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dog parent must-knows

Why is my dog shaking?

Seeing your dog shake uncontrollably can be very stressful. Learn why dogs shake, when it is and isn’t normal, and how you can help.

Updated August 20, 2021

Created By

Jared Wilder,

The essentials

  • Shivering is common — Sometimes dogs are cold or scared. Shivering isn’t usually serious, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore it.
  • Stress, anxiety, and fear are common culprits — Learn how to help your pup feel calm and comfortable to stop their shaking.
  • Know when to call the vet — If your dog is shaking constantly or they have other symptoms of illness such as vomiting or loss of appetite, you should make a vet appointment ASAP.

Why do dogs shake?

Have you noticed that your pup is shaking uncontrollably? It’s not an uncommon sight, but it can be a bit frightening and make you wonder if your dog is okay. There are many things that may be causing your dog to shake. Some of them are easy to stop, while others may be a sign that your pup should see the vet.

Learn about some of the common reasons why dogs shake or tremble (sometimes referred to as “tremors” in dogs).

When it’s normal for your dog to shake

They’re cold. Low body temperature makes dogs shiver. Dogs that don’t have a thick undercoat may need a sweater or coat in the winter (we love this wind-proof jacket for pups). If your dog is cold, first wrap them in a blanket (you can also warm the blanket in the dryer). Then, make sure to give them access to water. Also, look out for the signs of hypothermia in dogs: shaking, lethargy, and shortness of breath.

👉 Never leave your dog outside during cold weather — here are some additional cold weather tips for your pet.

They’re anxious or stressed. Stress and anxiety affect many dogs, and it can be caused by almost anything. Common reasons for stress are a change in routine, the presence of an unfamiliar person or animal, or even their owner’s stress. If your dog is shaking due to stress, try to keep them on a regular routine, give lots of attention, and ensure your pup is getting enough daily exercise.  Though these remedies are effective in mild cases, if these don’t help then you should bring your dog to the vet for help.

They’re scared. Just like kids, dogs tend to be frightened by loud noises including fireworks, thunderstorms, and sometimes even the garbage truck. Dogs that feel fear will whimper, bark, and sometimes shake.

They’re drying off. Out of all the reasons your dog might shake, this is the one that should concern you the least — unless they get water all over your walls while doing it! Dogs have thick fur coats that can hold lots of water. So, when they’re wet, the quickest and most effective way to dry off is to shake that water off of their coats. Dogs can shake off as much as 70% of the water in their fur in just 4 seconds!

👉 If your dog is excessively shaking and you don’t know why, always contact your veterinarian.

Some dog are more likely to shake

Toy and small terrier breeds shiver more than others when they’re cold, so you may have to take extra steps to keep your small dog warm (like a dog coat in the winter). Older dogs, too, are more prone to shivering.

When shaking is a cause for concern

Ear problems. If you notice your dog shaking their head excessively, they could have an ear infection. While all dog breeds can get ear infections, some breeds such as cocker spaniels, bassett hounds, and golden retrievers are more prone to them than others.

Pain. Shaking could be a response to back or neck pain. If you think your dog might be in pain, check out our guide to treating pain in dogs at home. You may also want to make an appointment with your vet if the pain seems to be ongoing or serious.

Neurological and medical conditions. Distemper, Generalized Tremor Syndrome, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), and seizure disorders, are among a few illnesses that can cause tremors in dogs. If you’ve ruled out more common causes, it’s time to take your pup to the vet. They will examine your pet and help determine if your dog may have one of these conditions or need a change in their medications.

Toxic causes. Sometimes, tremors in dogs are caused by toxins or medicine overdoses. Common toxins include chocolate, permethrin (an insecticide), and xylitol. You can find an exhaustive list of less common toxic substances from the ASPCA.

🚨 If you think your dog consumed something toxic, call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control (888) 426-4435. Never induce vomiting unless instructed to do so by the hotline operator.

What to watch out for

Sometimes, it’s hard to know what’s causing your dog’s tremors. With so many potential causes, it can be hard to rule out something more serious. However, if you see muscle tremors and it’s accompanied by any of these additional signs of sickness, you should contact a vet immediately:

  • Heavy panting
  • Throwing up
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vocalizing pain (whimpering, yelping, etc)
  • Limping
  • Diarrhea

📷 by Robert Thiemann

What to do if your dog is shaking

If you think that your dog is shaking due to behavioral or medical reasons, it’s important to consult with your vet. If your dog is shaking uncontrollably or has tremors that last for hours or come and go over the course of days, call your vet.

They’re your most valuable tool for evaluating, diagnosing, and treating tremors that seem unusual. They will examine your pet and rule out potential causes and recommend the best treatment for your pet.

If you believe your dog may have consumed something poisonous, it’s best to be cautious and call the poison control hotline. If everything turns out fine, you may feel like you overreacted — the risks of underreacting, though, are too great.

How to help calm your pup at home

The most likely reason your dog is shaking is from fear, stress, or anxiety. Here are some ways you can help your dog feel safe and calm from home.

Cover up — A blanket or dog jacket can help them feel safe and protected, much like humans with weighted blankets. This also helps cold dogs hold body heat and warm up quicker.

Give affection — Helping your dog’s anxiety sometimes only requires attention. Walk them, sit with them, and play with them, and the tremors may subside.

Try a calming supplement — Here’s a list of supplements and treats that’ll help anxious dogs relax.

👉 Be sure to always check with your vet before introducing a new supplement to your dog’s diet.

Be proactive — If you know the weather calls for thunder and lightning, or if there’s an upcoming holiday where neighbors will use fireworks, make a plan to help your dog feel safe before the event. That way, you’re ready to help them calm down right away.

Keep a normal routine — Dogs thrive on routine, and some pups might experience anxiety when their normal routine is suddenly interrupted. You don’t have to be too strict, even just a bit of regularity can go a long way.

Talk to your vet — If your dog’s anxiety seems to be severe, ongoing, or isn’t remedied quickly, consult with your vet to see if medications for anxiety might be necessary.