Updated by Amy Granger on Jul 12, 2021
Dog owners are often troubled and alarmed when their pet dogs start to shiver, shake or tremble out of the blue, leading them to enter into a state of panic, mostly needlessly.
Often vets or animal helplines receive panicked phone calls or panicked owners in the ER with shaking or shivering dogs experiencing tremors. However, in many cases, a trip to the ER with a trembling dog is needless because it is not always something to worry about. A shaking dog can be for many reasons, some as mild as a change in temperature, but sometimes it could also indicate a more serious underlying medical issue. So when should you be worried about a shaking dog? Let’s discuss the potential causes, treatments, and preventions for tremors in dogs and some frequently asked questions about it.
Much like how a drop in temperature makes us shiver because of the cold, dogs also shiver or tremble when they feel cold. This is a very common cause of shaking in dogs, especially dogs with undercoats or a thick coat of fur. Sometimes breeds like greyhounds, Chihuahuas, or boxers tend to shiver more due to the lack of fur on their body and generally having lower body fat than other breeds. It might be time to invest in a warm blanket or sweater for your dog.
Dogs are known for being very excitable creatures and tend to be hyper-active to express positive emotions. This is not an alarming cause of tremors in dogs as excited dogs wag their tails uncontrollably, run around in circles and yes – Shake! – to express their bursting joy. It is often best to jump in with your dog and share their excitement. However, it would be a good idea to teach your dog how to calm down in such situations as it may have some adverse behavioral impacts.
Much like humans, dogs also tremble and shiver when they begin to feel stressed, anxious or if they have something to fear. There may be many reasons why dogs get triggered, most common of them being the loud sound of thunderstorms or the noise fireworks make that can set a dog off. Dogs may also whine, whimper or quaver when dealing with a stressful situation leading to tremors or shaking. Being left alone in the dark or being intimidated by another dog are amongst the reasons for stress.
Dogs also often develop shaking or shivering as they grow old due to weakening joints and muscles. Your dog can be experiencing trembling if they've entered their senior years. Sometimes the shaking could be in just the back legs, but often it can be throughout as well. However, this doesn't normally hinder their movement, but you never know when it may be causing them pain, so it's better to take an old dog frequently to the vet.
Over-exertion or weakening of muscles and joints in dogs often results in shaking, shivering, or trembling as well. It may be because of resulting aches developed from damaged muscles or joints that cause a dog to tremble or shiver. Sometimes it only occurs in the hind legs but can often be throughout the body as well. However, this is not always a sign of alarm as a little rest or relaxation for the muscles can make them good as new again.
Putting all other possible causes aside, sometimes there are underlying serious medical conditions that can cause dogs to shiver, tremble or shake as a result. Sometimes these tremors are a cry for help, and if you have eliminated all other causes, it may be time for you to rush to a vet to get your dog looked at. Common medical conditions that result in shaking or trembling are:
The treatments for stopping shakes and tremors in dogs always depend on the cause of the problem. Depending on whether your dog is shaking from behavioral concerns or medical concerns, the treatments will vary.
Often for many behavioral concerns like stress, anxiety, fear, or excitement, it is best to treat the shaking and shivering by calming your dog down. Figuring out the reason for said tremors is the key as it allows you to get to the root cause of the problem. Taking your dog away from stressful situations, like turning on a light in the dark or making the room soundproof from the noise of thunder, can treat the shaking.
If winter is making your dog shake or shiver more in the case of cold temperature, it is best to treat it by providing as much warmth as you can. Starting with a cozy blanket or sweater for your pup can help lessen the shivering. If this does not provide enough warmth, heaters or a fireplace can assist the process.
In the case of muscular or joint pain, vets may suggest you allow your dogs to rest for long periods and limit their physical activities or daily walks. In cases of excessive muscular and joint pain, causing excessive shaking, a massage for your dog may also be good to decrease the aches so the tremors can be treated.
Ultimately if all other treatments do not work, a visit to the vet is sure to provide you with the best treatment for the shaking and shivering. Because it is hard to diagnose what the cause may be at home if all other causes are eliminated, depending on the diagnosis, vets can suggest appropriate medicines, treatments, and surgeries to get rid of the ailment.
Since the reasons for shaking and shivering in dogs can severely vary from simple behavioral reactions to genuine medical concerns, the best way to prevent it is by eliminating all possible causes that may cause tremors to occur. Disciplining your dog in terms of reactions and expressive behavior may allow them to keep calm in stressful or exciting situations. Similarly, getting rid of all triggers can fulfill the same purpose, like keeping away fireworks, other dogs, or the dark. In severe medical concerns like seizures or food poisoning, preventive measures may not be so easy to provide. However, you can decrease the chances of disease by ensuring your dog doesn’t ingest any toxic substances or food they are not supposed to be eating. Making sure that your dog has frequently scheduled vet check-ups will also reinforce they are healthy all the time.
There is no definitive conclusion that shaking in dogs is a sign of pain, and it is not always. Sometimes there are chances that shaking or tremors occur due to muscular or joint pain. If treatments for other causes do not affect, it is likely the dog is in pain.
If there is no obvious behavior change causing your dog to shake and still acting normal, sometimes it may not be serious and could be due to a change in temperature or old age. However, if those are not the causes and your dog is still acting normal, there may be some underlying medical concerns like GTS or distemper that would require you to visit a vet.
As the article summarizes, there are varying reasons why your dog may be shaking, which will ultimately lead to weird behavior. While it doesn’t usually hinder normal movement, it can sometimes cause dogs to act weird, especially when they are excited or stressed, resulting in whines, whimpering, or other sounds and behaviors that can be labeled as weird. Your dog may also be shaking and acting weird if they need a bit more attention from you.
In conclusion, shaking and shivering in dogs is not always a cause for alarm or panic; sometimes, it may just be that your dog is happy to see you! However, it should not be ignored if the reason isn't obvious, and a visit to the vet may not be a bad idea.