Why Is My Dog Shaking? Our Veterinarian Explains the Common Causes

Why Is My Dog Shaking? Our Veterinarian Explains the Common Causes

Alpha Paw Sale
Apr 30, 2022

What Are the Reasons for My Dog Shaking?

Is your dog shaking or shivering? Dogs usually shake their bodies after a bath to get rid of any excess water clinging to their hair coats. Like humans, dogs also shiver during winter when they don’t have enough protection against the extreme cold. However, there are also instances when dog trembling is cause for concern. Understanding these causes and the potential effects on your canine buddy can help you make the right decisions for your pet’s health and well-being.

Why is my dog shaking? Our veterinarian explains why

Why Do Dogs Shake? Common Causes and Treatments

There are several causes of trembling and shaking in dogs. They range from normal behaviors to more serious issues that need prompt veterinary attention. A few of the more common causes of shaking, trembling, shivering, or tremors in dogs include:

Shaking Off Excess Water

Did you know that dogs can remove up to 70% of the water from their bodies just by shaking? Dogs normally do this after a swim or a bath. Shaking off the excess water can also help prevent hypothermia.

If your pet seems to be shivering for a considerable length of time and has been exposed to cold or freezing conditions, it’s time to visit your vet. Extreme low temperatures can cause a dog’s body temperature to fall, leading to hypothermia. If left untreated, hypothermia can lead to severe complications and can even become fatal.

Cold Weather Can Cause A Dog To Shake

Exposure to low environmental temperatures can cause a drop in the dog’s body temperature especially when they are not adequately protected from the elements. When this happens, the body responds by shivering to generate body heat.

Certain canine breeds tend to be more sensitive to the cold, depending on their coat type. Single coat dogs have just one layer of coat (sometimes called a ‘hair’ coat), while others have a thick double coat. Double coat dogs have an outer layer of thick hair and a second undercoat of thin, lightweight hairs, keeping them comfortable in crisp weather. If your pup has a single layer of coat, you’ll want to keep a dog jacket handy: single coat dogs don’t have the insulating layer of “down” type hair close to the skin – and therefore get very cold.

Aside from thin hair coats, some breeds like Dobermans and Greyhounds have body fat insulation that is lower than others. Investing in a good doggie coat and a pair of doggie booties can help keep your buddy warm and comfy during winter.

Fear, Anxiety, Stress, And Other strong Emotions

Dogs that are anxious, afraid, or under stressful conditions may start to tremble when they are exposed to phobic triggers, such as thunderstorms, their owner preparing to leave for work, or even visits to the vet! In these scenarios, trembling may be accompanied by whining, panting, or growling. They may also assume a distinct body posture with their ears pinned back, tail between their legs, and there may also be attempts at hiding.

If your pet appears anxious or reacts to phobias quite often, close monitoring is recommended so you can identify potential triggers. Once you have identified what is causing your dog’s behavior, you should take steps to reduce your pet’s exposure to the triggers. In extreme cases of anxiety, you may need to ask your veterinarian and a professional dog behaviorist for help in addressing the issue.

For milder cases, there are some great options for managing dog anxiety. It’s difficult when your best friend has trouble settling down or displays aggressive behavior such as excessive shaking, trembling, shivering, barking, paw licking, and hyperactivity. Soothe their anxiety with our premium, vet-approved dog calming treats that contain only natural ingredients.

Alpha Paw’s Calming Chews are vet-recommended dog chews that contain only high-quality, non-GMO ingredients balanced in exactly the right proportions to ease your dog’s anxiety. We don’t believe in bulking out our products and supplements with filler or unhealthy junk, so you can rest assured that you’re giving your furry friend the absolute best.

Dogs Can Shake From Excitement

Dogs Can Shake From Excitement

Not all shaking is negative. Some dogs tremble because they get so excited about something, such as the arrival of their owner, playtime, or just before going on an outdoor excursion. This is their body’s natural reaction to exert excess energy. While shaking caused by excitement helps to lower the dog’s excess energy and keep them more controlled, it’s a behavior that should never be reinforced. Avoid paying attention to your pet until he calms down, then reward him with some praise, a pat on the head, and perhaps a belly rub or two. You could also train your pet to sit before greeting him.

