Why is My Dog Shaking?

A Pug dog wrapped up comfortably in a blanket.
A Pug dog was shaking and then bundled to keep warm.

10 Reasons for Dog Shivering, Trembling, or Shaking

When it comes to communication, dogs are considerably better at understanding our body language than we are theirs.

We tend to over-rely on verbal means of communicating, which is why the behaviour of our pets can often seem mysterious.

If you see your dog shaking, shivering, or trembling, it isn’t always a cause for concern.

Dogs can shake because of cold temperatures, excitement, or fear. However, often harmless trembling can also indicate dangerous diseases, poisoning, or injury.

In this article, we are going to take a look at 10 common reasons for dog shivering and what you can do to help.

Why is My Dog Shaking: 10 Possible Answers

Dogs tend to shake, shiver, and tremble in response to their environment or certain health conditions.

Most of the time, dog shaking can be attributed to one of the following reasons:

A grey Schnoodle Dog, a hybrid between Schnauzer and Poodle dog.

Dogs tend to shake, shiver, and tremble in response to their environment or certain health conditions.

Most of the time, dog shaking can be attributed to one of the following reasons:

1. Cold

The most obvious answer to, “Why is my dog shaking?” is that they are cold.

Trembling in chilly weather is an involuntary response that works to get the blood pumping faster in order to increase body temperature and avoid hypothermia.

Many times, smaller dogs are more prone to shivering as compared to larger breeds due to their lack of insulation and body mass.

    • What to do:
      If your pup doesn’t enjoy the cold, try to limit their exposure to low temperatures. In addition, wearing a cute dog coat or sweater can help your companion to stay warm and reduce shivers.

At home, consider placing a dog bed next to a heating vent or fire place, with a warm blanket to get your pet through the cold nights.

2. Anxiety, Stress, and Fear

Many times, dogs experiencing severe anxiety will start to (heartbreakingly) tremble or shake.

Thunderstorms, unfamiliar people or animals, or a visit to a vet clinic are just some of the most common triggers that can spark that anxiety.

Sometimes, this stress-induced trembling is accompanied by chewing on furniture, panting, and other “bad” or undesirable behaviors. In addition, your pup may growl, hide, or display signs of aggression.

    • What to do:
      Some breeds are more prone to anxiety, but circumstances and disposition play an important role in a dog’s reaction to stress. If you notice your dog shaking in stress, do your best to reassure them and, if possible, remove the cause of anxiety.

If chronic anxiety becomes a problem, consider trying certain training methods aimed at helping dogs acclimate to situations and overcome their fears.

Your vet might also recommend a calming medication such as CBD or another product.

3. Water

If you have a dog, you are probably well familiar with the wet dog shake after a bath.

That wild jowl flapping, body twitching, post-bath dance is a healthy reflex allowing furry animals to quickly dry themselves and prevent hypothermia.

    • What to do:
      Wet dog shake is a normal animal reflex, so you don’t need to do anything in response to it. If you are eager to help your pet out, you could dry them with a towel to quickly get rid of any excess water after a swim or bath.
A wet dog shaking off after a bath.

4. Excitement

Dogs tend to shake when they are excited, and this is absolutely nothing to worry about, – this is simply one way they demonstrate emotion!

When playing, especially with other dogs, your pup may occasionally shudder while licking, jumping, or nuzzling.

    • What to do:
      While happy and excited shaking is usually not an issue, some dogs become overly hyper. In these cases, you might want to try behavioral training methods to teach your pet how to control their excitement in a positive way.

5. Seeking Attention

If you rush to comfort your dog every time they are shivering, they will quickly learn that shaking is a great way to get some extra attention.

Some dogs even start shaking while asking for food to earn some extra “sympathy” points!

    • What to do:
      While this behaviour is not harmful, it shouldn’t be reinforced.

If there is no reason for your dog to shiver other than seeking attention while asking for food, it is best to ignore this sneaky trick and treat your dog normally.

6. Advanced Age

Unfortunately, aging in dogs comes with an increased risk of disorders that could cause cognitive deterioration and trembling.

A senior dog with graying hair.

Unfortunately, aging in dogs comes with an increased risk of disorders that could cause cognitive deterioration and trembling.

    • What to do:
      While you can’t reverse the age-related decline, you can consult your vet to find treatments and therapies that will help to support your pet during the senior years and reduce their discomfort.
A senior dog with graying hair.

7. Illness or Pain

Shivering and shaking could also indicate that your dog is experiencing pain or is suffering from a disease.

As such, muscle tremors and shivering can be symptoms of serious conditions like hypoglycemia, distemper, Addison’s disease, and inflammatory brain disease.

This could also be a sign of more common problems like an upset stomach.

If you notice your dog shivering constantly, it could be a symptom of generalized tremor syndrome, also known as shaker syndrome. Luckily, this chronic condition can be managed with medication, so contact your vet in this case.

    • What to do:
      Examine your dog for other signs of injury and sickness. If the shaking is accompanied by unusual behaviour or seems out of character for your pet, contact your vet immediately.

8. Poisoning

In addition to diarrhea and vomiting, dogs that consume some poisonous plants, chocolate, or other toxic materials, may suffer from uncontrollable shaking.

    • What to do:
      If you suspect that your dog got poisoned by something, call your vet or contact a specialized Animal Poison Control Center immediately.

9. Ear Problems

While any dog breed can get ear infections, some breeds are more prone to such problems than others.

If you are a happy owner of a Basset Hound, Cocker Spaniel, Golden Retriever, or Labrador Retriever, you should watch out for excessive head shaking.

If your pooch is shaking their head a lot after a bath or swim, it’s quite possible that they are experiencing an ear infection.

Dogs with infected or irritated ears shake their head for temporary relief, but this shaking can lead to additional problems like ear hematoma.

    • What to do:
      Always dry your dogs’ ears thoroughly after they’ve been in water. If you notice your dog shaking their head more than usual, gently take a peek in your companion’s ears to see if they appear inflamed, red, or dirty.

If you suspect an ear infection, call your veterinarian as soon as possible.

10. Seizures

While the two terms often get confused, normal shaking and shivering differs considerably from a seizure.

As such, during a seizure, the muscles seize up, and a dog loses both awareness of the surroundings and mobility. This can look like a dog falling and uncontrollably paddling with their legs.

    • What to do:
      If you think that your pet is having a seizure, get them to see an emergency vet as soon as possible.

The animal may be suffering from epilepsy, a neurological disorder that causes episodes of collapsing and seizing. While seizures themselves are not painful to the dog, these episodes can cause physical injury due to the dog falling and hitting objects around them.

Luckily, the condition can be treated with special medications.

When Shaking Requires Veterinary Attention

If you notice your dog shaking or trembling, start by assessing the overall situation and the environment.

If there is a chance that your pet had access to potentially toxic substances, you will want to see a veterinarian immediately.

In other cases, you can start by removing any potential stressors and warming your pet up.

If bundling up and comforting your pup doesn’t work, it is time to see a vet. This is especially true if your dog is acting weird, or you notice additional symptoms alongside shaking, such as:

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

In such cases, the more quickly your dog is assessed and treated, the higher the chances for a positive outcome.

Still Not Sure Why Your Dog is Shaking?

While in most cases the answer to “Why is my dog shaking?” is relatively simple and harmless, it is best to reach out to your veterinarian when in doubt.

The specialist will be able to identify what causes your pup to shiver, as well as uncover if there is a serious underlying issue.

Even if there is no reason for concern, you will have the much-needed peace of mind after a professional assessment.

A giant breed Great Dane dog lying down.