Why is my dog shaking? Causes and treatment of shaking in dogs

Why is my dog shaking? Causes and treatment of shaking in dogs

As the nights draw in, the weather begins to get a little colder and bonfire night approaches, your dog is more likely to have a reason to shake or shiver  – but although we all know our pets pretty well, it's not always obvious why they are trembling. 

Dogs shake for all kinds of different reasons and they don’t always need your attention when this happens. Sometimes they could just be excited to see you – especially if they have been left alone for a while – or they are cold. But sometimes shaking could be a sign of something more sinister that needs medical attention, such as illness, injury or poisoning.

When your dog shakes but it’s not an emergency

Happy dog Photo by Eric Ward on UnsplashHappy dog Photo by Eric Ward on Unsplash

Dogs Shaking with excitement

Quite often your dog will shake through sheer excitement – whether that is from playing fetch with you, seeing a cat or something that they want to chase or greeting you when you come home. This kind of excited shaking is harmless although it might help to keep the level of fuss when you greet them to a minimum, so that the situation doesn’t escalate. Some dogs pee when they are excited and this is not a fun way to be greeted after a long day at the office. Train your dog to sit when you see them and then make a fuss of them, rather than letting them leap all over you – or your guests.

Sad dog Photo by Picsea on UnsplashSad dog Photo by Picsea on Unsplash

Dogs Shaking from stress, fear or anxiety

Other intense emotions that could cause your dog to shake, are stress, fear and anxiety. These are obviously more concerning than excitement and you may want to do something to help your dog if they are visibly distressed. You may also notice that they are panting or cowering and they may have their tail between their legs too. Although this kind of shaking will not physically harm your dog it can be distressing to watch and often our first reaction is to comfort our them, but sometimes this can make the situation worse.

The best thing you can do is make sure your dog is comfortable. Remove or minimise the source of the stress. If the shaking is being caused by something outside like fireworks or thunder and lightning, keep you curtains shut, turn up the TV or radio and make sure they have a safe comfortable space. Don’t hug them or make a fuss as this can make the situation worse.

If your dog’s anxiety is really severe then you might want to contact your vet for some preventative treatment – and we will be discussing this further in our blog about fireworks, next week.

Cold dog photo by Matthew Henry on UnsplashCold dog photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

Dogs shaking from the cold

If you’ve ruled out excitement and stress as the cause of your dog’s trembling, then one of the most common causes of shaking in dogs is that they are cold. Often this is dependent on the breed, so if you know that your dog feels the cold then it may be worth investing in a coat for indoor or outdoor use and keep an eye on them when you’re out on wintery walks. They may be keen to keep going even though they are freezing so be sensible about walking in the cold - and don't shut them outside either. It is possible for a dog to develop hypothermia, just as humans do so make sure they aren’t hanging about in snow or freezing conditions and if they appear to be suffering excessively then get them to a vet for immediate treatment.

Old dog Photo by Michael on UnsplashOld dog Photo by Michael on Unsplash

Dogs shaking in old age

Quite often older dogs will develop muscle tremors or weakened leg muscles which can cause them to shake. It is important not to brush this off as something age related. If your old dog develops a tremor, check with your vet that it isn’t the sign of something more serious, or they could suffer unnecessarily. Sometimes a change of diet can help to improve your dog’s condition and movement in their joints and your vet will be able to advise on this too.

Dogs shaking from something more serious

Drooling dog Photo by Mpho Mojapelo on UnsplashDrooling dog Photo by Mpho Mojapelo on Unsplash

Dogs shaking from sickness or injury

If your dog is shaking for a long period of time without any obvious cause they may be feeling sick. This could be from motion sickness, overeating, or side effects from and medication they are taking – or something more serious such as poisoning, or kidney or liver disease. If your dog is licking their lips, drooling, swallowing often or they begin to vomit, contact a vet for advice.

Sick dog Photo by Charles Deluvio on UnsplashSick dog Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

Dogs shaking from poison

If your dog has eaten something they shouldn’t have or has been poisoned then quite often they will shake or experience tremors. The symptoms of poisoning vary widely, but your dog could also appear weak or experience vomiting, diarrhoea and seizures.

It is important to understand what your dog can or can’t eat. Some food stuffs which are harmless to humans are toxic to pups and will cause shaking. Chocolate, raisins and artificial sweeteners should be kept well out of your dog’s reach along with more obvious toxins such as medication and even cigarettes which can cause severe problems if swallowed.

If you suspect that your dog is shaking because they have ingested something toxic, seek immediate medical treatment and don’t wait as the sooner you can get them to a vet, the better their chance of being treated successfully.

Main image: Wet dog Photo by Tadeusz Lakota on Unsplash


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