Is your dog shaking? 10 potential reasons why

January 5, 2024 - 4 min read
This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinary advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian with any questions you may have regarding your pet’s care, treatment, or medical conditions.
Shaky Dog

Notice your dog shaking? It's not just a Chihuahua thing (although smaller breeds might be more prone to it).

Dogs shake for many reasons—excitement, cold, or health concerns. Understanding these shakes can help you head off potential trouble.

Before we start, remember, you know your dog best. If you notice any unusual behaviors, it's crucial to consult your vet ASAP.

OK, let's get into it!

They're excited

Dogs can tremble or shake when they're excited, often seen during happy greetings or in anticipation of something enjoyable like a walk or their favorite treat.

That said, if your dog's excited shaking becomes overly intense or results in hyperactive behavior that's hard to settle down, it could be a sign of overstimulation. This might happen in highly energetic breeds or young pups who haven't yet learned (or been trained) to moderate their excitement.

If excessive shaking becomes a regular occurrence, it's a good idea to chat with your vet. They can offer advice on managing your dog's excitement levels and check if there's an underlying issue contributing to this heightened state of energy.

They're anxious

Anxiety in dogs often manifests as shaking or trembling, especially in high-stress situations or when they're scared.

Keep an eye out for these accompanying signs:

  • More frequent yawning: could indicate stress, not just tiredness.

  • Licking lips: asubtle sign of nervousness.

  • Mouth held in a tight line: could indicate discomfort.

  • Excessive panting: especially when it's not hot.

  • Ears pinned back or upright: show unease or alertness.

  • Increased sclera visibility: the whites of their eyes show more than usual.

  • Tail tucked: a classic sign of fear.

  • Guarded stance/cowering: indicates a desire to retreat.

  • Increased vocalization: excessive whining or barking is a classic anxiety symptom.

  • Excessive drooling can be a stress response.

  • Pacing: could indicate restlessness and anxiety.

  • Avoidance behavior: hiding, turning, or moving away could indicate fear or anxiety.

A persistent display of these behaviors could suggest a disorder like separation anxiety, but they could also indicate pain (see section 5). Yup, it gets confusing. That's where your vet comes in.

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They're cold

lou lou black pomeranian in an insulated jacket while walking in the snow

Dogs, especially those with short coats, often shake to combat cold temperatures. This is their way of generating body heat.

However, if your dog continues to shake despite being in a warm environment or shows signs of lethargy or weakness, it could indicate a problem like hypothermia.

Check for cold ears and paws, a curled-up posture to conserve heat, and slowed movements or responses. These signs, combined with persistent shaking, call for immediate veterinary attention to prevent serious health issues.

They're wet

This one's pretty simple: dogs naturally shake to dry off.

But if your dog shakes excessively and isn't wet, this could signal skin issues or discomfort that warrant a vet visit.

They're in pain

When dogs are in pain, they may shake or tremble, a telling sign alongside other symptoms.

Pain can stem from various conditions, including generalized tremor syndrome (GTS) but could also indicate more serious health issues.

Watch for these key indicators that your dog is hurting:

  • Whining or groaning: vocalizing more than usual, especially in a tone of distress.

  • Limping or favoring a limb: indicates discomfort in a specific area.

  • Reluctance to move: a sign they might be experiencing pain or discomfort.

  • Changes in posture: hunching over or assuming unusual positions.

  • Decreased appetite: often occurs when a dog is in pain or not feeling well.

  • Changes in sleeping patterns: more sleep than usual or difficulty settling down.

  • Increased licking of a specific area: They might be trying to soothe a sore spot.

  • Altered breathing: rapid, shallow breathing or panting without physical exertion.

  • Irritability or aggression: pain can make even the gentlest dog snappy.

If you notice your dog exhibiting these behaviors along with shaking, it's important to consult your vet. They can diagnose whether your dog's in pain and provide appropriate treatment.

They're getting older

Senior dogs may develop benign tremors, but persistent or worsening shaking might indicate neurological issues that need medical evaluation.

They're seeking attention

Some dogs shake to catch their owner's attention. It could be a sign they're craving more playtime or interaction.

But to be on the safe side, if this shaking feels out of the ordinary for your pup, a quick check-up with the vet is a wise move. They'll help you figure out if it's just a cute quirk or something that needs more attention.

They have ear issues

Persistent head shaking in your dog could signal a potential ear infection.

Keep an eye out for symptoms like an unusual odor, discharge, or redness in their ears. These are telltale signs that something's up. If your dog also seems to be scratching their ears more or is sensitive when you touch them, it's time for a vet check.

Ear problems can escalate if not treated, so a timely visit to the vet is key!

They're having a seizure

Seizures in dogs are serious neurological occurrences that can manifest in various ways. They range from subtle signs, like brief lapses in attention or unusual staring, to more obvious symptoms such as uncontrollable shaking, stiffening, or even full-body convulsions.

During a seizure, your dog might also seem confused, dazed, or temporarily unresponsive. If you suspect your dog is experiencing one, it's crucial to discuss it with your vet. If your dog is prone to seizures, they might be suffering from a treatable condition like epilepsy.

They've eaten something toxic

If your dog suddenly starts shaking or trembling, it could be a sign they've ingested something toxic. This situation is a serious emergency, and quick action is vital. Common toxins for dogs include:

If you think your dog has eaten any of these substances or shows signs of poisoning like shaking, weakness, vomiting, or diarrhea, seek veterinary care immediately.

The bottom line? Understanding the context and accompanying symptoms is key to determining the cause of your dog's shaking. When in doubt, consult your vet.

And before your pup gets into hot water, it's a good idea to buy a good dog insurance policy. It can help reimburse you for unexpected accidents and illnesses!*

*pre-existing conditions excluded. See your policy for details.

Leanna Zeibak
Content Manager

Leanna Zeibak is a Content Manager at ManyPets. In her spare time, she paints pet portraits and bakes far too many chocolate chip cookies.