Why Is My Dog Shaking? Possible Reasons & What To Do Next

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When it comes to shaking, there could be a number of different reasons your pup’s body needs the extra vibration. Although it can be frustrating to be limited to non-verbal communication, if you pay careful attention to some of your dog’s signals, you may have an easier time figuring out the reasons behind the shaking and can determine whether you should pursue medical help.

I’ve split this article into two sections: the first is a list of low-risk reasons your pup may have the shakes, and the second is a list of high-risk possibilities. If you’re fearful that any of the high-risk reasons for shaking may apply to your dog’s situation, then we recommend contacting your veterinarian and seeking medical attention.

That being said, here are some possible explanations for your pooch’s shakes:

Low-Risk Possibilities

1. Chilly Weather

Just like for people, shivering when you’re in a cold environment is our body’s natural way to generate heat and prevent something extreme like hypothermia from occurring. For smaller dogs, this may be a more frequent tendency, as their tiny bodies are more susceptible to the cold. If you notice your dog shaking in a chilly environment, the best thing you can do is warm your pup up—drape a blanket or scarf over your furry friend or turn up the heat in your home.

2. Excitement or Seeking Attention

Sometimes shaking is a physical display of pent-up, exciting emotions. When this is the case, it’s usually nothing to worry about. But if you want to ensure your pup’s attention-seeking level stays in check, one option is to reward your dog with a treat when he’s acting calmly and to look away when he’sover-excited. This kind of positive reinforcement encourages your dog to maintain a low-key disposition. It could also be a good idea to take your pup on a walk, especially if he hasn’t been on one yet. Dogs need to be walked every day, and if your pup seems to be shaking with pent-up energy, a walk is a good place to release it.

3. Stress or Anxiety

Similarly, if your pup is experiencing any kind of high-stress scenario, he may display his anxiety through shaking. If you notice this, the best thing to do is limit your pup’s exposure to possible reasons for stress and anxiety. If this isn’t possible, the shaking should end when your dog is removed from the stressful situation. Still, if the shaking happens relatively frequently, it may be worth adopting new techniques to help calm your dog’s nerves. Calming treats usually have a positive effect on the over-anxious dog, as well as calming vests, which work by applying continuous pressure to your pup, similar to how weighted blankets work for humans.

4. Age-Related Shaking

 According to the American Kennel Club, older dogs have a more difficult time regulating their body temperature compared to more spritely pups. Older dogs also have a tendency to develop tumors on their legs which could be another reason for the discomfort sometimes correlated with shaking. A blanket wrapped loosely around your dog will usually solve this problem.

High-Risk Possibilities

1. Pain

If you notice your pup shaking in a distressed way, the trembling could be a reaction to pain. It’s also possible that if your dog is feeling sick or nauseous, he could be shaking as a response to that discomfort. If you notice the shaking last for a prolonged period, you should contact your veterinarian for information on how to help your pup feel better.

2. Ear Infection

Many breeds of dogs have a higher likelihood of developing ear infections, especially breeds with droopy ears, like Basset Hounds, Weimaraners, and Cocker Spaniels. If your pup has an ear infection, you may notice him coping with the discomfort by shaking his head excessively. To avoid ear infections, it’s important for dog owners to clean their pup’s ears each time they go swimming in a body of water. If you notice their ears appear red, inflamed, irritated, or have a funky smell, then you should contact your veterinarian.

3. Poisoning

There are several foods and ingredients that are perfectly safe for human consumption but are actually toxic for dogs to eat. Among these include chocolate, grapes or raisins, and the common sugar-substitute xylitol found in many sugar-free food items. If your dog has ingested something toxic, it’s possible he could exhibit shaking as a symptom, in addition to vomiting and diarrhea, and you should call your vet or a Pet Poison Hotline immediately. 

4. Low Blood Sugar

Another possible reason for shaking could be due to a change in blood chemistry, including hypoglycemia, which smaller dogs are more susceptible to. You should be able to avoid this by maintaining a balanced diet for your dog. 

5. Generalized Tremor Syndrome

GTS is a condition that can occur in all sizes and shapes of dogs, where the pups experience uncontrollable shaking. The cause of GTA is unknown. If you notice your dog’s shaking occurring for a prolonged period of time, it’s worth taking your pup to the vet to determine if GTS is the problem. 

6. Distinguishing Seizures From Shaking

Seizures will always be considered more of a critical medical issue than general shaking. You can usually tell the difference between the two by your dog’s responsiveness. If your pup seems essentially unresponsive and is experiencing uncontrollable shaking, then he could likely be having a seizure. If the seizure lasts longer than five minutes, then it’s considered a medical emergency, but regardless, you should contact your veterinarian for assistance. It’s helpful if you record what your pup looks like when the seizure is happening so your vet can piece together what could be going on.

Zoë Butler
Author: Zoë Butler

Content Writer for DogFriendly.com.