Why Is My Dog Shaking?

A trembling or shaking dog wrapped up in a blanket because it is cold.

The occasional canine shiver or tremble might have you wondering what is happening. If the shaking or trembling is happening frequently, you are probably starting to feel concerned. Sometimes dogs shake for minor reasons, but other times this behavior can be more serious and indicative of a larger issue. So when do you need to contact your veterinarian for help? East Sacramento Veterinary Center has your answers for what might cause dog shaking and when you need to worry. 

Why Does My Dog Shake?

If you notice your dog shiver or tremble, you can start to go down a basic list of possibilities to decide what the cause might be. Shaking or trembling can be totally normal, and if you can determine a reasonable cause, you can rest a little easier. 

If you see your pet shaking or trembling, consider:

  • Physiological causes—Sometimes, shaking is a good thing! The body will naturally shake to create warmth if it becomes too cold. The rush of adrenaline when excitement or nervous energy abound can also cause trembling. 
  • Anxiety or fear—A pet might also shake when he feels overly anxious or fearful. Reducing stress and finding the trigger for this response can help you avoid it.
  • Pain or weakness—Pain from an injury or internal disease process can lead to trembling, but more chronic causes like arthritis pain may be behind your dog shaking. Orthopedic problems and other disease processes can also lead to the loss of muscle tone, which can cause overall weakness. 
  • Hypoglycemia—Low blood sugar can cause sluggish, drunk behavior. If not treated, more serious side effects like seizure or coma can also occur. 
  • Electrolyte abnormalities—Dehydration, conditions like Addison’s disease, or low calcium due to nursing puppies can cause electrolyte changes that affect the muscles. 
  • Toxin exposure—Some pet poisons like chocolate, nicotine, and snail bait can cause shaking or trembling. If you know or think your dog has ingested something, get to a nearby vet as soon as possible. 
  • White dog shaker syndrome—Some trembling, especially if it is a small dog shaking, can be attributed to white dog shaker syndrome, which can lead to full body tremors. If you suspect this is the cause, schedule a veterinary appointment to talk about potential treatment options.
  • Seizure activity—Not all seizures are full blown grand mal seizures. Shaking even just one specific body part could be attributed to seizure activity. 
  • Other systemic problems—Other diseases and conditions can lead to shaking or trembling as well. Distemper virus and kidney disease are examples of other diagnoses that can answer why your dog is shaking.

When to Contact Your Veterinarian

Occasional shaking or trembling is probably not a big concern, especially when you can identify a reason for it (hello, scary thunderstorm rolling through). 

If you think you are having a pet emergency, don’t delay to contact us. Things like seizure activity or toxin ingestion need attention as soon as possible. 

If your pet is shaking or trembling for more than a small amount of time, or if there are other concerning symptoms that are also occurring, we need to investigate. 

It is best to contact us for an appointment as soon as possible. Try to get a video of the episode if possible. The sooner we can get to the bottom of what is happening, the more help we can be to you and your pet.