Why Do Dogs Shake?

Even dogs bundled up in adorable sweaters and hats can experience shakes and shivers. That’s because chilly temperatures aren’t the only thing that causes our furry friends and us! to tremble.

Smaller dogs, such as Chihuahuas , may be more prone to shivering than larger breeds due to their lack of body mass and insulation, explains Wag! If your dog is prone to shaking during thunderstorms, for example, try to help them stay calm by introducing therapeutic toys or masking the sounds of thunder.

In certain situations, when you remain calm and ignore a stressor in your house, your dog can pick up on it and learn that it’s nothing to be anxious about. However, if you rush to comfort your dog every time they’re shaking, they may learn that shivering is a good way to get your attention. If the shivering is accompanied by abnormal behavior or seems out of character for your dog, contact your veterinarian immediately.

It’s not uncommon for weakening leg muscles to develop tremors as dogs age, but shivering could also be a sign of arthritis or joint pain .

What does it mean for a dog to shake?

When dogs get excited, like when they’re playing with you or you’ve just gotten home after work, dogs will often shake. This is actually a natural reaction in their body to exert excess energy and calm them down.

How do you stop a dog from shaking?

Keeping your dog warm, relaxed, up-to-date on preventative care, well-exercised, and away from toxic “snacks” can all help keep her from shaking. That said, certain breeds or individuals might be more prone to the mysterious “Generalized Tremor Syndrome,” which has no known way to treat or prevent.

Why do dogs shake if they aren't wet?

First and foremost, they are shaking off stress. Humans do the same thing after scary or worrisome encounters; they take deep breaths while saying “phew.” “Shake off” behavior is your dog’s response to dealing with stress.

Do dogs shake with anxiety?

It is common for dogs to tremble when they experience fear or anxiety. Every dog has different triggers but one common one includes loud noises, such as fireworks or thunder. If you notice your dog is anxious, do your best to comfort him.

Many dogs tremble or shake, even when its not cold outside. This is especially common in small dogs like Chihuahuas. While shivering can be just a normal fact of life for some dogs, it can also be a warning sign that something is amiss.

If your dogs shaking doesnt stop once youve warmed her up, check with your vet to ensure theres not something else going on. Experts havent been able to nail down exactly why, but it could be that small dogs are cold more often, theyre more anxious, or another unknown reason.

Check with your vet if shaking is limited to a given area (say, the right hind leg), started after some heavy exercise, or is accompanied with a decrease in activity level. You may notice that the muscle tremor gets worse if you touch the area, attempt to stretch or massage it, or exercise your dog. Even if this is caused by excitement instead of fear, its a good idea to get help teaching your dog to feel relaxed.

Keep careful track of any other changes in your dogs behavior, activity level, and appetite. Your dogs shaking is accompanied with other symptoms, like lethargy, anxiety, diarrhea , limping , or vomiting . Pay special attention to calming signals such as stress panting, lip licking, or ears that are pulled far back.

Your vet may prescribe rest, massage, or even surgeryall dependent on the underlying cause of your dog’s shaking. Its important to get help if your dogs shaking is accompanied by behavior changes, other symptoms, or started after eating something new.

The commands paw and shake are fun ones to teach dogs because theyre simple and cute, plus they make it look like your dog just closed a major business deal. But if your pup is shaking other body parts (or even her entire body), shes sending a very different message and could be telling a you a number of different things. If youve ever wondered why dogs shake, keep reading.

Single shakes, either short and crisp or long and luxurious, that come just after a cuddle session could mean your dog is one of many canines who arent fond of hugs. As reported by The Guardian , a study conducted at the University of British Columbia by canine expert Stanley Coren, Ph.D., found roughly 80 percent of dogs show outward signs of stress while being embraced.

The same thing happens to people after a terrifying experience; our body pumps adrenaline through our veins in case we need to fight or flee. On the other hand, dog lover extraordinaire Cesar Millan warns against accidentally turning into Pavlov when it comes to coddling or comforting your pup.

We understand why youre concerned when your dog starts to shake or shiver. Fortunately, the cause may not be as severe as your immediate worries. Dogs will tremble, shiver, and shake for a number of reasons. Assessing and observing the other symptoms your pup is displaying will help to better determine the severity of the situation.

