Why is My Dog Shaking? (Decoding Your Pet’s Behavior)

Owner holding her shaking dog in a blanket outdoors

One common concern among dog owners is the sight of their beloved pet shaking. There are numerous reasons why a dog may shake, ranging from simple and harmless to more serious underlying issues. In order to best care for and understand their pet’s behavior, it is essential for an owner to be aware of the potential causes and how to address them.

Dogs may shake for a variety of reasons, some of which include anxiety, excitement, pain or discomfort, and even certain medical conditions. Not every shake should be a cause for alarm, as dogs can simply shake themselves off to reset their muscles or release built-up energy. However, recognizing the difference between normal and unusual behavior is key to keeping their pet healthy and happy.

Over the course of this article, we will delve into the main causes of shaking in dogs and discuss the appropriate actions to take if a dog is shaking excessively or unusually. By understanding the root cause of their pet’s behavior, dog owners can ensure they are providing the best care possible for their canine companions.

Common Reasons for Dog Shaking

Dog shaking can have various causes, and understanding them can help you address your pet’s needs better. In this section, we will discuss some common reasons why dogs shake, including cold temperatures, stress, anxiety, fear, excitement, and pain or discomfort.

Cold and Hypothermia

Just like humans, dogs can suffer from cold and hypothermia. When exposed to low temperatures, their body will shake to generate heat and maintain their core body temperature. This involuntary response is particularly evident in small or short-haired breeds that lack sufficient insulation. To keep your dog warm, provide a comfortable and warm shelter, use dog clothing or blankets, and limit their exposure to cold weather.

Stress, Anxiety, and Fear

Dogs can experience stress, anxiety, and fear in response to various situations, such as loud noises, new places, or meeting strangers. Some dogs may shake as a way to cope with these feelings. To alleviate their anxiety, try to identify and remove the stressor or provide a safe and calm environment for your pet. Gradual desensitization to anxiety-inducing stimuli and professional training may also help.

Excitement and Emotion

Shaking can also be a result of your dog’s excitement or strong emotions. You might notice your dog trembling before a walk, during playtime, or when they are receiving affection. While this is usually not a cause for concern, it is essential to ensure your dog’s safety by using methods such as positive reinforcement during training and establishing a consistent daily routine.

Pain and Discomfort

If your dog shakes when experiencing pain or discomfort, it is crucial to address the underlying causes. Some factors that can cause shaking due to pain include illness or injury, muscle sprains or strain, joint problems or arthritis, and even possible infections. Be sure to consult a veterinarian if you suspect that your dog is experiencing pain, and follow their recommended treatments or procedures.

Health-Related Causes

Dog shaking can be a symptom of various health-related issues. It’s important to identify the cause to provide proper treatment and care for your pet.

Generalized Tremor Syndrome (GTS)

Also known as white shaker syndrome, GTS is a neurological disorder that causes dogs to tremble or shake involuntarily. It usually affects small breeds and can be managed with medication.

Inflammatory Brain Disease

Inflammation in the brain can cause a dog to shake due to the effect on the nervous system. Treatment options include medication to reduce inflammation and improve brain health.

Epilepsy and Seizures

Dog shaking may be a sign of epilepsy or seizures, which are abnormal bursts of electrical activity in the brain. If you notice your dog having a seizure, it’s important to consult a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.


Low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, can cause shaking in dogs. Smaller breeds are more prone to this condition, and it can be resolved by feeding your dog small, frequent meals.

Infections and Canine Distemper

Infections such as canine distemper, a contagious viral disease, can cause a dog to shake due to fever or neurological issues. Prompt medical attention is crucial to prevent complications.

Kidney Failure

Shaking in dogs may be a symptom of kidney failure, which impairs the body’s ability to remove waste products from the blood. A veterinarian will need to diagnose and provide appropriate treatment.

Toxin Ingestion and Poisoning

Exposure to toxins, such as xylitol and chocolate, can cause dogs to shake due to their toxic effects on the nervous system. In these cases, immediate veterinary care is essential to prevent further harm.

Shaking dog wrapped in a blanket

Behavior and Body Language

Dogs communicate most of their intentions and feelings through their body language, and shaking can be an essential part of their communication repertoire. In this section, we will explore some common reasons behind shaking in dogs, focusing on calming signals, shivers, and shakes.

Calming Signals

Dogs often use calming signals to communicate with other dogs, animals, or humans. These signals are meant to de-escalate tense situations, avoiding conflict or unpleasant interactions. Some common calming signals include:

  • Head turning or averting their gaze
  • Yawning
  • Licking their nose
  • Sitting or lying down
  • Wagging their tail

Shivering can also be interpreted as a calming signal. If your dog is shaking while displaying this behavior in a tense situation, they might be trying to show submission, appease others, or reduce tension.

