tick or a piece of grass, or ear mites get lodged in a dog’s ear, it can incite substantial discomfort leading to shaking. As a pet owner, if you think your dog is persistently shivering, especially when paired with signs of ear discomfort, it’s crucial to call your vet for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Your Dog May Be Poisoned

Dogs can shake or tremble when they have ingested a toxic substance. Poisoning can result in various symptoms in dogs depending on the type of poison, the amount consumed, and the dog’s size, breed, and overall health status.

Shaking or trembling in dogs due to poisoning is often a sign of neurological involvement. Some toxins, such as

  • certain types of plants,
  • pesticides
  • antifreeze
  • certain foods (like chocolate, grapes, or xylitol in sugar-free foods),

These can affect the dog’s nervous system, leading to tremors, seizures, or even loss of coordination. Other poisoning symptoms in dogs can include vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, loss of appetite, irregular heartbeat, and changes in behavior like restlessness or lethargy.

If you suspect your dog has ingested a toxic substance, it is crucial to seek veterinary attention immediately. Try to give your vet as much information as possible about what your dog might have ingested and when. Prompt treatment can make a significant difference in the outcome.

Low Blood Sugar Can Cause Trembling in Dogs

low blood sugar

Low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, can indeed lead to trembling or shaking in dogs. The brain is a significant consumer of glucose, using about half of all the sugar energy in the body. Therefore, when blood sugar levels drop significantly, the brain struggles to function correctly, and one of the first signs can be neurological symptoms like trembling.

When a dog’s blood sugar level drops too low, the body can’t deliver adequate energy to the muscles, causing weakness, which could be perceived as shaking or trembling. Other symptoms of low blood sugar in dogs may include disorientation, lethargy, loss of coordination, seizures, and in severe cases, even loss of consciousness or coma.

Certain breeds, like toy breeds, puppies, or dogs with diabetes, are more susceptible to episodes of hypoglycemia. If you notice your dog shaking with any of these symptoms, getting them to a vet is essential as soon as possible. If left untreated, severe hypoglycemia can be life-threatening.

Canine Distemper

Canine distemper is a highly contagious and potentially fatal viral disease affecting dogs and wildlife. This virus affects multiple body systems, including the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems.

The shaking or tremors seen in dogs with canine distemper often result from the virus’s impact on the nervous system. Specifically, the virus can cause inflammation and damage the brain and spinal cord (collectively known as the central nervous system or CNS). This damage can lead to various neurological signs, including muscle tremors, twitching, or even seizures.

In the final stages of the disease, dogs may develop “chewing gum fits,” a distinct symptom characterized by rhythmic jaw movements that can look like shivering or shaking. These symptoms are more commonly observed in the late stages of the disease and indicate severe neurological involvement.

Generalized Tremor Syndrome (GTS)

Generalized Tremor Syndrome (GTS), also known as Steroid Responsive Tremor Syndrome or White Shaker Syndrome, is a disorder that causes dogs to experience full-body tremors. While the exact cause is unknown, it’s believed to be an inflammatory condition affecting the central nervous system.

Dogs with GTS suffer from frequent and involuntary muscle movements that can vary in severity, causing them to shake or tremble. These tremors typically involve the entire body, though sometimes they may be more noticeable in certain areas, such as the head or limbs.

The shaking is usually unrelated to any physical activity and can occur whether the dog rests or moves. It’s also not associated with a fever or other signs of illness, although it can cause difficulty with walking and balance if the tremors are severe.

It’s important to note that while the tremors can be alarming, they generally don’t cause pain or discomfort to the dog. The syndrome is named “Steroid Responsive” because it often responds well to treatment with corticosteroids, which reduce inflammation and can help to control tremors.

