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Shaking in Dogs: 8 Common Causes & What to Do

Let’s talk about shaking in dogs!

For many puppy owners, having a nervous dog is a regular experience. Some dogs are just more prone to the shivers, whether that is due to a nervous disposition or separation anxiety.

But there are some situations where the cause of your pup’s trembling is a mystery. Maybe this is uncommon behavior for your dog, or they’re shaking more than usual.

Instead of ignoring this behavior completely, it’s always best to figure out the reason for your dog’s shivering and then try your best to relax them. This is beneficial for your pup’s stress level and for relieving your own anxiety as well.

There are a few common reasons why your dog might be trembling (often accompanied by panting). Many of these are due to environmental stressors. However, there are some causes that may have to do with your furry friend’s health, so it’s worth it to know of these as well.

In this article, we’re covering the most common causes of shaking in dogs, plus what to do when it happens. Let’s get started!

shaking in dogs
Photo by mistahhh from Shutterstock

1. Excitement

If you have a happy dog, then you’re probably used to your pup jumping and wiggling with joy when you get home from work, a dinner with friends, a trip, etc. And while this is pretty common, sometimes our dogs get themselves a bit too worked up.

When shaking in dogs is caused by an exciting interaction—you arriving home, your pup encountering a new treat, your dog meeting a new person—this is still very normal. In other words, there’s no cause for alarm here, and you don’t actually have to do anything but be happy that your pet is happy.

2. New experiences

New experiences can cause shaking in dogs. These might include getting alarmed by another animal, investigating a new toy, or discovering a new scent. These situations may not necessarily mean you have to do something about them, but it’s worth it to explore what it is that triggers your pup and show extra attentiveness.

What to do: Trembling while encountering new experiences is often a natural body reaction during heightened states, such as tracking or hunting, and may not require intervention. Just make sure to monitor your dog’s behavior so that their curiosity doesn’t result in stress, anxiety, aggression, or fear.

3. Cold weather

Dogs—especially small breeds or those with short coats—may tremble in cold weather due to their lower body mass and small size. This probably isn’t new information, since this happens to us humans as well!

As a general rule, most pups will start to become uncomfortable at around 32 °F and below. However, shaking in dogs can occur even when a small, thin-coated pup is left outside for a longer time, even at about 41 °F. When in doubt, keep your pet inside or invest in a high-quality dog sweater or jacket.

What to do: Limit your pup’s exposure to the cold temperatures by keeping them indoors. Use warm clothing, like sweaters, to prevent frostbite and/or hypothermia.

scared dog
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4. Fear

Shaking in dogs can also be caused by fear. Trembling can occur when a pup is frightened, such as when they’re in the vet’s cabinet, encounter an aggressive animal, or have a face-off with the vacuum cleaner.

This is frequently preceded by avoidant behavior; your dog might try to run away from the situation. When that doesn’t work, they may start trembling and even exhibit aggressive behavior (showing teeth, growling, etc.).

What to do: Shaking in dogs caused by vet visits can be tackled by having positive encounters with the vet without any procedures being done. Work with a dog behaviorist to help your pup overcome their triggers or fears (such as loud noises, small children, etc.). Introduce therapeutic toys (popsicles, treat dispensers, lick mats, etc.) to help them relax during stressful situations.

Keep reading to discover other common causes of shaking in dogs!

5. Stress or anxiety

Anxiety and stress are other common causes of shaking in dogs. However, the root causes of anxiety and stress may vary. Thunderstorms, loud noises, moving, meeting new people, encounters with new pets, and other triggers can cause your pup to tremble.

What to do: Do your best to prepare your pet for stressful situations and mitigate the anxiety if possible. For instance, if you’re moving to a new house, consider leaving your dog with a family member or trusted pet sitter so your pup isn’t stressed out by the action.

For other cases, like thunderstorms, providing some extra cuddles, playing soothing music, or getting a ThunderShort can help relieve their stress.

6. Pain

As with humans, pain can cause shivers and shaking. This can be hard to identify or diagnose without consulting a professional. Look for other indicators of discomfort, such as your pet wincing, whining, or limping.

What to do: Shaking in dogs caused by pain can be a scary thing to witness for the owner. The first thing you need to do is check for other signs of pain. Consult a vet if the trembling affects the pup’s daily routine or doesn’t go away.

7. Medical condition

Though less common, shaking in dogs could be a symptom of medical issues. These might include, but aren’t limited to: hypocalcemia (low calcium levels), distemper (a contagious and serious disease affecting nearly the entire canine system), hypoadrenocorticism (Addison’s disease), seizure disorders, or hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).

What to do: Check for other symptoms like limping or vomiting, and consult a veterinarian if trembling is accompanied by such signs. If trembling symptoms continue for over 24 hours, call a vet for their recommendation.

8. Ear infection

Excessive head shaking may indicate an ear infection. These are pretty common in pups but are easily treated under a veterinarian’s supervision and recommendations.

What to do: Check your dog’s ears for signs of infection. If you notice irritation, redness, or anything else that makes you suspect your pup might have an ear infection, consult a professional for the appropriate treatment.

shaking dog
Photo by Enna8982 from Shutterstock

Other possible causes of shaking in dogs

Though the things listed above are far and away the most common reasons for shaking in dogs, there are several other, less common, causes. Below are a few other possible reasons for trembling in dogs.

Cerebellar hypoplasia: An incomplete development of the cerebellum, resulting in head bobbing and tremors, especially in puppies.

Seizure-related disorders: Can cause anything from mild shaking to severe convulsions.

Shaking puppy syndrome: Affecting primarily male puppies of certain breeds, it’s a serious condition where the protective coating over nerves isn’t properly formed, resulting in tremors.

Shaker syndrome: Often seen in dogs with white fur, this condition affects the entire body due to inflammation in the central nervous system.

Medical-induced shaking: Some pups may also tremble when recovering from anesthesia or when given certain medications.

Substance-induced shaking: Exposure to certain substances, such as chocolate, or sensitivity to tick and flea medications can cause shaking in dogs.

For any unexplained signs of trembling or shaking in your furry companion, it’s essential to consult with a veterinarian. Only a professional will be able to figure out the underlying cause and an appropriate treatment plan.

How do you soothe a shaking dog?

If your four-legged friend isn’t suffering from a medical condition (which requires advanced treatment), there are some helpful ways to soothe your shaking dog. These techniques are especially effective when it comes to excitement, stress, anxiety, or fear.

Offer your dog their favorite blanket or toy for comfort. Provide a quiet, safe space for your pup to retreat to during stressful situations. Implementing a consistent routine also helps to reduce daily anxiety.

Another helpful method is to use gentle, calming massage or petting. You can also try to play soft, soothing music or use calming pheromone diffusers (here are some options) or sprays to calm their nervous system.

Speak to your dog in a calm, reassuring voice. Your pet needs to know they can find comfort and stability in you.

If you liked our article on shaking in dogs, you may also want to read 7 Smart and Effective Tips to Stop Your Dog From Biting.

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