Why is My Dog Shivering or Trembling?

By Tom •  Updated: 08/09/20 •  9 min read
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Many things can make a dog shake, tremble or shiver. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the most common issues that can cause these symptoms and what you can do to help your pup.

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My Dog is Shaking

It’s hard to see your dog shaking, trembling or shivering—you wonder what’s wrong, if it’s necessary to call the vet, etc. Let’s take a look at some of the most common reasons for this behavior.

The reasons dogs shake and tremble are varied:

Your fur baby may even shake if he needs to go outside to do his business, knowing he’ll get in trouble for going potty in the house. Another reason dogs shake is due to extreme happiness! Have you ever seen your canine companion shiver/tremble/shake with excitement? These are all common causes of shaking in dogs.

Medical Issues that Cause Shaking/Trembling/Shivering in Dogs

Several medical issues can cause your pup to shake, tremble or shiver. Symptoms may also include your dog trembling and panting. Here are a few of the most common medical reasons for these symptoms.

Nausea: if your dog’s shaking, he could be experiencing nausea (may also be accompanied by diarrhea, bloating, or vomiting). Nausea can have different causes, including:

Motion sickness: pets can become sick when traveling, just like their humans. Dogs love to be with us every hour of the day. This includes traveling with us by car, air, etc. However, some dogs develop motion sickness. If you notice your fur baby is sick after riding in the car or air travel, this may be the cause.

Overeating: dogs love to eat—that’s a fact. Sometimes a dog eats too much and can become sick to his stomach. However, some dogs may eat out of boredom, due to hormonal imbalances, etc. If your pup has eaten too much in the past day or so, this could be the cause of his stomach upset. Or your dog could be eating his food too fast, which could also cause indigestion.

Liver or Kidney Disease: these can be serious health issues in your dog, and may be accompanied by shaking/trembling/shivering. Dogs with these health issues may also show signs of lethargy and/or weakness, and may also vomit, etc. If your dog suddenly develops these types of symptoms, be sure to get him to the vet as soon as possible, as these can be life-threatening medical conditions.

Eating something bad: this can include poisonous plants, garbage, rotting food, roadkill, etc. Some dogs will pick up anything and eat it. Sudden nausea, shivering, and/or other digestive issues can be due to your dog eating something he shouldn’t have. Again, this could be a serious health issue, so it’s a good idea to call the vet as soon as possible.

Poison: as noted above, some dogs love to eat or mouth anything and everything. This may include poisonous plants, accidental poisonous materials used around the home (rodent pellets, antifreeze, and more).

If you believe your pet has ingested anything poisonous, be sure to call the vet right away—don’t wait—this is a serious medical emergency.

Treatment of your pup’s nausea depends on the cause. Think back on the past couple of days or so—could your dog have eaten too much, eaten something he shouldn’t? Could he have accidentally been exposed to poison? Have the symptoms come on suddenly, or has he been acting unwell for some time? If your pet’s symptoms aren’t improving over a couple of days or quickly become worse, then it’s time to call the veterinarian for an appointment and medical examination.

Pain and Shivering/Shaking/Trembling in Dogs

Pain can also cause dogs to shiver, shake or tremble. Ear pain, for example, can cause your dog to shake his head or even shake all over if the pain’s bad enough. Another cause is arthritis, which can create degenerative pain in the spine, knees or hips–leading to trembling, especially in the hind legs.

Dog Shivering and Panting

Dogs sometimes shiver and pant due to fear, anxiety or stress; however, these can also be signs of a medical conditions. Medical conditions that can cause your dog to shiver and pant include:

Each of these conditions can quickly become serious, so if you suspect your fur baby is shaking and panting due to any of these conditions, be sure to call the vet as soon as possible. These can be signs of life threatening medical conditions.

Dog Shivering and Lethargic

Have you noticed your dog is shivering and lethargic? Again, this could be a sign of medical conditions including:

Dogs Shaking for Other Reasons

If you’ve determined your dog’s not ill, then you may wonder what could be causing him to shiver and shake. There are a number of reasons he may be shivering and shaking.