Underlying Medical Conditions

Dogs shaking can be a symptom of various underlying health conditions. Here are some principal medical concerns that could cause your dog to shake:

  • Old Age and Health Deterioration: As dogs grow older, they may develop health issues that result in shaking. These can include general weakness, muscle mass loss, or degenerative myelopathy.
  • Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD): Often called doggy dementia, CCD can lead to numerous symptoms, including shaking, due to alterations in the dog’s nervous system as they age.
  • Anxiety or Stress Disorders: These mental health conditions can physically manifest in dogs, leading to trembling or muscle twitching symptoms.
  • Cold or Hypothermia: Much like humans, cold dogs may shiver. Hypothermia, a dangerously low body temperature, can also induce shivering.
  • Excitement or Fear: Intense emotions can trigger shaking in dogs. This could be due to something positive, like anticipating a walk, or negative, like fear during a thunderstorm or fireworks.
  • White Shaker Syndrome or White Shaker Dog Syndrome: This condition mainly affects small white dogs, such as the West Highland White Terrier, causing widespread shaking. The exact cause is uncertain, but it’s believed to be linked to the immune system.
  • Muscle Weakness or Injury: If a dog has sustained a muscle injury or is experiencing general weakness, it may shake or tremble.
  • Certain Medications: Some drugs can cause side effects, including shaking or tremors.
  • Cushing’s Disease and Addison’s Disease: These endocrine disorders, caused by an excess or deficiency of certain hormones from the adrenal gland, can result in shaking, among other symptoms.
  • Seizure Disorders: These neurological conditions can cause various symptoms, including shaking or trembling.

Dog owners must note that shaking can be a symptom of many different conditions, some of which are serious. In addition, the common reasons your dog could be shaking vary greatly. Therefore, if you observe your dog shaking and are unsure why or if they’re reacting to another dog, it’s always best to take it to the vet to rule out any potentially serious health issues.

Anxious of Frightened

A lot of dogs experience anxiety during veterinary visits. If your dog is anxious, it may shake, tremble, pace, hide under furniture, or even run away. This happens because your dog feels scared, nervous, or uncomfortable. If your dog acts like this, it doesn’t mean he’s sick. He needs some reassurance.

The best way to handle anxious behavior is to help calm your dog down. You can do this by being patient and reassuring. When he starts shaking or trembling, don’t try to touch him. Instead, sit quietly next to him and offer gentle petting. Don’t force him to look at you. Let him come to you.

Normal Shaking in Dogs

why is my dog shaking

What are the Things You Should Do if Your Dog is Shaking?

If your dog is shaking, there are several measures you can take to ensure their health and well-being:

  1. Assess the situation: Observe your dog’s behavior before becoming overly concerned. Are there any clear reasons why your dog may be trembling? Could they be cold, excited, or fearful? If the shaking is situational and diminishes once the stimulus is removed, it might not be a cause for concern.
  2. Monitor for additional symptoms: Look for other signs of an illness or injury, such as lethargy, appetite loss, behavioral changes, vomiting, diarrhea, or difficulty walking. Shaking may be a sign that your dog is in pain or even that your dog is nauseous.
  3. Soothe your dog: If your dog appears anxious or scared, provide comfort by stroking them, speaking in a calming voice, or offering a safe, serene space for them to unwind. These actions can help your dog feel more at ease.
  4. Document the shaking: Record a video of your dog’s shaking or excessive head shaking to present to your vet. This documentation could aid in diagnosing the problem.
  5. Get in touch with your vet: If the shaking is continuous, unexplained, or accompanied by other worrying symptoms, it’s crucial to contact your vet promptly. They can advise based on your dog’s specific situation and schedule an appointment if necessary.
  6. Provide warmth: If your dog is shaking due to being cold, ensure they are sufficiently warmed with blankets or a doggy sweater, mainly if your dog is prone to feeling cold.

Remember, it’s always safer to err on the side of caution. If you need clarification on why your dog is shaking or if you suspect it might be trembling due to an unidentified issue, it’s always best to seek professional advice. Dogs can shake for many reasons, which could also be a sign of other problems. Your vet can offer the necessary diagnostics and treatments to ensure your dog’s health and well-being.

When Should You See a Vet?

