I bet once or twice in your life you have found yourself shaking out of fear, excitement, anxiety, or most likely the cold. In some unfortunate cases, there may have been a more serious cause like illness or a convulsion.
It is completely normal for a dog to shake or shiver as well. In most cases, it is because of coldness. However, in some instances might be an indicator of a more serious illness. On rare occasions, your dog‘s shaking may require emergency care.
Dog Shaking and Trembling: Common Causes
Shaking in dogs is not always a sign of illness or disease. Sometimes it is a sign of too much excitement and joy. Maybe you are opening a new toy for her or she is just excited to see you get home. Shaking caused by excitement should resolve soon after it starts. If it is persisting after the cause of the excitement is over, there may be other reasons why your dog is trembling.
Anxiety or Fear
On the other side of emotions lies fear and anxiety. Your dog may start to shake out of fear and anxiety. Dogs that are not very social may start to shake when they see a new face around. The situation may be worsened if there are multiple new faces around. Shaking in such instances may persist for longer than that caused by happiness especially if the cause is not removed.
Shaking during the cold is not only normal but also beneficial to the body. When the body detects a colder than usual environment, it triggers many responses one of which is shaking. Shaking during the cold is caused by quick contractions of the skeletal system. The body causes these contractions to generate heat to warm up the body. It is important to note that Shivering is not sufficient to keep a dog warm. It should be used as an indicator that your dog needs more warmth.
Medical Situations Indicated by Shaking
Distemper is a very contagious disease that affects dogs and several other animals. The disease is very gruesome affecting nearly all major systems of the body. It is capable of reaching the gastrointestinal, respiratory, skin, immune, and central nervous systems. Distemper causes shaking in dogs accompanied by other signs like vomiting, diarrhea, discharge, fever, lethargy, sneezing, and difficulty breathing.
Distemper has an incubation period of about 2 weeks. By the time signs and symptoms can be seen, the disease has advanced. For this reason, you should contact your veterinarian immediately if you suspect your dog has distemper.
Nausea is usually a sign of other diseases or health conditions. Nausea can be identified by lip-smacking, shaking, salivating, and of course, vomiting.
Whether your dog’s shaking from pain is an emergency or not is determined by the cause of the pain. If the pain is from an already diagnosed disease that is being treated, then it is not an emergency. However, if your dog is not under treatment for what is causing the pain, seek help immediately.
The signs and symptoms of poisoning vary from barely existent to life-threatening. I would say if your dog is shaking after a poisoning, then that is classified as life-threatening. If your dog is shaking and there are no obvious causes, it is possible she may have ingested a poisonous substance earlier on.
Generalized Tremor Syndrome (GTS)
Generalized Tremor Syndrome, also called steroid-responsive tremor syndrome or white shaker dog syndrome is a condition that causes dogs to shake for no discernible reason. The condition was first identified in small dogs like Maltese and Chihuahuas but can also affect bigger dogs.
The cause for GTS is not fully understood but some veterinary experts suggest that it be caused by an autoimmune response.
Muscle Weakness or Injury
A muscle may start to tremble if it is unusually weak. Trembling in muscles may be limited to a particular area or generalized to the whole body. An injury to a leg may also cause it to shake uncontrollably.
Besides distemper, other diseases may also cause your dog to tremble uncontrollably. Such diseases include kidney disease and brain disorders.
Shaking/Tremors Vs. Seizures
Both tremors and seizures have the same defining characteristic; involuntary shaking. However, the two could not be more different. Seizures and tremors are caused by very different factors. For this reason, each sign indicates the presence of a very different problem.
Tremors can be caused by a number of factors ranging from simple coldness to much more complex diseases. Seizures, on the other hand, are caused by an upsurge in electric activity in the brain. Seizures are common in dogs with epilepsy but can also be triggered by other factors like medication or severe fever.
Both shaking from tremors and seizures is uncontrollable or involuntary. However, the two symptoms are distinguished by other factors. Below are some of the differences between seizures and tremors:
- Tremors can be limited to one part of the body while seizures affect the whole body.
- In tremors, shaking is caused by movements in the skeletal system while in seizures, the shaking is caused by a malfunction in the nervous system
How Can You Help Your Dog During a Seizure
Sadly, there is not much you can do to get a dog out of a seizure. The best you can do is help your dog through it so that she can come out unhurt. Here are some ways you can help your dog during a seizure:
- Remove any dangerous objects in the vicinity of the dog. Cushion any hard surfaces like table edges and displace any sharp objects that could injure your dog.
- Turn down the lights. If they were off, you may leave them off. If they are very bright, dim them a little.