Shivers and Shakes

Shivering and shaking in dogs can have various causes, ranging from innocent to concerning. Here are some common reasons dogs might shake or shiver:

Excitement or anticipationDogs may shake when they are excited, like when they are waiting for a treat or about to play.
Anxiety or stressShaking can be a sign of anxiety or stress, particularly if a dog is in a new or overwhelming situation.
Cold temperaturesShivering can be a response to the cold, as dogs need to generate body heat to stay warm.
Pain or discomfortDogs might shake if they are experiencing pain or other physical discomfort.

Observing your dog’s overall body language, along with considering the context in which the shaking occurs, can provide valuable insights into the reasons behind the behavior. If you notice any concerning symptoms or persistent shaking, it is important to consult your veterinarian for a thorough evaluation.

Care and Treatment

When dealing with a shaking dog, it’s important to approach the situation with care and a focus on treatment. This section covers vet consultations, at-home solutions, and preventing shaking issues.

Vet Consultations

Visiting a veterinarian should be the first step in addressing your dog’s shaking. A veterinarian can assess the cause of shaking and recommend appropriate treatment. In some cases, an emergency vet may be required if the shaking is severe, sudden, or accompanied by other concerning symptoms. Your regular veterinarian can advise you on when to seek emergency care.

At-Home Solutions

Depending on the cause of your dog’s shaking, your veterinarian may recommend specific at-home treatments. These may include:

  • Keeping your dog warm if the shaking is due to cold temperatures.
  • Providing a quiet, comfortable space for your dog if the shaking is due to anxiety or stress.
  • Administering prescribed medications, if the shaking is related to a medical condition.

Always consult with your veterinarian before attempting any at-home treatments.

Preventing Shaking Issues

Prevention is key in reducing the risk of shaking issues in your dog. Some preventative measures can include:

  • Regular check-ups with your veterinarian to catch potential issues early.
  • Providing a warm and comfortable environment to prevent shaking from cold temperatures.
  • Proper socialization and training to help reduce anxiety and stress-related shaking.

By being proactive and working closely with your veterinarian, you can help keep your dog healthy and reduce the likelihood of shaking issues.

Special Considerations for Certain Breeds

Small Dogs and Chihuahuas

Small dogs and Chihuahuas are more prone to certain health issues that can cause shaking. Some small breeds, like Chihuahuas, are known to experience shaker syndrome, a neurological disorder that leads to tremors. This can be concerning for a pet parent, but it’s essential to consult with a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, is another common issue in small dogs that may cause shaking. Wet or cold weather can also lead to a decrease in body temperature, resulting in tremors to generate warmth. To help prevent these issues, ensure your dog maintains a healthy diet and is adequately covered in cold or wet conditions.

Older Dogs and Joint Pain

Older dogs are more susceptible to joint pain and arthritis, which can cause shaking. As your dog ages, it’s crucial to monitor their physical health closely and consult your veterinarian about any changes in their behavior. Joint supplements and anti-inflammatory medications may be recommended to alleviate pain and enhance mobility.

Ear problems and infections can also cause shaking in older dogs. Regular ear cleaning and veterinary check-ups can help prevent ear issues and ensure your dog remains comfortable and healthy.

Lastly, it’s worth noting that thunderstorms and other environmental factors can cause anxiety in dogs of all ages and breeds, leading to shaking. As a pet parent, it’s essential to provide a safe and reassuring environment for your pet during stressful situations.

What to Watch For

When your dog is shaking, it’s essential to pay attention to their overall condition and behavior to determine if they need veterinary attention. It’s important to remember that a brief shiver or shake can be entirely normal for dogs. However, there are some situations where shaking may indicate a more severe issue.

Dangerous Symptoms

If your dog is also displaying any of the following symptoms, it’s essential to consult with a veterinarian as they may indicate a more serious health concern:

  • Panting excessively without apparent cause
  • Vomiting frequently, indicating gastroenteric problems
  • Diarrhea persisting for more than a day
  • Head shaking, suggestive of an ear infection or neurological disorder
  • Loss of muscle mass or noticeable contractions, indicating muscle or neurological issues
  • Muscle weakness or injury, leading to difficulty in movement
  • Signs of toxin ingestion, such as drooling, lethargy, or dilated pupils

Shaking after surgery may also be a cause for concern, as it can signify pain or an adverse reaction to anesthesia. It’s crucial to closely monitor your dog’s behavior following surgery and contact your veterinarian if any concerns arise.

When evaluating your dog’s shaking, it’s essential to consider their age, breed, and overall health. Certain breeds are more susceptible to neurological issues which could manifest as shaking or tremors. Always consult with a veterinarian regarding your dog’s health, especially if their condition changes or symptoms worsen.

Similar Posts