You should seek veterinary attention for your dog under the following circumstances:

  1. Persistent shaking or trembling: If your dog’s shaking doesn’t stop after a short period or keeps recurring, getting them checked out is essential.
  2. Accompanying distress signs: If your dog appears anxious, in pain, or shows other signs of distress, such as excessive panting, drooling, or vocalizing, they should be seen by a vet.
  3. Other physical symptoms: Any shaking accompanied by other physical symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, lethargy, change in behavior, uncoordinated movements, or seizures warrants an immediate vet visit.
  4. Post-exposure to toxins: If you know or suspect your dog has ingested something poisonous or harmful and they begin to shake, they should be taken to the vet immediately.
  5. Unexplained behavior changes: If your dog’s shaking is accompanied by a sudden change in behavior or personality, such as aggression, confusion, or withdrawal, this could be a sign of a more serious issue and should be addressed immediately.
  6. Older dogs: If your dog is older and begins to shake or tremble, this could be a sign of a severe condition like kidney disease or cognitive dysfunction syndrome and should be addressed promptly.
  7. Sudden onset: Any sudden, unexplained onset of shaking should be investigated by a veterinarian.

Remember, always trust your instincts as a pet owner. If something seems wrong, it’s always better to be safe and consult a professional. Your vet can provide a thorough examination and appropriate treatment to ensure your dog’s health and well-being.

Frequently Asked Questions

There can be several reasons why a dog may suddenly start shaking. Some possible causes include:

  1. Cold or fear: Shaking can be a natural response to feeling cold or frightened. Dogs may shake to generate body heat or as a way to cope with anxiety or stress.
  2. Pain or discomfort: Dogs may shake if they are experiencing pain or discomfort. This could be due to an injury, illness, or a specific condition affecting their muscles or nerves.
  3. Anxiety or fear: Dogs may shake when anxious or fearful, such as during thunderstorms, fireworks, or unfamiliar situations. It can be a manifestation of their emotional distress.
  4. Medical conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as seizures, low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), poisoning, or neurological disorders, can cause shaking or tremors in dogs.

If your dog is suddenly shaking and you are unsure of the cause, it is best to observe their behavior and assess for any other accompanying symptoms. If the shaking persists, worsens, or is accompanied by other concerning signs, it is recommended to consult a veterinarian for a proper evaluation and diagnosis. They can determine the underlying cause and provide appropriate treatment or management options.

If your dog is shaking and acting weird, assessing the situation and taking appropriate action is essential. Here are some steps you can follow:

  1. Stay calm: Your dog may sense your anxiety, so it’s essential to remain calm and composed to help reassure them.
  2. Ensure safety: Ensure your dog is in a safe environment to prevent further harm or injury. Remove any potential hazards or sources of stress.
  3. Check for immediate needs: Ensure your dog has access to fresh water, a comfortable resting area, and a suitable temperature to help address basic needs.
  4. Observe closely: Pay attention to your dog’s other symptoms or behaviors. For example, take note of any changes in appetite, energy level, or coordination. This information will be helpful when discussing the situation with a veterinarian.
  5. Contact a veterinarian: If your dog’s behavior is concerning, persists, worsens, or is accompanied by other worrisome symptoms, it is best to seek veterinary advice. Describe the signs and behavior to the veterinarian, and they will guide you on whether immediate attention is needed or if it can wait for a scheduled appointment.

It’s important to remember that shaking and unusual behavior can be caused by various factors, including physical discomfort, pain, anxiety, or underlying medical conditions. A veterinarian will be best equipped to evaluate your dog’s specific situation and provide appropriate guidance and treatment.

Signs of poisoning in dogs can include

  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • drooling
  • tremors
  • weakness
  • difficulty breathing
  • changes in behavior
  • redness or swelling of the skin or eyes
  • abnormal heart rate

If you suspect your dog has been poisoned, contact your veterinarian immediately for help and provide them with details about the possible toxin and your dog’s symptoms. Prompt veterinary care is essential in cases of poisoning.

