Is your dog shaking? A shaking dog can signify general excitement during a greeting, a mild to severe behavioral problem, or a health issue indicating immediate veterinary care.
To determine what is causing your dog to shake, it’s vital to observe your pet’s behavior and consider any recent changes in your dog’s environment or routine.
Once you determine the cause of your dog’s shaking, you can seek veterinary care or make environmental and training adjustments to help them.
Common causes of dog shaking
Observe your dog when they’re shaking and consider the circumstances to determine the cause of your dog shaking.
Excitement and greetings
Have you noticed your dog shaking when they’re excited to see you, when it’s time to greet a dog or human guest, or when you’re presenting food? If so, it’s likely your dog shakes due to excitement.
Slight urination and other unwanted behaviors like demand barking or jumping may accompany excited greetings, especially in young dogs.
If shaking and other excitement-related greeting behaviors cause stress for your dog or guests, you should consider ensuring your dog remains calm before you greet them. You can also break your dog’s bad jumping habit.
Ignoring your dog when you leave or arrive is the easiest way to ease shaking due to excitement.
Once your dog is calm, acknowledge them with a greeting and a treat.
Dog shaking from muscle weakness
If your dog is sick or recovering from surgery, it may experience muscle weakness.
A dog shaking from muscle weakness will appear to have difficulty standing. Like humans, muscle weakness creates a wobbling feeling for dogs — dogs don’t like being unsteady.
They may appear panicked or anxious in addition to shaking if muscle weakness is the culprit because they can’t understand what is happening.
This often happens due to old age and weakness in the hind legs, and it may or may not mean your dog is in pain or experiencing a common canine problem such as hip dysplasia.
Muscle weakness is a common cause of tremors in dogs. If your dog experiences this type of involuntary muscle trembling, make sure to make an appointment with your vet ASAP.
If the muscle weakness is from a temporary illness and accompanied by vomiting, it will likely stop when the sickness passes.
If you are concerned for any reason, consult your veterinarian.
Shaking in nervous dogs and fearful dogs
Your dog might shake out of fear. This is most common during thunderstorms or fireworks and may be accompanied by whining or crying.
In such circumstances, your dog may require some extra security and comfort.
Make sure your dog’s crate or safe space is accessible, and consider purchasing a Thundershirt to help your dog feel protected and secure. Some dogs also feel safer with white noise playing while loud noises are outside.
Your dog may also prove fearful or nervous in new situations or environments or if they are meeting a person or dog who makes them feel uncomfortable.
If they start to shake only in a new situation or in the presence of a particular dog, person, or object (such as a vacuum cleaner — a common canine nemesis), consider working on some good habits and training with your fearful dog.
Distemper, poisoning, and other serious health concerns
Tremors in dogs can also occur due to some severe health concerns.
Distemper is a common and concerning virus that attacks dogs’ nervous, gastrointestinal, and respiratory symptoms.
Puppies and dogs of old age are at particular risk, and puppies should receive vaccines for distemper as it’s a fatal illness in some instances.
Suppose your dog also has pus in their eyes, nasal discharge, little interest in eating, vomiting, coughing, and fever. In that case, they may have distemper, and you must take them to an emergency vet immediately.
Poisoning can also cause dog shaking and can occur intentionally or accidentally.
You may notice poisoning symptoms if your dog has gotten into chemicals in the garage or under your sink or rat or bug traps. Similarly, if you have a nasty neighbor that doesn’t like your dog, they could attempt to poison them.
In addition to shaking, poisoning may be accompanied by vomiting, convulsions, tremors, agitation, lethargy, seizures, and blood in the stool. Poisoning is a significant concern and an immediate emergency.
Dog shaking in a new environment
If you’ve recently moved, brought home a baby or new pet, added a roommate to your household, or have returned to work after working from home, you’ve disrupted your dog’s routine.
Such changes are natural throughout your dog’s life, but dogs always do best with routines.
If your dog is shaking due to a routine or environmental change, it’s crucial to address the issue behaviorally.
If the dog is nervous or confused about a new household member (furry, feathered, or human), introduce them safely to reduce the chance of nervousness or overexcitement.
If your dog is shaking when you leave home and you observe this on a camera — and when you return, especially if this is new to them, the shaking might be a symptom of separation anxiety.
Additionally, moving to a new home and the other changes are stressful for humans, even when they’re positive steps in your life.
Your dog can pick up on your anxiety and might shake or whine about displaying it.
Bottom line: Determine the cause of dog shaking
To best help your shaking dog, determine the cause of the shaking. It could be:
- Temporary health issue
- Serious health issue
- Old age and muscle weakness
Once you figure that out, you’ll be able to proceed with training, treatment for illness, or emergency care.
If you’re ever unsure why your dog is shaking, it’s best to take them to the veterinarian for immediate evaluation.