If you notice that your dog’s trembling is triggered by certain situations, you should take steps to help your pet relax by associating these situations with positive experiences. You may need to consult a certified dog behavior consultant and your veterinarian. There may be a need to give your dog certain medications or recommend calming dog treats to help address the issue.

Why is my dog shaking? Our veterinarian explains why

Pain Can Cause A Dog To Shake

Some dogs shake in response to pain brought about by any painful condition. However, not all dogs respond to pain by shaking or trembling and sometimes pain symptoms are very subtle.

Illness Can Cause A Dog to Shake

Trembling can be one of the important symptoms exhibited by dogs that are suffering from a variety of underlying health issues that may range from hormonal imbalances to neurological disorders to kidney failure to musculoskeletal diseases.

Trembling is a common symptom of canine distemper, a viral disease in dogs that is highly contagious. It often occurs in puppies and adolescent dogs that aren’t fully vaccinated. It attacks the dog’s gastrointestinal, nervous, and respiratory systems. Most cases of distemper are fatal. So if you suspect your dog to have contracted the disease, bring him to the veterinarian immediately. 

Other symptoms that are manifested are coughing, discharges from the eyes and nose, and fever. The good news is you can prevent your pup from canine distemper with regular vaccination. Treating distemper involves extensive care while the dog’s immune system fights off the virus. Treatment can include veterinarian-prescribed medicine, antibiotics, airway dilators, physical therapy, and fluids for dehydration. 

Addison’s disease in dogs is caused by a lack of the hormone cortisol. It is mostly caused by immune-mediated destruction of adrenal tissue. Less common instances are the adrenal glands may be damaged by trauma, infection, or cancer. 

Clinical symptoms of Addison’s disease are usually indefinite and non-specific, meaning there are no particular signs to indicate the disease. However, some observed signs are intermittent shaking usually accompanied by lethargy, gastrointestinal problems, and poor appetite.

To protect your pup from these diseases, consider a vet-approved daily supplement to keep your furry friend in tip-top shape inside and out. Our 15-in-1 Multi Chews are a tasty and easy way to ensure your dog gets all its vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, antioxidants, and other nutritional requirements for optimal health and immune system support. We only use 100% veterinarian-approved ingredients like glucosamine, probiotics, and krill oil, providing essential levels of omega-3 fatty acids in these tasty, peanut butter-flavored dog multivitamins.

A Shaking Do May Have Ingested Toxins and Poisons

Symptoms for poisoning vary but two major indicators to look out for are shaking and seizing. Certain types of toxins target the nervous system and trembling is usually one of the earliest symptoms. Some examples include snail bait poisoning, chocolate toxicity, antifreeze poisoning, compost poisoning, prescription antidepressants, and certain types of mouse and rat poison containing bromethalin. 

Extreme poisoning can be fatal so it is best to take actions to avoid these such as: 

  • Make sure your compost is fenced off and out of reach from your dogs.
  • Don’t allow your dog to roam unsupervised. There’s a likely chance he’ll end up in someone else’s compost pile. 
  • Keep your garbage out of reach from your dog. Secure them in a pantry or closet where your dog can’t enter. 
  • Keep all prescriptions and medications out of reach. 
  • Avoid putting mouse or rat poison anywhere around your house if you have a pet. 
  • One of the top emergency vet visits is dogs accidentally intaking candies or chocolates. Keep all of these out of reach. 

Muscle weakness Will Cause A Dog To Shake

Shaking can be observed in dogs with muscular atrophy, particularly when it affects the muscles of the rear limbs. In most cases, this type of trembling tends to resolve when the dog has had time to rest.

Sometimes, too much physical activity can cause muscle sprains and strains. The pain caused by the injury can also cause trembling in affected dogs.

Why is my dog shaking? Our veterinarian explains why

Old-Age and joint Pain

Have you noticed your senior dog’s hind leg trembling? This is a common age-related issue in dogs. While it’s common in older dogs, there are instances when too much trembling could be a red flag that indicates pain, especially one that’s brought about by osteoarthritis or other painful conditions affecting the joints.

If your dog suffers from joint pain, Alpha Paw’s Hip & Joint Chews are vet-recommended supplements proven to relieve your pup’s pain. These premium supplements contain powerful natural anti-inflammatory ingredients including turmeric, glucosamine hydrochloride, chondroitin and MSM that support your dog’s hip and joint mobility, help reduce inflammation and ease any pain-related discomfort.