While shaking due to pain isnt necessarily an emergency situation, it should still be addressed by a veterinarian. Your veterinarian can address your pets pain and help you find a solution through therapies of medication.

Other times when your pup may shiver out of excitement or anticipation is when youre preparing their dinner or when theyve spotted something outside they want to chase. If your dog is afraid of loud noises, like thunder or fireworks, they may react by shivering and shaking. Its not uncommon for dogs to have anxiety, especially when major environmental changes happen in their space.

Veterinarians can prescribe an anti-anxiety medication for your dog to be used in anticipation of or during stressful events. If your dog is displaying no other concerning symptoms and there are no new stressors in their environment, then they are most likely just shivering from being cold. In severe cases, a dog can have hypothermia from long periods of exposure to the extreme cold.

Even if its a false alarm, shaking for prolonged periods and in combination with symptoms such as vomiting can be an indicator of a severe medical condition. Shaking and shivering are a common sign of distemper, alongside additional symptoms such as: If you suspect your dog may have contracted canine distemper contact your veterinarian immediately.

Some dogs suffer from epilepsy, a neurological disorder that caused collapsing and jerking. While the symptoms of poisoning vary, shaking and seizing are major indicators. If there is a possibility your pet had access to potentially toxic substances then youll want to see a vet immediately.

Potential stressors could be new people or animals, a new environment, loud noises like fireworks, or strange objects. If warming your dog up with a blanket and removing potential stressors from their environment doesnt work, it is time to see a veterinarian. Once you have determined the trembling is not caused by an environmental factor (stress due to a new person in the home, etc.)

This is especially true if your dog is displaying additional symptoms alongside shivering. Lethargy Limping Diarrhea Vomiting Anxiety and signs of distress Drooling Panting The more quickly your dog is assessed, the higher the chances of a positive outcome.

1. Cold

The simplest answer for, “Why is my dog shaking?” is that they’re cold. Shivering in frigid environments is an involuntary response designed to get the blood pumping in order to raise body temperature and prevent hypothermia. Smaller dogs, such as Chihuahuas, may be more prone to shivering than larger breeds due to their lack of body mass and insulation, explains Wag!.

2. Excitement

Some dogs shiver when they’re happy or excited. No one is sure why, but one theory is that it’s an outward manifestation of intense emotion. There’s no danger in this type of shivering; it will most likely stop once they calm down.

3. Stress, Anxiety and Fear

Other intense emotions that can cause shivers are fear and anxiety. While shivering, in this case, isn’t harmful in and of itself, stress isn’t any better for your dog than it is for you.

4. Seeking Attention

However, if you rush to comfort your dog every time they’re shaking, they may learn that shivering is a good way to get your attention. Some dogs even turn on the shakes while begging for food to earn sympathy.

5. Pain or Illness

Shivering could be a sign that your dog is in pain or suffering from an illness. Shivering and muscle tremors can be symptoms of serious conditions such as distemper, hypoglycemia, Addison’s disease and inflammatory brain disease, as well as more common ailments like an upset stomach.Constant shivering could be a sign of generalized tremor syndrome, also referred to as shaker syndrome, a chronic condition that can be helped with medication, according to Wag!.

6. Old Age

It’s not uncommon for weakening leg muscles to develop tremors as dogs age, but shivering could also be a sign of arthritis or joint pain.

Shaking vs. Seizures

Normal shivering and shaking are much different than a seizure, during which the muscles seize up and a dog loses both mobility and awareness of their surroundings. If you suspect your pup is having a seizure, and they’re not already being treated for a seizure disorder, get them to the emergency vet ASAP.While most causes of shivering in dogs are relatively harmless, it’s best to reach out to your vet if you’re wondering, “Why is my dog shaking?” They can explain what causes a dog to shiver as well as uncover if something serious may be going on. Even if there isn’t cause for concern, you’ll have peace of mind once you get a vet’s assessment.

Warning

Eating many different toxins can cause your dog to shake or have seizure activity. Take your dog to the vet and call Animal Poison Control (888-426-4435) right away if your dog has started trembling after eating something. Toxins can cause a medical emergency very quickly, so don’t “wait and see” if you think your dog’s shaking was caused by eating something new.There are many different reasons that dogs shake. Let’s explore some of them now, starting with the least serious explanation and moving up from there.

