Why Is My Dog Shaking?

From tail wagging to barking, dogs display all kinds of behaviors. One you might notice is your dog shaking their whole body. Dogs shake for many reasons, ranging from health disorders and infection to pain and excitement, says Dr. Lauren Witter, senior veterinarian at Small Door Veterinary. While shaking is considered normal behavior, it can be a way for your dog – intentionally or not – to communicate something. This may be positive, such as excitement, or more serious, such as an urgent medical concern.

That said, some breeds are known to shake more than others by nature. “Terriers are notorious shakers when they’re excited, and it’s pretty common in those breeds,” explains Emily Birch, a clinical animal behaviorist. However, she says all breeds will shake when afraid.

Below, let’s look at factors that cause dogs to shake and what can be done at the vet and at home to help your pup.

11 Reasons Your Dog Shakes

Shaking and trembling in dogs occur due to various factors, including the following.

  1. Neurological disorders. Conditions such as epilepsy and peripheral nerve disorders are associated with shaking and tremors.
  2. Metabolic imbalances. “Fluctuations in electrolytes or blood sugar levels can disrupt nerve function, leading to tremors or shaking in dogs,” Dr. Witter explains.
  3. Pain. Unable to easily vocalize discomfort, canines can shake to show they’re in pain. Chemical changes in the body caused by pain can also lead to shaking.
  4. Allergies. “Allergic reactions can trigger histamine release,” Dr. Witter shares. To alleviate the irritation, dogs might shake or itch.
  5. Infections. Dr. Witter says infections (bacterial, fungal, or viral) cause fever and discomfort; dogs will shake to regulate their body temperature and fight the infection.
  6. Medication side effects. All drugs come with side effects, and some can lead to symptoms such as shaking – especially if too much is given.
  7. Old age. Dogs can experience muscle loss and age-related disorders as they get older, such as canine cognitive dysfunction, which can lead to shaking.
  8. Poison/toxin exposure. Ingestion of certain chemicals, or even foods such as chocolate and caffeine, can lead to toxicity in dogs. Toxicity affects the nervous system, causing tremors and shaking.
  9. Cold weather. There’s a good chance your body shakes when you get cold; dogs also shake when they feel chilly. Shivering is the body’s way of trying to warm up naturally.
  10. Anxiety or fear. Similarly to pain, shaking can be a way for your dog to communicate they’re anxious or stressed. A surge of adrenaline through the body can also cause them to tremble.
  11. Excitement. You’ve returned home, and your dog couldn’t be happier! When your dog has too much energy, shaking can be a way for them to release it.

When To See A Vet About Dog Shaking

Unusual behaviors – especially if they’re happening more than usual or at a higher severity – are scary to see. So, should you be worried if your dog is shaking? It depends. “Not all cases of shaking are serious; some may be benign,” Dr. Witter explains.

Determining when to talk to your vet might be tricky, particularly if your dog is shaking a lot but acting normally. However, Dr. Witter reveals several signs that warrant a visit to a professional:

  • Sudden, persistent, or prolonged shaking
  • Other concerning symptoms, such as lethargyvomiting, or behavior changes
  • Pain or distress during shaking
  • Recurrent shaking that interferes with a dog’s normal activities

Overall, Birch assures pet parents that vets have the tools and expertise to help you get to the bottom of your dog’s shaking.

A shaking dog getting warm under a blanket


How Can I Manage My Dog’s Shaking At Home?

Treating your dog’s shaking depends on the cause. If the shaking is due to a medical concern, speak to your vet about medications that might help reduce this symptom. Always speak to a professional before giving your dog any drug or supplement.

If your dog’s cold, there are many ways to help them stay nice and warm. For example, dog jackets or boots are perfect if you’re heading out on a walk. When they’re back inside, make sure cozy heated dog beds and snuggly blankets are readily available.

Lastly, if your dog is trembling due to anxiety or stress, Birch says the best thing you can do is support your dog. Some ways you can do this include:

  • Giving your dog calming treats or their favorite food
  • Providing a hiding space
  • Trying calming pheromones or supplements
  • Training for separation anxiety or stress

Is My Dog Shaking or Having a Seizure?

If your dog is shaking violently or excessively, it could be a sign they’re having a seizure. So how can you tell? Dr. Witter says the key is to look at what the shaking involves and additional symptoms.

“Seizures are characterized by uncontrolled, rhythmic movements, often involving the entire body,” she explains. “Dogs may exhibit altered consciousness, drooling, or loss of bladder/bowel control during a seizure.”

If you think your dog’s having a seizure, follow these five crucial steps:

  1. Stay calm, as this will avoid stressing the dog further
  2. Clear the area of any potential hazards that they could hurt themselves on while shaking
  3. Do not attempt to restrain the dog or put anything in their mouth
  4. Time the seizure. If it lasts longer than 5 minutes or occurs in clusters, go to the emergency vet
  5. Once the seizure subsides, move the dog into a quiet, darkened room to recover.

Dr. Witter adds that speaking to your vet is essential after your dog’s seizure (or extreme shaking). Vets can provide an accurate diagnosis and tailored advice based on their behavior.

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