Joint pain in dogs can develop at any age and in any breed of dog, large or small. Take action before hip or joint problems begin. Our dog joint supplement can be given to your adult dog at an early age as a preventative measure, too. For old and senior dogs already suffering with arthritis, aches and pains, our powerful formula of vet-approved ingredients may help reduce soreness and inflammation.

Small Dog Breeds May Shake

This is extremely common in Chihuahuas and miniature pinschers. These small dogs tremble for varied reasons, but the most common of which is their small size and their fast metabolism. They are highly energetic dogs, which means their bodies burn energy at a faster rate while losing heat much quicker. Also, since lighter toy breeds are more hyperactive and excitable, they’re more likely to tremble when they’re excited. Unfortunately, they are also more prone to issues in which shaking is commonly displayed, such as anxiety, fear, and attachment issues.


Seizures can also manifest with trembling, especially when a dog experiences a partial seizure and not a full one. There are many causes of seizures in dogs, from genetic defects to dog epilepsy. Other important triggers include a brain tumor, kidney failure, liver disease, hypoglycemia, physical trauma, electrolyte imbalance, or strokes. In these cases, trembling or muscular spasm is usually accompanied by foaming at the mouth (hypersalivation), loss of bowel or bladder control, and loss of consciousness.

Generalized Tremor Syndrome (GTS)

Also referred to as ‘steroid responsive tremor syndrome’ or ‘white shaker dog syndrome, GTS was first observed in small, white dog breeds such as Maltese and poodle. However, it can affect dogs of any breed, size, or color. Unfortunately, the primary cause of GTS has not been fully established. Affected dogs usually start to manifest symptoms when they’re between 9 months and 2 years of age.

Treatment generally involves the administration of corticosteroids, such as prednisone. Alleviation of symptoms can often be observed within a week of starting the medication. However, these medications should never be used without consulting your veterinarian because of the potential side effects associated with their use.


There are many reasons why dogs can get nauseous. Eating too much, certain medications, motion sickness, or eating the wrong thing may also cause shaking in dogs. Signs, such as yawning, salivating, lip-smacking, and listlessness may also be exhibited by affected dogs.

Dog Shivering and Trembling: When To See A Vet

If your pet appears to be shaking or shivering uncontrollably, you should think about any recent events or happenings that might have triggered the behavior. This information could be valuable to your veterinarian when diagnosing the problem.

Here are instances when you should seek veterinary attention immediately:

  • If the trembling seems to affect your dog’s quality of life, including his daily activities, like playtime or sleeping, it is a good idea to take him to your veterinarian. Muscle-strengthening exercises may be suggested as well as pet massage, dog supplements, and hydrotherapy.
  • When trembling in dogs is accompanied by other symptoms of illness like vomiting or diarrhea, lethargy, limping, or anxiety, you should bring it to the attention of your veterinarian.
  • When trembling is associated with seizure episodes. Whether your pet has experienced just a single bout of seizure or multiple times, you must seek veterinary attention for your dog. There is a need to find out the underlying cause so your vet can prescribe medication to control seizures and/or prevent them altogether.
  • If your dog has eaten a potentially toxic substance, you should take your pet to the vet right away. It is also recommended that you call the Animal Poison Hotline in your area.
  • If your pet’s shaking is limited to a given part of the body, for example, the rear leg, or started after performing some heavy exercise, or there is a decrease in your dog’s activity level.
  • The muscle tremor is getting worse if you touch the area or attempt to stretch or massage it, or when you exercise your dog.
  • If your dog’s trembling is a new behavior or it occurs simultaneously with other changes in your pet’s behavior.
Alpha Paw Sale
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Dr. Merliza Cabriles, DVM

Member of Alpha Paw’s Board of Pet Experts

Dr. Meliza is a Licensed Veterinarian, Writer, DVM, and Vet Nutritionist


The medical, nutritional, or behavioral advice we provide is intended for informational and educational purposes only. Our editorial content is not a substitute for formal or personalized medical advice from a veterinary professional. Only board-certified veterinary specialists who have examined your pet should diagnose medical conditions, provide personalized treatment, or prescribe appropriate medication. For questions regarding your pet’s health, or if your pet is exhibiting signs of illness, injury, or distress, contact your veterinarian immediately. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on our site.