Cold Weather

Many dogs with thin coats or low-fat content, like Greyhounds and Dobermans, get cold easily. Even if it’s 50 or 60 degrees F outside, some dogs get chilly. Be especially cautious if it’s humid or rainy, as this makes dogs feel colder.If your dog’s shaking doesn’t stop once you’ve warmed her up, check with your vet to ensure there’s not something else going on.

Generalized Tremor Syndrome

Some small dogs “just tremble.” Anyone who’s been around a few Chihuahuas or Miniature Pinschers will agree that many of these little dogs just tremble a lot. Experts haven’t been able to nail down exactly why, but it could be that small dogs are cold more often, they’re more anxious, or another unknown reason.Be more concerned if the trembling is a new behavior or if it accompanies other changes in your dog’s behavior. If your small dog trembles a lot, ask your vet about it.Your vet can assess muscle tone and check for other reasons your dog might be trembling. She may diagnose your dog with Generalized Tremor Syndrome (GTS), which can be treated with corticosteroids.

Sign of Muscle Weakness or Injury

Have you ever exercised so much that your muscles quiver a bit? Or noticed that a pulled muscle vibrates when you move the wrong way? The same can happen to your dogs! Quivering is a common symptom of pain, injury, or weakness.Check with your vet if shaking is limited to a given area (say, the right hind leg), started after some heavy exercise, or is accompanied with a decrease in activity level. You may notice that the muscle tremor gets worse if you touch the area, attempt to stretch or massage it, or exercise your dog. Many dogs that tremble due to pain or weakness will also appear stressed.

Fear, Excitement, or Anxiety

Strong emotions can make dogs tremble or shake. If you notice that your dog’s trembling starts and stops in specific situations (like at the vet, when guests are visiting, or on walks), there’s a good chance that there’s an emotional reason for your dog’s shaking. Even if this is caused by excitement instead of fear, it’s a good idea to get help teaching your dog to feel relaxed.In this case, it’s often best to see a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant to learn how to help your dog feel more relaxed in a given situation. Skip the local obedience trainer, since they’re more skilled at teaching commands than changing emotions.Your dog behavior consultant may suggest that you speak to your vet about behavioral medications for your dog if it seems like the behavior modification protocols aren’t helping much.

Diseases or Medical Reasons

There are a lot of scary diseases out there that can cause your dog to shake. Distemper, neurological diseases, kidney disease, and seizure disorders (as well as many, many more diseases) can all cause shaking in dogs.Keep careful track of any other changes in your dog’s behavior, activity level, and appetite. Pay close attention to the frequency, odor, and consistency of your dog’s stool and urine. If your dog’s shaking is relatively new and accompanied by other symptoms, get a full veterinary workup as soon as possible. There may be bloodwork and other tests involved, but it’s worth it for your pup’s health!While some of the diseases that cause shaking are treatable or manageable, others, like distemper, are very serious and often fatal. Vaccinate your dog to help prevent distemper. Good preventative care can also stave off kidney disease. The causes of seizure disorders and neurological disease can be harder to pin down.

1. Your dog might be stressed

A strong full-body shake may be your dog’s way of relieving stress. According to the American Kennel Club, dogs shake to literally get rid of the tension built up during stressful or agitating experiences. Think a minor scuff with a playmate at the dog park or getting her temperature taken at the vet’s office. If this is what you witness, let it happen and give her some room! She’ll be in better spirits in no time.

2. Your dog might need space

Single shakes, either short and crisp or long and luxurious, that come just after a cuddle session could mean your dog is one of many canines who aren’t fond of hugs. We know, we know. This is…devastating news. As reported by

4. Your dog might be cold

Tiny dogs also get cold pretty quickly, and a constant shake from a seven-pound Italian greyhound usually means she’s freezing. Wrap her in a sweater and make sure your home is well heated in the winter to curb this involuntary shivering.

6. Your dog’s ears might hurt

A solid sign of a canine ear infection is a constant head shake. The habit can develop slowly (a few shakes here and there) and progress until your pup shakes her head frequently to ease the discomfort. It’s best to see a vet, especially if her ears turn reddish in color or begin to swell

7. Your dog might be scared

The Fourth of July is like Halloween for dogs: lots of people trying to scare them to death. If your dog hates fireworks and hears them in the distance, she may begin shaking out of fear. The same thing happens to people after a terrifying experience; our body pumps adrenaline through our veins in case we need to fight or flee. It can cause intense trembling, both before and after a stressful experience. Find ways to comfort your dog if she grows anxious during a certain situation or around specific people.

