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Why is My Dog Shaking? 10 Reasons And How to Deal With Them

Your dog's shakes, shivers, and trembles may be worrisome. Understanding the science behind this could put your mind at ease. 

Any pet parent would feel concerned when they notice their dog begin to shake. The good news is that sometimes there's no reason to worry. There are many reasons why a dog would shake, and it's not always something bad. 

It's important to learn the difference between when a dog shivers because they're suddenly startled and the shakes brought on by an underlying medical condition. However, you should never ignore it. 

10 Reasons why dogs shiver and shake

If your dog has ever started trembling for no apparent reason, you'll know it can be worrisome. But, it doesn't always mean you have to rush them to the vet - sometimes, you can help them yourself. 

Not every shake or shiver is an emergency. Let's shakedown the causes, symptoms, and treatments available for shivering or quivering canines.

#1 Excitement or anxiety?

Your dog's tremble may be a natural response to feeling happy and filled with excitement:

  • Have you just arrived home after a long day at work?
  • Or are you playing an explosive game of fetch with Fido? 

Their shaking may also be due to anxiety:

  • Maybe they're anxious about getting their dinner in (yes, dogs love their food!)?
  • Or maybe they saw a squirrel hop past the window, and they really, really, REALLY want to hop after it?

#2 Shaking in older dogs

Sometimes older dogs who suffer from joint pain or arthritis will shake and shiver because of this. As dogs age, conditions like arthritis are unavoidable.

However, dog shivering could be much more than a symptom of arthritis. Take your older dog to the vet to be sure. It could be something serious like kidney disease. 

Talk to your vet and try to keep your best friend as comfortable as possible. Consider installing a bed ramp so your senior dog can get up and down the bed without struggling and experiencing additional pain. 

#3 Shaking or seizures?

Shivers and shakes in a dog are different from seizures.

Seizures occur when the muscles seize up, your dog has less mobility and loses environmental awareness. If you feel your dog's shakes may be a seizure, get them to a vet immediately.

Even if there is no evidence suggesting that those simple shakes are seizures if you find yourself wondering - why is my dog shaking? - and you think it may be seizures, taking them to a vet will set your mind at ease.

#4 It's too doggone cold! 

Just like humans, dogs shiver when they're cold.

  • If you live in a colder climate or have a small breed dog or a dog with a thinner coat, you may want to consider purchasing doggy clothing. Get them some boots and a coat to help them brave the freezing temperatures. 
  • During colder months, keep your dog inside as much as possible. Too much time outside could make their normal dog temp drop too low, and they may even develop hypothermia. 

Even dogs with thick coats can struggle with the cold, so keep Tobie warm and toasty!

#5 Attention seeking

If you are comforting your dog every time they shake during a thunderstorm but not paying them much attention - they will soon become conditioned that shaking and shivering is a way to get you to fuss over them. 

If you become conditioned to run to them, some research suggests that this relationship between the attention seeker and giver is a codependent one.

Instead, make a habit of cuddling them when they're not actively seeking attention. 

#6 Your dog may be ill

A slight tremble may be nothing more than the cold or a reaction to some external stimulant. However, it may be something more severe, such as an underlying medical condition. 

Shivering and trembling are symptoms of serious illnesses like distemper, Addison's disease, and hypoglycemia, an inflammatory brain disease.

It's also possible that your dog is shivering because they have an upset tummy or an injury.

If your dog keeps shaking, head over to the vet. A tiny tremble could quickly turn into an emergency. It is best to get professional advice.

#7 Is your dog nauseous?

If your dog is shaking and vomiting, it could mean it has an underlying medical condition.

Continuous shaking from your pet paired with other symptoms like vomiting ALWAYS means a trip to the vet. 

#8 Canine distemper

Canine distemper, a virus that affects puppies and any younger dogs that weren't fully vaccinated. This virus attacks the gastrointestinal, respiratory, and nervous systems.

If you don't take your dog to be treated, this condition is almost always fatal.

Some other symptoms of canine distemper:

  • Nasal discharge
  • Frequent coughing
  • High fever
  • Lethargy or tiredness
  • A reduction in appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Discharge from the eye

#9 Generalized Tremor Syndrome (GTS)

Generalized Tremor Syndrome (GTS) is also known as Steroid Responsive Tremors and Shaker syndrome. This autoimmune-related disorder is seen as rhythmic, repetitive, and involuntary tremors. 

It may only occur in one part of the dog's body, or it may appear as a shake that takes over the dog's entire body. Again, this calls for an immediate trip to the vet.

#10 Poisoning

Symptoms of poisoning are hard to pin to shaking and shivering, but those are the two most significant symptoms to watch out for if you suspect poisoning.

If you feel your dog's shaking is an indication of poisoning, contact a vet immediately.

Bear in mind that dogs can be poisoned by substances that are not toxic to humans, like xylitol, a common sweetener seen as a health food. Even too much chocolate can be toxic to your dog!

How to prevent shaking in dogs

Sometimes your pet's trembles can be resolved without the help of a vet. Shaking in dogs may be because of excitement, anxiety, or just because little Fido is freezing! 

Take care of your dog's health with regular vet checkups, keep them warm, and make sure they don't eat anything that could harm them. You'll no longer waste time wondering - why do dogs shake? - and instead spend that time enjoying your best friend. 

Use an online dog symptom checker like PetMD to put your mind at ease or take them to the vet if you're unsure. Veterinarians never grow tired of hearing - my dog is shaking and acting weird. It's their calling to help!

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