You should be concerned about your dog shaking when the shaking is excessive, persistent, or accompanied by other concerning symptoms. Some signs that may indicate a need for immediate veterinary attention include:

  1. Intense or uncontrollable shaking that lasts for an extended period.
  2. Shaking accompanied by signs of pain, distress, or discomfort.
  3. Difficulty breathing or breathing abnormalities.
  4. Seizures or convulsions.
  5. Loss of consciousness or altered mental state.
  6. Inability to walk or coordinate movements.
  7. Bleeding, injuries, or trauma.
  8. Swelling or bloating of the abdomen.
  9. Pale gums, rapid heartbeat, or other signs of cardiovascular distress.

If you are unsure or concerned about your dog’s shaking, it is always best to err on the side of caution and seek veterinary advice. First, contact your veterinarian and describe the symptoms to determine if immediate medical attention is necessary or if it can wait for a scheduled appointment. They will be able to provide guidance based on the specific situation and help ensure the well-being of your dog.

Unexplained shaking in dogs can be attributed to various factors, including anxiety, fear, cold or discomfort, excitement, or potential underlying medical conditions. If the shaking persists or is accompanied by other concerning symptoms, it is advisable to consult with a veterinarian. They can assess your dog’s health, conduct appropriate tests, and provide a proper diagnosis and treatment plan to address the underlying cause of the shaking.

Uncontrollable shaking in dogs can indicate a severe medical condition or an emergency requiring immediate veterinary attention. Some potential causes of uncontrollable shaking in dogs include severe pain, toxin exposure, seizures, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), neurological disorders, or extreme fear or anxiety. Therefore, immediately contacting your veterinarian or an emergency veterinary clinic is crucial to have your dog evaluated and receive appropriate care.

If your dog is shaking and unable to walk, it is a concerning sign that requires immediate veterinary attention. There can be several possible causes for this combination of symptoms, including:

  1. Neurological issues: Neurological conditions, such as spinal cord injury, encephalitis, or brain tumors, can cause shaking and difficulty walking.
  2. Intoxication: Ingestion of toxic substances, such as certain plants, medications, or chemicals, can lead to shaking and loss of coordination.
  3. Seizures: Seizures can cause uncontrollable shaking and temporary loss of motor function.
  4. Pain or injury: Severe pain or an injury affecting the limbs, joints, or muscles can result in shaking and the inability to walk.

It is crucial to seek immediate veterinary care. Contact your veterinarian or an emergency veterinary clinic to explain the symptoms and follow their guidance for proper evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment. Timely veterinary intervention is essential to identify the underlying cause and provide appropriate care for your dog.

If your dog shakes their head frequently, it may indicate an underlying issue with its ears or something bothering them. Some possible reasons for a dog to shake its head excessively include the following:

  1. Ear infection: Dogs commonly shake their heads when they have an ear infection. Other signs may include redness, swelling, discharge, odor, or sensitivity when touching the ears.
  2. Ear mites: These tiny parasites can cause itching and irritation in the ears, leading to head shaking.
  3. Foreign objects: Objects like grass seeds, foxtails, or debris can get lodged in the ear canal, causing discomfort and prompting head shaking.
  4. Allergies: Allergic reactions, whether to food, environmental factors, or specific substances, can result in itching and head shaking.
  5. Pain or discomfort: Dogs may shake their heads in response to pain or discomfort in other areas of the body, such as dental issues or neck pain.

If your dog is shaking their head excessively or showing other signs of discomfort, it is best to have their ears examined by a veterinarian. They can determine the underlying cause and recommend appropriate treatment to alleviate your dog’s symptoms and promote healing.

If your dog is shaking during sleep, it is likely due to a dream or a normal physiological response. Dogs, like humans, can experience muscle twitches or movements during sleep, which may manifest as shaking. This is usually harmless and a natural part of the sleep cycle. These movements are believed to be associated with the dog’s brain activity during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, which is when most dreaming occurs. Unless there are other concerning symptoms or changes in behavior, occasional shaking during sleep is typically not a cause for alarm.