8. Your dog might want attention

On the other hand, dog lover extraordinaire Cesar Millan warns against accidentally turning into Pavlov when it comes to coddling or comforting your pup. If you rush to her side as soon as she starts shaking or shivering, she may start doing this on the regular to get attention. You’ve inadvertently conditioned her to associate “shake” with “attention.” This is tricky, but it’s usually easy to tell when a dog is genuinely scared versus gaming the system.

Emergency?

In the case of an emergency, contact your pet’s veterinarian or local emergency veterinary clinic. If your pet is vomiting, having diarrhea, or limping in addition to shaking it is best to have them treated by a professional immediately. Our clinic offers extended hours to accommodate for emergencies.

Less Severe Situations Indicated by Shaking

Not all reasons behind a dog’s trembling are an emergency. Some you can handle without the help of a vet. Your dog may be trembling out of excitement, anxiety, or simply because they are cold.

Excitement

Not all the reasons behind your dog’s shaking are negative. When dogs get excited, like when they’re playing with you or you’ve just gotten home after work, dogs will often shake. This is actually a natural reaction in their body to exert excess energy and calm them down.Other times when your pup may shiver out of excitement or anticipation is when you’re preparing their dinner or when they’ve spotted something outside they want to chase.

Anxiety

If your dog is afraid of loud noises, like thunder or fireworks, they may react by shivering and shaking. It’s not uncommon for dogs to have anxiety, especially when major environmental changes happen in ‘their space’.If your dog’s anxiety is severe enough then you may want to contact your veterinarian. Veterinarians can prescribe an anti-anxiety medication for your dog to be used in anticipation of or during stressful events.

Cold

If your dog is displaying no other concerning symptoms and there are no new stressors in their environment, then they are most likely just shivering from being cold.Dogs shiver when cold just like people do. If you live in a particularly cold climate or have a small or thin coated pup, it’s worth it to invest in a coat or potentially even a pair of booties. You’ll want to ensure they aren’t outside for too long as well.In severe cases, a dog can have hypothermia from long periods of exposure to the extreme cold. In this situation, you will need to take them to a vet for treatment.

Severe Medical Situations Indicated by Shaking

Shaking, especially paired with other alarming symptoms, should result in a trip to the veterinarian. Even if it’s a false alarm, shaking for prolonged periods and in combination with symptoms such as vomiting can be an indicator of a severe medical condition.

Nausea

Canine distemper is a virus that most often affects puppies and young dogs who have not had a full set of vaccines. It attacks the gastrointestinal, nervous, and respiratory systems. Most often it is fatal.Shaking and shivering are a common sign of distemper, alongside additional symptoms such as:Distemper must be treated by a veterinarian. If you suspect your dog may have contracted canine distemper contact your veterinarian immediately.

Generalized Tremor Syndrome (GTS)

Generalized Tremor Syndrome is also known as steroid responsive tremors and shaker syndrome. This is presented as tremors that are rhythmic, repetitive, and involuntary. It may be centralized to one area of the body or may cause the entire body to shake.The cause of GTS is unknown but is thought to be autoimmune-related. It is a ‘diagnosis of exclusion’, meaning your pet’s veterinarian will rule out all other possibilities.

Seizure Disorders

Some dogs suffer from epilepsy, a neurological disorder that caused collapsing and jerking. This may present itself as a dog falling and paddling with their legs as if swimming.While seizures themselves are not physically painful to the dog, seizing can cause injury due to the dog falling or knocking objects over and onto themselves.Contact your veterinarian immediately if your dog begins to have episodes of seizing. This can be treated using medications that control seizures.

Poisoning

While the symptoms of poisoning vary, shaking and seizing are major indicators. Dogs can be poisoned by substances that are not necessarily toxic to humans. Major toxins include cigarettes, xylitol, and chocolate.If you believe your pet may have ingested a toxic substance contact your veterinarian or take your pet to the nearest emergency vet clinic immediately.