1). After bath shaking: Did you just give your fur baby a bath and noticed him shaking right afterwards? That’s because this is how your dog dries his fur after it’s become wet! According to the Atlantic, dogs are pretty adept when drying off—they can shake off about 70% of the water in their soaked fur, and they do this in just about four seconds!

2: Stress:  also causes dogs to shake and is a common sign of stress in our pups. Your dog may shake when his visit to the vet’s over, he may shake his entire body after a stressful meeting with another dog. Your dog is literally shaking the tension from his body. If only we could do the same.

3). Ear infection: another cause of shaking in dogs can be ear infections. Is your dog mainly shaking his head? Then this could be the issue. Infected ears cause pain, itching and irritation. Your dog shakes his head to relieve these ear infection symptoms. You may also notice redness, more dirt than normal, or even a bad odor coming from your fur baby’s ears. If so, then it’s time to take your pup to see the vet.

4). White dog shaker syndrome: is another cause of dogs shaking, especially certain breeds of dogs. The condition was first noticed in small white dogs who developed tremors that caused trouble with walking and standing. During these tremors, the dog remains alert and reactive—these are not seizures. No neurological, mental or other physical issues were found in these dogs. They also seemed to not suffer pain.

To this day, no on is certain what causes this condition. Some dogs may experience tremors for days or weeks, only to have them subside and then reappear again after some time. Most dogs continue to have tremors off and on all through their lives. Unlike its name, this syndrome can become a problem in any breed or color of dog—large or small. This condition is most often seen in Maltese, Bichons, terriers and poodles). Vets sometimes prescribe benzodiazepines or corticosteroids to help treat the tremors.

5). Shaking puppy syndrome: is a neurological disorder that may appear in puppies, especially in these breeds:

This disease is caused by hypomyelination, which causes the myelin sheath on the puppy’s nerves to thin. This cover protects the nerve—without it, nerves are not able to efficiently carry electrical signals from nerve to nerve. As a result, nerves and muscles are not able to function correctly. Symptoms can start as early as between the time a puppy’s born up to 2 weeks of age. The puppy may have trouble with balance, walking and coordination. They may also stand with the legs far apart—this is the puppy’s way to stay balanced.

There’s no specific treatment for shaking puppy syndrome, however most puppies seem to gradually get better as they get older. If he has a milder form of this syndrome, a puppy can fully be over this condition at around 4 months of age. Even so, most dogs who have this syndrome generally have some form of trembling throughout their lives.

When to Take Your Dog to the Vet for Shaking

Sometimes it’s hard to know when to see the vet for specific symptoms—this includes shaking, trembling and shivering. The causes are so varied, as we’ve seen, and may or may not be serious.

If your dog all of a sudden begins to shiver, shake or tremble and you’ve never noticed his doing this before, then it’s time to call the vet. The cause could be something serious such as poisoning, kidney or live disease, an injury, etc. You may also notice other symptoms—be sure to write them down and share these with your veterinarian. Your vet will need as much information as possible in order to make the right diagnosis.

If your dog’s shivering after a bath, he could be cold. Be sure to get him warm and dry as fast as possible. Or maybe he’s excited to be seeing you or another of his favorite people or animal pals. These are not harmful types of shivering/trembling and will pass when your pup calms down.

When it comes down to it, listen to your gut to determine if your dog needs to see the vet. If you notice symptoms coming on all of a sudden and/or worsening over time, or you’ve noticed additional symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, pain, etc., then be sure to call your vet and make an appointment to have your fur baby examined. It could be something more serious that needs prompt treatment.

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Tom

Tom has always loved to write since he was little - he wanted to be either a writer or a veterinary doctor, but he ended up being a professional writer while most of his works are based on animals. He was born in San Francisco but later moved to Texas to continue his job as a writer. He graduated from the University of San Francisco where he studied biotechnology. He is happily married and a soon to be father!

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