Should I Be Worried If My Dog Is Shaking

icon June 21, 2024

Dogs can exhibit a wide range of behaviors, and shaking or trembling is one that can concern pet owners. While occasional shaking is normal and harmless, persistent or severe shaking can be a sign of an underlying issue that needs attention. Understanding the context and causes of your dog’s shaking is essential in determining whether you should be worried and what steps to take next.

Should I Be Worried If My Dog Is Shaking

Shaking in dogs can range from mild and occasional to severe and constant. The key to determining whether you should be concerned lies in understanding the underlying causes and accompanying symptoms.
→More About Dog Shaking

♦ When is shaking abnormal

Here are some scenarios when shaking in dogs might be a cause for concern:

1. Persistent or Severe Shaking:
If your dog is shaking continuously or severely, it could be a sign of a medical emergency. This level of shaking is often accompanied by other symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, or difficulty breathing.

2. Accompanied by Other Symptoms:
If the shaking is accompanied by other concerning symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty walking, disorientation, or seizures, immediate veterinary attention is warranted.

3. Sudden Onset:
Sudden onset of shaking without an apparent cause can indicate an acute issue such as poisoning, injury, or a severe allergic reaction.

4. Behavioral Changes:
If your dog is also exhibiting changes in behavior, such as aggression, depression, or unusual hiding, this could indicate a serious health issue.

5. Chronic Shaking:
Chronic or recurrent shaking, especially if it increases in frequency or severity, should be evaluated by a veterinarian to rule out chronic health issues.

♦ When is Shaking Normal?

Not all shaking is a cause for alarm. In many cases, shaking can be a normal response to various stimuli or conditions. Here are some scenarios when shaking is generally considered normal:

1. Cold:
Just like humans, dogs can shiver when they are cold. Smaller breeds, dogs with thin coats, or dogs exposed to cold weather may shake to generate body heat.
→Related: How Do I Know If My Dog Is Cold

2. Excitement or Anticipation:
Dogs often shake when they are excited or anticipating something, such as playtime, a walk, or mealtime. This type of shaking is typically short-lived and stops once the excitement subsides.

3. Fear or Anxiety:
Shaking can be a common response to fear or anxiety. Situations like thunderstorms, fireworks, or visits to the vet can cause temporary shaking due to stress.

4. Dreaming:
Dogs can shake or twitch in their sleep as part of their dream cycles. This is generally harmless and a normal part of their sleep behavior.

Dog Shaking: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

1. Cold and Hypothermia

  • Cause: Exposure to cold weather, particularly in small breeds or dogs with thin coats, can lead to shivering. Hypothermia, a severe form of cold exposure, can occur if a dog is left in cold conditions for too long.
  • Symptoms: Mild shivering or shaking, cold to the touch, lethargy, weakness, slow breathing, and in severe cases, collapse.


  • Mild Shivering: Provide warmth with blankets or sweaters. Move the dog to a warmer environment.
  • Hypothermia: Gradually warm the dog using warm (not hot) blankets and seek immediate veterinary attention.

2. Excitement, Fear, and Anxiety

  • Cause: Emotional responses to various stimuli such as new experiences, loud noises, or stressful situations.
  • Symptoms: Shaking, whining, panting, pacing, hiding, or clinginess.


  • Excitement: Allow the excitement to subside naturally; distraction with toys or commands can help.
  • Fear/Anxiety: Create a safe, quiet environment. Use calming aids such as anxiety wraps or calming pheromone sprays. For severe anxiety, consult a veterinarian for possible medication or behavioral therapy.

3. Pain

  • Cause: Injury, illness, or conditions like arthritis can cause pain-induced shaking.
  • Symptoms: Limping, reluctance to move, vocalization (whining, whimpering), changes in behavior, sensitivity to touch.


  • Immediate Care: Assess the source of pain and avoid handling the painful area.
  • Veterinary Care: Seek veterinary advice for diagnosis and pain management, which may include medications, physical therapy, or surgery depending on the cause.

4. Poisoning or Toxicity

  • Cause: Ingesting toxic substances such as chocolate, certain plants, chemicals, or medications.
  • Symptoms: Shaking, vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, seizures, lethargy, and in severe cases, collapse.


  • Immediate Action: Contact a veterinarian or an emergency animal poison control hotline immediately. Do not induce vomiting unless directed by a professional.
  • Veterinary Care: Treatment may include activated charcoal, IV fluids, medications to control symptoms, and supportive care.

5. Neurological Disorders

  • Cause: Conditions affecting the brain and nervous system, such as epilepsy, distemper, or age-related neurological degeneration.
  • Symptoms: Shaking, seizures, uncoordinated movements, changes in behavior, disorientation, loss of balance.


  • Diagnosis: Veterinary examination including neurological tests, blood work, and possibly imaging (MRI or CT scans).
  • Management: Treatment varies depending on the condition and may include medications, supportive care, and lifestyle adjustments.

6. Generalized Tremor Syndrome (GTS)

  • Cause: Also known as steroid-responsive tremor syndrome or white shaker dog syndrome, GTS is a condition of unknown origin that causes shaking in dogs.
  • Symptoms: Generalized, rhythmic tremors that affect the whole body.


  • Veterinary Care: Diagnosis through exclusion of other causes. Treatment typically involves corticosteroids to reduce inflammation.
  • Management: Long-term management may require medication adjustments and regular veterinary check-ups.

7. Nausea

  • Cause: Motion sickness, gastrointestinal upset, infections, or certain medications can cause nausea.
  • Symptoms: Shaking, drooling, licking lips, vomiting, lack of appetite.


  • Immediate Care: Withhold food for a few hours and offer small amounts of water.
  • Veterinary Care: If vomiting persists, seek veterinary attention for potential anti-nausea medication and to identify the underlying cause.

8. Old Age

  • Cause: Age-related muscle weakness, neurological decline, or chronic pain conditions.
  • Symptoms: Shaking, difficulty standing or walking, changes in behavior, reduced activity levels.


  • Management: Provide a comfortable and supportive environment. Use of orthopedic beds, ramps, and assistance with mobility can help.
  • Veterinary Care: Regular check-ups to manage pain and other age-related conditions with appropriate medications and therapies.


Shaking in dogs can be a normal response to various stimuli or conditions, such as cold, excitement, or fear. However, persistent, severe, or sudden shaking can be indicative of an underlying health issue that requires veterinary attention. Understanding the context, causes, and accompanying symptoms of your dog’s shaking is crucial in determining whether you should be worried and what steps to take.

As a pet owner, observing your dog’s behavior, providing a safe and comfortable environment, and seeking veterinary care when necessary are essential in ensuring your dog’s health and well-being. If in doubt, consulting with a veterinarian can provide the best guidance tailored to your dog’s specific needs and conditions.

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