A dog shaking its body in a field.

Why Is My Dog Shaking? Every Explanation!

5 mins |

Dogs are usually calm and playful but sometimes they can act strange and start to tremble, which can be a cause for concern for owners. So, are you a dog owner and anxious to know why your dog is shaking? There are a number of reasons for shaking, and we’ll explain all of them in this article.

Dogs may start to shake due to excitement, stress, fear or anxiety, and cold. On the other hand, harmful factors such as neurological diseases, digestive issues, toxicity, and old age may cause shaking in dogs.

What Are The Non-Harmful Causes Of My Dog Shaking?

A dog outside shaking its body.
This little guy might just be a little cold!

Dogs may start to shake when they are excited. This can happen when seeing their owner when they get home, when they’re getting fed, or when going out for a walk. Some dogs may also develop a habit of shaking to get your attention. A little training can resolve these behavior issues.  

Stress, fear, and anxiety are other factors that can trigger shaking in most dogs. Unfamiliar surroundings and people may act as stressors for dogs that are not trained to be socialized.

Cold is one of the major factors linked to the environment that causes shaking in dogs too. Toy breeds and breeds with shorter coats are predisposed to trembling due to cold. Blankets and warm bedding can help your dog stay warm in cold weather.

Can Food Poisoning And Toxicity Cause Shaking In A Dog?

Digestive disturbances due to food poisoning are one of the major causes of shaking in dogs and are linked to signs of nausea and vomiting. Stale food and foods that are not easily digestible can cause indigestion and nausea, which may result in shaking in dogs.

Secondly, toxicity from some foods and substances like chocolate, grapes, onions, xylitol, bread dough, and more can lead to neurological issues which produce signs like shaking and tremors. Here are some articles you can learn more about foods and substances for dogs:

Also, you can always contact animal poison control for help if you think your dog ingested something it shouldn’t have.

What Are The Neurological Causes Of A Dog Shaking?

A dog may start to shake due to trauma or head injury, muscle fatigue, electrolyte imbalance, and brain tumors. Moreover, neurological diseases like epilepsy, canine distemper, and tetanus (a bacterial disease that affects the muscles and neurological system in dogs leading to tremors and stiffness) can cause shaking in a dog as well.

Furthermore, a genetic predisposition to tremors is also possible in some dog breeds, which is called canine idiopathic epilepsy. This means there’s no known cause for the symptoms.

What Are The Symptoms Of Canine Distemper?

Canine distemper is a deadly viral disease in dogs that affects the neurons (functional cells) of the brain and spinal cord leading to tremors.

Neurological Symptoms Of Canine Distemper

Firstly, we will discuss some of the neurological signs of Canine Distemper:

  • Focal to generalized tremors
  • Paresis (partial paralysis) to complete paralysis
  • Head tilt
  • Myoclonus (involuntary muscle jerk)

Non-Neurological Symptoms Of Canine Distemper

Secondly, non-neurological signs may include:

  • Nasal and ocular discharge
  • Dyspnea (difficult respiration)
  • Anorexia
  • Hyperkeratosis or hardness of foot pads
  • Nodules on belly 

What Is ‘Shaker Syndrome’ In Dogs?

Shaker syndrome is also called canine idiopathic cerebellitis in which the neuronal tissue of the cerebellum gets inflamed. The cerebellum is the part of the brain involved in controlling voluntary muscular movements. In this disease, the entire body of the dog is affected and shakes simultaneously. 

This syndrome more commonly affects white-coat dog breeds. However, this condition can manifest in any breed regardless of coat color.

What Is The Difference Between Shaking And Tremors?

Tremors are classified as involuntary rhythmic muscular movements in one or more parts of the body. Shaking is a more generalized term commonly used by the general public. Shaking can be due to cold or stress whereas tremors are muscular spasms, focal or generalized, involving a neurological disturbance in the brain or spinal cord. Seizure is another term that differs from tremor because it involves a decreased state of consciousness. A tremor happens when the animal is conscious at the time of the spasm.

Is Trembling A Part Of Old Age In Dogs?

Old age is associated with issues like arthritis, joint pain, and muscular weakness, which predisposes a dog to shake, losing balance, and gait abnormalities termed ataxia.

What To Do If My Dog Is Shaking?

Trembling and spasms in dogs can be very disturbing for pet owners. However, one must stay calm and focus on helping your dog by removing any harmful object that can hurt them and providing soft bedding. After the dog is calm if you’re concerned the shaking is due to a serious issue, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian, or take your dog to the nearest emergency veterinarian.

The vet may prescribe emergency medicines like muscle relaxants and sedatives. Also, they may run a series of diagnostic tests like complete blood count (CBC), liver and kidney function tests, blood chemistry tests, X-rays, and more.  For further diagnosis, the veterinarian may draw cerebrospinal fluid.

Conclusion: Why Is My Dog Shaking?

In conclusion, a dog may start to shake due to stress, anxiety, and cold or it may involve more serious health issues like food intoxication, neurological disease, brain trauma, or some kind of tumor. It could also be due to old age. The important thing is recognizing the factors and responding appropriately.

So, what’s going on with your dog? Are they shaking? Let us know your thoughts and why in the comments below.

Shahzaib is a qualified veterinarian and professional writer. He is from Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan. He did his DVM from the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad. Being a Veterinarian, Shahzaib has technically sound knowledge of pet health, nutrition, breeding, and housing. He has more than two years of experience in small animal medicine and surgery. Currently, he is working as an Associate Veterinarian in a renowned pet hospital in Islamabad, Pakistan.