Why Is My Dog Shaking? Veterinarians Weigh In

9 Min Read

Dog owners often become concerned when they notice their beloved pets shaking or trembling unexpectedly.

While occasional shivering can be normal, persistent shaking or tremors may indicate an underlying health issue that requires attention.


In this comprehensive guide, veterinarians provide insights into the various reasons why dogs shake, ranging from harmless behavior to serious medical conditions.

Understanding these causes can help pet owners better care for their canine companions and know when to seek veterinary assistance.


Understanding Normal Shivering in Dogs

Dogs, like humans, may shiver in response to cold temperatures or excitement.

It’s a natural physiological response to regulate body temperature or release excess energy.


Normal shivering is typically temporary and stops once the triggering factor subsides.

For example, a dog may shiver briefly when stepping outside on a chilly morning or when anticipating playtime with their favorite toy.


Common Reasons Why Dogs Shake

While occasional shivering is normal, persistent or frequent shaking may indicate an underlying issue.

Here are several common reasons why dogs shake, along with insights from veterinarians on each:


1. Cold or Fear

Veterinarian Insight: “Dogs may shake in response to cold temperatures, just like humans.

They might also shiver when they are fearful or anxious, such as during thunderstorms or fireworks.”


2. Excitement

Veterinarian Insight: “Excitement-induced shaking is common in dogs, especially puppies or high-energy breeds.

They may shake their entire body or wag their tail vigorously when excited.”


3. Stress or Anxiety

Veterinarian Insight: “Stress and anxiety can manifest as shaking in dogs.

This can occur during separation from their owners, visits to the veterinarian, or in unfamiliar environments.”


4. Pain or Discomfort

Veterinarian Insight: “Pain or discomfort, whether from an injury, illness, or underlying health condition, can cause dogs to shake.

It’s important to monitor for other signs of pain, such as limping or changes in behavior.”


5. Medical Conditions

Veterinarian Insight: “Certain medical conditions, such as neurological disorders, metabolic imbalances, or infections, may cause tremors or shaking in dogs.

These cases require veterinary evaluation and treatment.”


Signs That Require Veterinary Attention

While occasional shaking may not be concerning, certain signs indicate a need for veterinary evaluation:

Persistent or Frequent Shaking: Shaking that occurs frequently or does not resolve on its own.


Accompanied by Other Symptoms: Shaking accompanied by other signs such as lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, or difficulty breathing.

Change in Behavior: Any significant change in your dog’s behavior or routine, including appetite loss or reluctance to move.


Common Causes of Shaking in Dogs

Temperature Regulation

Dogs regulate their body temperature through shivering when they are cold.

Breeds with short coats or those acclimated to warmer climates may shiver more in cold weather.


Emotional Responses

Fear, anxiety, excitement, or stress can trigger shaking in dogs.

Thunderstorms, fireworks, car rides, or visits to unfamiliar places can induce shaking as a response to heightened emotions.


Pain or Discomfort

Pain from injuries, arthritis, or underlying health conditions can cause dogs to shake.

It’s essential to observe for other signs of pain, such as limping or vocalization.


Illness or Infection

Certain illnesses, such as infections or metabolic disorders, may lead to tremors or shaking.

These cases require prompt veterinary attention to diagnose and treat the underlying condition.


Behavioral Reasons for Shaking

Anxiety Disorders

Separation anxiety, generalized anxiety, or specific phobias can cause dogs to shake.

Behavioral training, environmental management, and sometimes medications can help manage anxiety-related shaking.



High-energy dogs or puppies may shake when they are excited or anticipating playtime.

This is typically harmless and stops once the excitement subsides.


Identifying the Difference Between Normal and Abnormal Shaking

Differentiating between normal and abnormal shaking in dogs is crucial for determining when veterinary intervention is necessary.

Normal shaking is usually temporary, triggered by identifiable factors such as cold weather or excitement.


Abnormal shaking is persistent, frequent, or accompanied by other concerning symptoms that indicate an underlying health issue.

Diagnostic Steps for Shaking Dogs

When evaluating a dog with persistent shaking, veterinarians may perform the following diagnostic steps:


Physical Examination: A thorough examination to assess overall health, check for signs of pain or discomfort, and evaluate neurological function.

History Taking: Gathering information from the owner about the dog’s behavior, recent changes, and any observed symptoms.


Diagnostic Tests: Depending on the findings, veterinarians may recommend blood tests, urinalysis, X-rays, or other diagnostic procedures to identify underlying medical conditions.

Treatment Options for Shaking Dogs

Treatment for shaking in dogs depends on the underlying cause:


Environmental Management: Minimizing stressors and creating a calm, predictable environment for anxious dogs.

Medications: Anti-anxiety medications, pain relievers, or other medications may be prescribed based on the diagnosis.


Behavioral Modification: Training techniques, such as desensitization and counterconditioning, to help dogs cope with anxiety or fear triggers.

Nutritional Support: Some diets or supplements may support overall health and reduce anxiety in dogs.


Preventive Measures to Reduce Shaking in Dogs

Environmental Enrichment

Provide mental stimulation and physical exercise to keep dogs mentally and physically healthy.

Interactive toys, puzzle feeders, and regular playtime can help alleviate boredom and reduce anxiety.


Routine Veterinary Care

Schedule regular veterinary check-ups to monitor your dog’s health and detect any underlying conditions early.

Routine care can help prevent or manage health issues that may contribute to shaking.


Consistent Training

Use positive reinforcement training methods to build your dog’s confidence and teach them coping strategies for stress or anxiety.

Consistency and patience are key to effective training.



Shaking in dogs can be a normal response to environmental factors like cold or excitement, but persistent or frequent shaking may indicate an underlying health issue.

By understanding the reasons why dogs shake and recognizing the signs that require veterinary attention, pet owners can take proactive steps to ensure their dogs receive appropriate care and treatment.


Regular veterinary check-ups, a balanced diet, environmental enrichment, and behavioral training are essential for maintaining your dog’s overall health and well-being.

If you notice any unusual shaking or behavior in your dog, consult with a veterinarian promptly to determine the underlying cause and implement appropriate management or treatment.


FAQs About Dogs Shaking

Why does my dog shake after a bath?

Dogs may shake after a bath to dry off and regulate their body temperature. Shaking helps remove excess water from their fur and is a natural behavior.

Should I be concerned if my dog shakes occasionally?

Occasional shaking, such as after a bath or during excitement, is usually normal. However, if shaking is persistent, frequent, or accompanied by other symptoms, it’s best to consult with a veterinarian for evaluation.


Can anxiety cause shaking in dogs?

Yes, anxiety and fear can cause dogs to shake. Common triggers include thunderstorms, fireworks, separation from their owners, or visits to the veterinarian.

What should I do if my dog starts shaking suddenly?

If your dog starts shaking suddenly and you notice other concerning symptoms like lethargy or difficulty breathing, seek veterinary attention immediately. Sudden onset shaking may indicate a medical emergency.


Can shaking in dogs be a sign of pain?

Yes, dogs may shake in response to pain or discomfort from injuries, arthritis, or underlying health conditions. It’s important to monitor for other signs of pain and consult with a veterinarian for proper evaluation and treatment.


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