If your dog is shaking and their teeth are chattering, it may indicate various reasons, including:

  • Cold or discomfort: Dogs may shake and chatter their teeth when feeling cold or experiencing discomfort, such as from being in a chilly environment or having muscle tension or pain.
  • Fear or anxiety: Dogs may exhibit shaking and teeth chattering as a response to fear, anxiety, or stress. This can occur in situations that make them nervous or uncomfortable.
  • Excitement or anticipation: Some dogs may shake and chatter their teeth when they are highly excited or anticipating something enjoyable, such as during playtime or when anticipating treats or food.
  • Dental issues: In some cases, dental problems such as dental pain or tooth decay can cause teeth chattering or grinding.

If your dog’s shaking and teeth chattering are persistent, severe, or accompanied by other concerning symptoms, it is best to consult with a veterinarian. They can assess your dog’s overall health, conduct a thorough examination, and provide appropriate guidance or treatment based on their findings.

If your dog shakes violently, it can cause concern and indicate a severe underlying issue. Some potential reasons for violent shaking in dogs include:

  1. Seizures: Seizures can cause violent shaking and convulsions. If your dog is experiencing a seizure, keeping them safe and seeking immediate veterinary care is essential.
  2. Poisoning: Ingestion of toxic substances can lead to severe symptoms, including violent shaking. It is crucial to contact a veterinarian or a pet poison control hotline immediately if you suspect poisoning.
  3. Pain or distress: Intense pain, severe injury, or extreme distress can cause a dog to shake violently. It may indicate an urgent need for medical attention.
  4. Neurological disorders: Certain neurological conditions or disorders can cause uncontrolled shaking or tremors in dogs.

If your dog is shaking and drooling, it can indicate various underlying reasons. One common cause is anxiety or fear, where shaking and drooling are responses to stress. Other possibilities include nausea, pain, or discomfort. Shaking can also occur when dogs are cold or experiencing low blood sugar levels. Additionally, certain medical conditions or infections may contribute to these symptoms. If your dog’s shaking and drooling persist, worsen, or are accompanied by other concerning signs, it is recommended to consult a veterinarian for proper evaluation and guidance.

While shaking is not a typical symptom of constipation in dogs, some dogs can exhibit shaking or trembling due to discomfort or distress caused by constipation. Constipation occurs when there is difficulty or infrequent passage of stool. Common signs of constipation in dogs include straining to defecate, producing dry or hard stool, decreased appetite, abdominal discomfort, and possibly lethargy. Suppose your dog is experiencing constipation and shaking or exhibiting other symptoms. In that case, it is best to consult a veterinarian for a proper evaluation and guidance on alleviating your dog’s constipation and addressing any underlying issues.

If your dog is shaking and throwing up, it could indicate several potential issues. Some possible reasons for these symptoms include:

  1. Gastrointestinal upset: Shaking and vomiting can occur due to a simple upset stomach caused by dietary indiscretion, eating something inappropriate, or a sudden change in diet.
  2. Gastritis or stomach inflammation: Inflammation of the stomach lining can lead to shaking and vomiting. Various factors, including infections, dietary allergies, or ingestion of irritants, can cause this.
  3. Gastroenteritis: This refers to inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract and can result in symptoms such as shaking, vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of appetite. Infections, dietary indiscretion, or exposure to toxins can cause gastroenteritis.
  4. Intestinal blockage: If your dog has ingested something obstructing the intestinal tract, it can lead to shaking and vomiting. This is a more severe condition that requires immediate veterinary attention.
  5. Systemic illness or infection: In some cases, shaking and vomiting can signify a more generalized illness or disease affecting the entire body.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this veterinary website is intended for general educational purposes only and should not be considered as a substitute for professional veterinary advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult a licensed veterinarian for any concerns or questions regarding the health and well-being of your pet. This website does not claim to cover every possible situation or provide exhaustive knowledge on the subjects presented. The owners and contributors of this website are not responsible for any harm or loss that may result from the use or misuse of the information provided herein.

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