Why Is My Dog Shaking?

By January 11, 2021 March 24th, 2021 Dogs

We understand why you’re concerned when your dog starts to shake or shiver. Fortunately, the cause may not be as severe as your immediate worries. Dogs will tremble, shiver, and shake for a number of reasons. Assessing and observing the other symptoms your pup is displaying will help to better determine the severity of the situation.

While your pet could just be cold, shivering can also be an indicator of poisoning, disease, or injury.


In the case of an emergency, contact your pet’s veterinarian or local emergency veterinary clinic. If your pet is vomiting, having diarrhea, or limping in addition to shaking it is best to have them treated by a professional immediately. Our clinic offers extended hours to accommodate for emergencies.

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Is Shaking A Sign Of Pain In Dogs?

scared dog hiding outside
Shaking can be a sign of pain among other reasons. Pain is often exhibited through shaking in the hind legs, common in older dogs who have developed joint pain. Arthritis is one reason for shaking from pain in dogs.

While shaking due to pain isn’t necessarily an emergency situation, it should still be addressed by a veterinarian. Your veterinarian can address your pet’s pain and help you find a solution through therapies of medication.

While pain can be indicated by shaking or trembling, it doesn’t eliminate the possibility your dog could be shaking for another more or less severe reason.

Establish with a trusted veterinarian

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Less Severe Situations Indicated by Shaking

Not all reasons behind a dog’s trembling are an emergency. Some you can handle without the help of a vet. Your dog may be trembling out of excitement, anxiety, or simply because they are cold.


Not all the reasons behind your dog’s shaking are negative. When dogs get excited, like when they’re playing with you or you’ve just gotten home after work, dogs will often shake. This is actually a natural reaction in their body to exert excess energy and calm them down.

Other times when your pup may shiver out of excitement or anticipation is when you’re preparing their dinner or when they’ve spotted something outside they want to chase.


Trembling puppy

If your dog is afraid of loud noises, like thunder or fireworks, they may react by shivering and shaking. It’s not uncommon for dogs to have anxiety, especially when major environmental changes happen in ‘their space’.

If your dog’s anxiety is severe enough then you may want to contact your veterinarian. Veterinarians can prescribe an anti-anxiety medication for your dog to be used in anticipation of or during stressful events.


If your dog is displaying no other concerning symptoms and there are no new stressors in their environment, then they are most likely just shivering from being cold.

Dogs shiver when cold just like people do. If you live in a particularly cold climate or have a small or thin coated pup, it’s worth it to invest in a coat or potentially even a pair of booties. You’ll want to ensure they aren’t outside for too long as well.

In severe cases, a dog can have hypothermia from long periods of exposure to the extreme cold. In this situation, you will need to take them to a vet for treatment.

Severe Medical Situations Indicated by Shaking

Shaking, especially paired with other alarming symptoms, should result in a trip to the veterinarian. Even if it’s a false alarm, shaking for prolonged periods and in combination with symptoms such as vomiting can be an indicator of a severe medical condition.


Canine distemper is a virus that most often affects puppies and young dogs who have not had a full set of vaccines. It attacks the gastrointestinal, nervous, and respiratory systems. Most often it is fatal.

Shaking and shivering are a common sign of distemper, alongside additional symptoms such as:

  • Nose discharge
  • Coughing
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Reduced appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Eye discharge

Distemper must be treated by a veterinarian. If you suspect your dog may have contracted canine distemper contact your veterinarian immediately.


Dog laying on ground

Nausea is a symptom of a number of other problems. Most notably:

  • Motion sickness
  • A side effect of medication
  • Overeating
  • Injecting a poisonous substance
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disease

Nausea can be identified by:

  • Lip-smacking
  • Salivating
  • Swallowing frequently
  • Vomiting

Contact your veterinarian if your pet is exhibiting continuous signs of nausea.

Generalized Tremor Syndrome (GTS)

Generalized Tremor Syndrome is also known as steroid responsive tremors and shaker syndrome. This is presented as tremors that are rhythmic, repetitive, and involuntary. It may be centralized to one area of the body or may cause the entire body to shake.

The cause of GTS is unknown but is thought to be autoimmune-related. It is a ‘diagnosis of exclusion’, meaning your pet’s veterinarian will rule out all other possibilities.

Seizure Disorders

Some dogs suffer from epilepsy, a neurological disorder that caused collapsing and jerking. This may present itself as a dog falling and paddling with their legs as if swimming.

While seizures themselves are not physically painful to the dog, seizing can cause injury due to the dog falling or knocking objects over and onto themselves.

Contact your veterinarian immediately if your dog begins to have episodes of seizing. This can be treated using medications that control seizures.


While the symptoms of poisoning vary, shaking and seizing are major indicators. Dogs can be poisoned by substances that are not necessarily toxic to humans. Major toxins include cigarettes, xylitol, and chocolate.

If you believe your pet may have ingested a toxic substance contact your veterinarian or take your pet to the nearest emergency vet clinic immediately.

What Should I Do If My Dog Is Shaking?

Young puppy hiding in blanket
If your dog is shaking, start by assessing the overall situation. If there is a possibility your pet had access to potentially toxic substances then you’ll want to see a vet immediately. If not, start by warming your pet up and removing any potential stressors.

Potential stressors could be new people or animals, a new environment, loud noises like fireworks, or strange objects.

If warming your dog up with a blanket and removing potential stressors from their environment doesn’t work, it is time to see a veterinarian.

When to See a Vet

Once you have determined the trembling is not caused by an environmental factor (stress due to a new person in the home, etc.) you should consider contacting your veterinarian. This is especially true if your dog is displaying additional symptoms alongside shivering. These symptoms include:

  • Lethargy
  • Limping
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Anxiety and signs of distress
  • Drooling
  • Panting

If your dog continues to shake for more than an hour or you identify a potential toxin your dog may have consumed, take your dog to the vet immediately. The more quickly your dog is assessed, the higher the chances of a positive outcome.

How to Prevent Shaking in Dogs

Preventative steps depending on the cause behind your dog’s shaking. By keeping your dog warm, up-to-date on vaccines, at a healthy weight, and away from potentially toxic substances, you are taking all the steps you can to prevent your dog from shaking.

Because shaking can be a sign of a severe medical problem if your dog is shaking for extended periods of time or combined with other concerning symptoms contact your vet immediately.

Contact us if you are concerned with your pet’s symptoms. Our extended office hours allow us to provide expert care for your pet when you need it most.


Author drphillips

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