Written by David Reich — Fact checked by Piet Hellemans, DVM
In a nutshell:
While there are numerous reasons why your dog is shaking, it is vital to pay close attention to the symptoms and behavior of your canine friend.
If the trembling is accompanied by vomiting, diarrhea, and high fever, it could be a viral disease requiring urgent attention. Contact your veterinarian and don’t self-medicate your pup.
Nonetheless, there might be some more peculiar reasons why your dog is shaking such as simple behavioral problems.
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Why is My Dog Shaking? – Common Causes and their Treatments
You have probably seen your dog shaking playfully uncountable times, especially after a bath or during a walk in the rain. However, involuntary shivering in dogs can be a sign of something more serious.
There is no definite answer as to why dogs shake. However, varies between serious problems and rather harmless reasons. Nonetheless, here are some common reasons for shaking in dogs.
Shaking due to illness or physical discomfort
Your dog is in pain
Sometimes when dogs are experiencing back, abdominal or neck pain, they might begin to shiver. Trembling due to pain is often common if a dog has underlying joint issues, especially arthritis, as the limbs affected can experience shaking.
Observe the shaking, and if it appears to harm him in a way, or cause more pain, take action. Pain in dogs becomes evident through symptoms like agitation, limping, or becoming sensitive to touch. When you observe such signs, most especially when you try to play, it is time to visit a veterinarian.
Though uncommon for dogs to get a viral infection, it is not impossible. Your dog might get a viral disease or a neurological condition that could cause trembling. If your dog is shaking due to a viral infection or a neurological disorder, you might notice symptoms like uncontrollable shaking over a long time.
If the shaking prolongs and becomes excessive, reach out to your veterinarian as soon as possible. Having your dog evaluated soon will help prevent further symptoms and help cure the illness soon.
A standard answer to “Why is my dog shaking” could be poisoning. Ordinary things in your home such as cigarettes and chewing gums may perhaps be enjoyable for you but harmful to your canine friend. If your dog ingests a toxic substance, it might cause trembling.
Some intoxicating substances can also cause intense symptoms such as muscle tremors or convulsions. Therefore, avoid exposing your dog to toxins such as nicotine, chocolate, and xylitol at high costs.
There are different symptoms associated with intoxication, such as vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, and seizures. Should you notice your pet has previously been exposed to toxic substances, contact your veterinarian immediately. Move the dog to a clean and safe environment and ensure it is calm. Avoid a lot of activity until a veterinarian examines the condition.
Related article: Is cannabis smoke harmful to my dog?
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Your dog may simply be cold
A common cause for dog shaking is cold. Just like the owner, when the weather outside is chilly, expect your dog to feel cold too. Sometimes, trembling or shivering is just an indication that your dog is cold.
If the weather is freezing, you can try playing with your dog to keep him active. Playing is a form of exercise that will keep him warm; this is the easiest way to stop shivering. Maybe also limit the disclosure. A dog sweater can also help with keeping them warm.
Generalized tremor syndrome (gts)
The generalized tremor syndrome (GTS) is also known as steroid responsive syndrome and might be the reason why your dog is shaking. This syndrome was first discovered in small dogs, majorly white pups. However, currently, dogs of any breed, size, or color are prone to getting it. The cause of the syndrome is yet to be discovered.
Generalized tremor syndrome symptoms can be noticed when the dog is between nine months and two years. Fortunately, the syndrome can be treated using corticosteroids such as prednisone. On commencing treatment, the results are visible within seven days.
Above, we have discussed some of the reasons that can lead to dogs shaking in our canine friends. However, sometimes, dog shaking could be a result of lethargy. But how do you tell?
You can measure the dog’s temperature, and if it is normal, there is no reason to panic. Suppose it is exhibiting a behavior change but not showing any symptoms of a severe problem such as vomiting, obvious pain, limping, white gums, or a bloated abdomen. In that case, there is no reason to panic.
If you notice the trembling began after a walk, and the dog still eats and behaves normally, it might be lethargy. Canines also get lethargic, primarily if they overwork their muscles. It could be after visiting the dog park. If giving your canine friend extra attention or allowing him to rest for a day or two doesn’t cheer them back to his usual self, schedule a visit to the veterinarian.
Older dogs tend to develop muscle tremors in their legs, which result in trembling. Also, when your pet attains a certain age, you can expect him to start shaking. Nonetheless, this doesn’t mean that older dogs tremble just because of age. Shaking can be a sign of discomfort or joint pain.
Consult your vet and inquire if there are any therapies, remedies, or treatments you can use to stop dogs shiver. Also, it is essential to remember that senior pups are not physically strong like young puppies. Therefore, you should consider making changes in your pup’s exercise routine depending on their age.
Dogs, too, can get build up a lot of emotions, feel stressed and build up anxiety that may be the reason for shaking. Most pets get anxious during a heavy downpour when thunder rolls. Others get anxious at the sound of fireworks.
The trick is to identify if there is any activity that results in anxiety.
Yes, dogs too get afraid. Shaking can be caused by fear, and sometimes it can be so intense that it causes a behavior change. Some of the reasons your dog may be afraid include experienced after-effects of abandonment or abuse. Another reason for shaking might be the worry of being separated from their owner.
If fear is which is causing shaking, you can sit with your dog and pet it gently. You can try soothing your dog by talking to them in a soft tone to make them feel less afraid.
Like us, canines can also get nausea from eating the wrong food, overeating, and motion sickness. More severe cases, such as an underlying kidney condition or liver disease, can cause nausea in dogs.
Shaking can be an indication of nausea. Other symptoms associated with nausea are lip-smacking, vomiting, yawning, hiding, and drooling excessively. Effective treatment for nausea depends on the cause. It is essential to know what they ingested and then proceed to contact your veterinarian.
If you hurry to comfort your dog every time he or she shivers, your dog may learn that shivering is a good way to obtain your attention. To gain sympathy, some dogs even put on the shakes while begging for food.
What you should do: While this behavior isn’t necessarily bad, Millan suggests that encouraging it isn’t a smart idea. It’s usually better to ignore this apparent tug on your sympathies if there’s no other explanation for your dog’s shivering.
Shaking due to excitement
A dog is a happy creature, and sometimes, their excitement goes over the roof and causes trembling and even hyperactivity. Excitement is typical in pets, especially after you come home from work. If your dog is shaking due to excitement, stroking his hair will reduce the shaking as it produces a calming effect.
Alternatively, you can train your dog to sit and be calm and reward them with a greeting. However, this is nothing to worry about; most puppies grow out of this trait with time, so don’t call the veterinarian just yet.
Difference between shaking and seizures
There is a big difference between shivering and seizures. Mostly the majority of reasons for shivering in dogs are generally innocuous, but it’s still highly recommended to consult a veterinarian if you are starting to get suspicious. They can help you and also find out if something is wrong.
During a seizure, dogs are unable to move, due to the muscle seizing up. They also lose the ability to know about their surroundings. If you’re unsure if your dog is experiencing a seizure, you should immediately go to the vet so that they can get treated for a seizure disorder.