- Move quietly and minimize any kind of noise
- Do not move your dog unless absolutely necessary for example if they are close to a fire or an edge they could fall off
- Time the seizure to ensure that it doesn’t exceed the normal time, Seizure should last about 5 minutes. If it lasts longer than this, you should mention it to your vet just in case.
- Film the seizure especially if it seems unusual. This can be of great help during your next vet’s visit.
When to See the Vet
Since the causes of tremors in dogs range from normal to life-threatening, it is very important to know when to worry. Choosing to contact your veterinarian at the right moment could make a difference in how your dog progresses during treatment. It could also save your dog’s life, literally.
You should call your vet for a shaking dog if:
- the shaking is followed by other signs and symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, limping, lethargy, and loss of appetite.
- the shaking has persisted for a while. Ideally, your dog’s shaking should stop as soon as the cause has gone away. If your dog started trembling due to the cold, it should stop as soon as she is warm. If it doesn’t, seek help immediately.
- you cannot identify the cause of the shaking
- the shaking is caused by poisoning
Treatment for Shaking in Dogs
The best treatment for a shaking dog depends on what is causing the tremors. The key to getting rid of trembling is to treat the underlying cause. Some of the ways you can help a shaking dog include:
- Warm the dog immediately. This is especially crucial if your dog is shivering during obviously cold weather. Even when it is not obviously cold, warming your dog should be one of your first responses. Dogs with thin coats and a low-fat content may shiver even when it does not feel cold to you.
- If the trembling is in the legs, inspect the leg carefully for any injuries like wounds, swellings, or bruises. If your dog has an open wound, clean and treat it immediately. If a wound is serious enough to cause trembles, it should probably get checked by a vet immediately.
- If your dog is trembling in fear, eliminate the cause of the fear or comfort your dog through it. For example, your dog may get overwhelmed by the presence of so many new faces. In such an instance, sitting with your dog may ease her discomfort and her tremble.
- In the event of poisoning, give the necessary first aid as indicated on the packaging. After giving your dog first aid, take her to a vet immediately.
- If a dog’s GTS is too severe, giving corticosteroids such as prednisone may help.
- If there are other signs of nausea like salivating or yawning, allow your dog to rest while you investigate the root cause.
How to Prevent Dog Shaking
Similar to treatment, the prevention of dog shaking depends on the cause. Some of the ways you can prevent trembling in your dog include:
- Keeping her warm all the time. If it is cold outside, keep her indoors and she is still cold, cover her with a warm blanket. Maybe even light a fire. Whatever works!!
- Keep all potential poisons out of your dog’s reach. Remember many substances that are safe for humans may be toxic to dogs for example some essential oils and cleaning agents.
- Comfort your dog in cases where she may develop anxiety for example at the vet or before a vaccination. You can carry her favorite snacks to the vaccination or pet her during the examination.
- See a dog behavioralist. They will teach your dog how to respond to unfamiliar circumstances like seeing guests or interacting with other dogs.
- Ensure your dog lives a generally healthy lifestyle. Give her healthy high-quality food, allow her to get some exercise every day, and ensure she gets all her vaccinations in time.
Our Final Thoughts
In conclusion, shaking in dogs is a normal response to stimuli like coldness, fear, or excitement. However, it can also be an indicator of a more serious and potentially life-threatening condition. Some of the more serious conditions or illnesses that may cause your dog to shake include kidney disease, distemper, poisoning, and injury.
If your dog is found of shaking regularly, it could be that she has Generalized Tremor Syndrome (GTS). GTS is a normal condition especially in small dogs but if the tremors are causing your dog discomfort or pain, steroid medication can help.
To prevent or treat tremors in your dog, identify the underlying cause and do your best to eliminate or limit it. For example, if your dog shakes out of fear, comfort her, if she shakes because of coldness, keeps her warm always.
When in doubt about your dog’s tremors, always consult your vet. Dogs often shake for no serious reasons but the shaker syndrome could be a sign of a more grave illness.
Frequently Asked Questions
What should I do if my dog is shaking?
If it is cold, warm your dog up immediately. Dogs shake for a variety of other reasons for example fear, excitement, anxiety, pain, muscle weakness, and illness. After you identify what is making your dog shake, you should try to treat it. If you cant identify the root cause, seek help from your vet immediately.
Is shaking a sign of pain in dogs?
Yes, shaking can be a sign of pain in dogs. You may notice your dog shake at the point of pain or all over the body.
Why is my dog shivering and trembling?
Shivering in dogs can be caused by the cold, illness, poisoning, fear, excitement, anxiety, pain, injury, muscle weakness, and so on.