Why Is My Dog Shaking? 6 Potential Causes
by Janine DeVault - 9/27/19
Dogs shake or tremble for all kinds of reasons. It could be due to a larger health issue, a sign of anxiety–or your pup might just be chilly. Some dogs tremble almost all the time.
Because the reasons for shaking are so varied, it’s important to look at the broader context of the shaking to determine the cause. In many cases shaking is not a medical issue, but sometimes it does indicate a need for immediate medical attention. In this article we’ll cover a variety of reasons why your dog is shaking and when to call for help.
1. He’s Cold
If you notice your dog shivering, the solution may be as simple as buying him a sweater!
Yes, they have fur, but dogs can still get cold, especially in the winter. This is particularly true for dogs that don’t have undercoats. Breeds such as whippets, greyhounds, boxers and chihuahuas have thin coats and typically lack sufficient body fat to keep them warm in cold temperatures.
If you notice your dog trembling during cold snaps, invest in a warm sweater or jacket to keep him warm. You should also make sure he has a warm place to sleep. After all, laying down on a cold floor is sure to chill him to the bone! If your dog’s bed sits directly on a wood or tile floor, consider putting a rubber mat or some cardboard underneath it for additional insulation in colder months.
2. She’s Scared or Anxious
Have you noticed your dog trembling during thunderstorms or stressful situations? Perhaps she shivers and cowers when meeting strangers or when you take her to the vet? In this case, your dog is shaking due to fear. The trembling is a result of your dog’s nervous system reacting to the surge of adrenaline brought on by events she finds stressful.
If your dog is anxious in unfamiliar environments, you can help by working on socialization. By exposing your pup to new and varied environments and scenarios, and offering plenty of positive reinforcement along the way, you will help build her confidence and reduce her anxiety. Socialization doesn’t happen overnight, however. It is something you will have to work on consistently throughout your pup’s lifetime.
3. He’s in Pain
If your dog is getting on in years, he’s liable to have developed some aches and pains. It’s not uncommon for older dogs to tremble out of pain, especially in their hind legs.
Pain tremors aren’t usually cause for alarm, but it’s still worth consulting your veterinarian. After all, there’s no need for your pup to live in excess pain. Your vet will be able to help determine the source of your dog’s pain, whether it be arthritis or something else, and work with you to find a solution.
4. She Has a Disease
Trembling is a common symptom in conditions such as kidney disease and distemper, among others. If your dog has suddenly developed a tremor, speak to your veterinarian, as it may be a symptom of a serious illness. And if this is the case, trembling is unlikely to be the only symptom. Try to pay attention to anything else about your dog’s behavior or physical condition that has changed recently.
Because there are many potential causes for why your dog is shaking, it’s impossible to know how serious her condition is before your vet has examined your pet.
5. He Ingested Something Toxic
Dogs often shake when they have ingested toxic substances such as chemical poisons, chocolate or harmful plants. Poisoning is usually accompanied by other symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea. If you know or suspect that your pup has consumed a poisonous substance, or he’s exhibiting these symptoms, contact your veterinarian or animal poison control immediately.
6. She Has a Fever
Just like humans, a dog with a fever may shiver. Dogs may experience fevers due to infections or poisoning. They may also exhibit fever symptoms after a vaccination. Usually fevers are accompanied by other symptoms, which include vomiting, coughing, lethargy, warm ears and a warm nose. Until you know the underlying cause of the fever, it’s difficult to determine how serious your pup’s condition is. If you notice signs of fever in your dog, consult your veterinarian immediately.
As you can see, your pet can tremble for many reasons. The next time you ask yourself “Why is my dog shaking?” be sure to consider the context. Is there a thunderstorm? Is he in a stressful situation? Is he exhibiting any additional symptoms? If you sense that your pup’s trembling is not caused by anything in his environment, contact your veterinarian as it may be a sign of a medical problem.
Janine DeVault is a pet writer, animal rescue advocate, and former celebrity dog walker. She lives in Mexico with her three rescue pets, Maia, Fozzy and Kesi.