This post should be referred to for educational purposes only. I would always advise that you consult your veterinarian to discuss your pet’s health or concerns you may have.
As pet parents, we constantly ask ourselves questions about our animals…
“Did this morning’s run around in the park cause Bella’s sudden lameness?”
“Was Coby’s vomit last night caused by him rummaging through the trash the other day?”
Due to the fact that our lovely furry friends cannot tell us what the matter with them may be, we end up having to carry out a bit of detective work.
So, seeing our dogs shaking, shivering, or trembling can, of course, cause us to ask all sorts of questions. Let’s begin by breaking this subject down…
Table of Contents
Different Reasons why a Dog Might Shake!
It’s important to realize that dogs shake for a variety of reasons. Some may be more serious and require immediate veterinary attention. Others may be less so and involve some minor treatment.
This may mean that something more alarming is going on inside the body.
A seizure or a fit is a common neurological disorder. Seizures are caused by abnormal electrical activity happening in the brain. Some dogs may seem out of sorts whereas others will lose full consciousness.
Classic signs to look out for are:
- Falling or lying down then jerking violently
- Rigid/paddling limbs
- Eyes rolling
- Passing urine and feces
Try not to panic (easier said than done). If possible, switch off stimulants such as lights/TV. Carefully remove any sharp or dangerous objects within reach of your dog to help prevent them from injuring themselves.
Only approach your dog once they have finished a seizure to help calm them down.
Call your veterinarian for advice and especially if the seizure lasted over 5 minutes.
It is well known that stress can trigger seizures. With this in mind, if you can figure out the stressor, try to reduce its exposure with your dog.
Unfortunately, there are many everyday household items that are toxic to dogs and if they get their paws on them it may be fatal.
A handful of examples are chocolate, grapes or raisins, onion, slug and snail baits or pellets, caffeine, ibuprofen, xylitol, and cannabis.
Clinical signs vary depending on the type of poison they have encountered. The typical signs to watch out for are:
- Convulsions (seizure)
- Breathing difficulties
Getting your dog to a veterinary clinic straight away will give your dog the best chance. If it’s safe to do so, bring the poison’s packaging along with you for the veterinary staff to inspect it.
Always keep poisonous and toxic substances hidden away and out of reach of your dog.
This can be a bit trickier to pick up on as some dogs just like to keep on going despite feeling some discomfort. Keep a close eye on unusual behavior, such as slowing down on walks, off food, or being more vocal/quiet.
Shivering can be an indicator of pain, but other signs include:
- Flattened ears
- Scratching or licking at the painful area
We want our dogs to be comfortable so a trip to the veterinary clinic for a check-over wouldn’t be a bad idea.
Have you ever felt nauseous? This unwell sensation and urge to vomit can often leave us with the shakes. It’s exactly the same with our dogs.
The most notable causes are overeating, motion sickness or exposure to a toxic substance.
Common signs are:
- Excessive swallowing
Provide your dog with a safe, comfortable environment and keep a close eye on them.
Just like us, dogs can become anxious, fearful, or stressed.
You may have noticed some animals shaking in the vets. These guys may not even shake at home, but you can see why they would be nervous. The veterinary clinic is certainly a strange environment for them; the overcrowded waiting room full of people and animals, the different smells, and those naughty yearly injections that they remember.
Loud sounds such as fireworks or lightning can be quite distressing for our pets.
Common signs associated with loud noises are:
They may even hide and if this is the case, leave them. The more you fuss, the more you reinforce the behavior making the anxiety or fear worse in the future.
Distracting your dog with his favorite toy or game can help reduce their stress levels.
During the event, remain calm and ignore the stressor. Your dog may pick up on your quiet behavior and learn that it’s nothing to be afraid of.
On a positive note, some dogs get so excited that they start to shake. The reason for this is unknown, but speculation is it’s an external expression of intense emotion.
This may be manifested during exciting activities such as walking, playing, preparing food, or because you have simply returned home and greeted them!
The advice here is to not overstimulate them. Once the shaking has notably reduced and they appear much calmer, reward them with food or praise.
How to Tell the Difference?
Again, start your detective work by asking yourself some questions. How does my dog look overall? Is he responsive? Do I notice any other concerning symptoms in conjunction with his shaking? Has anything spooked him?
If in doubt, speak to your veterinarian.
Other Factors Which May Cause Shaking in Dogs
These are less severe but still important to act on so to help improve the well-being of your animal.
Dogs get cold just like humans. In warm-blooded animals, the body’s natural response to cold temperatures is to tighten and relax the muscles in rapid succession to create warmth by expending energy.
Always provide a comfortable bed for them to sleep on away from draughts.
It’s encouraged that you towel dry your dog after every wet/snowy walk. This especially applies to puppies, geriatrics, and underweight dogs. A coat or a snowsuit may be an option too.
In our geriatric dogs, arthritis (inflammation of the joints) is a common ailment. This weakness in the muscle may lead to tremors in the legs.
Speak to your veterinarian about the different options available to help keep your old friend comfortable and potentially improve mobility and quality of life.
A vet may formulate a plan with you to incorporate one or more of the following into your dog’s routine to help support them:
- Anti-inflammatory medications
- Joint supplements:
- Regulated, professional complementary therapies:
- Laser therapy
*Specific product availability may vary by country.
How do you Calm a Cockapoo Down?
You will first need to assess the situation. If the known stimulant which makes your dog nervous in the first place is close by, carefully remove it if it’s safe to do so.
As long as there are no abnormalities noticed and immediate veterinary attention is not needed then proceed to soothe your pet.
It is important to remain calm. Animals are highly perceptive and will detect if you are behaving strangely.
Don’t be tempted to overly fuss them. You can still reassure them, just by simply stroking them if they come to you or using gentle tones.
There are several available veterinary-approved (country dependent) products that may help reduce anxiety:
- Adaptil – plug-in diffuser for the house or a neck collar
- Pet remedy – plug-in diffuser, spray or wipes
- Zylkene – capsules or tasty chews
- Nutracalm – capsules
When is it Time to See the Vet?
If you notice anything alarming alongside shaking such as seizures, swollen abdomen or an injury contact your veterinarian straight away. The same applies if your dog has had access to something they shouldn’t have had for example a potentially toxic substance.
If after you have reassured your pet and the shaking continues or gets worse, it’s recommended to ring your veterinarian for advice.
Keeping a diary to track patterns or filming the shaking episodes to show at the veterinary clinic will be of significant use.