Dog Behavior Series 7 – Why Do Dogs Shake?
Do you want to know the secret for getting your dog to stop shaking? Keep reading to discover the top 4 common reasons and what you can do for your dog by gaining an understanding of your dog’s behavior.
Let’s start by clarifying the term ‘Shake’, and what I’m referring to when I use it. I’m referring to dogs that shiver or tremble while in control of their bodies. If your dog is making eye contact and responding to you, as he is shaking, then your dog has full control of his body; unlike dogs who lose control during a seizure.
So, why do dogs shake?
Your dog could be shaking for common reasons that are easy to remedy or your dog’s shaking could indicate that something is medically wrong. I’ll discuss those potential medical issues later in this segment. Knowing why your dog is shaking allows you to make an informed decision about his well being with a little more confidence. Now, here are the top four common reasons dogs shake, and what you can do for your dog to help and comfort him during those trying times.
- One – Your Dog is Cold
Not unusual, especially for short coat breeds. When a dog is cold, his body shakes to generate heat through muscle movement. It is easy to provide your dog with a little warmth to stop his shaking. Get your dog into a warm environment and/or provide him with a warm bed and blanket.
- Two – Your Dog is Anxious or Frightened
Adrenaline release often produces shaking. Dog’s adrenal glands release adrenaline to help them deal with the situation. Thunderstorms, fireworks, air travel, car rides, vet visits, grooming parlors, meeting strangers, loud noises; any type of environmental change can cause a dog anxiety or fear. Hold your dog close and reassure him, with love and attention, that there is nothing to fear. He’ll feel safe and loved and before long his shaking will cease.
- Three – Your Dog is Excited
Your dog is excited about dinner, chasing a squirrel, seeing you after a long day alone, eager to play; for whatever reason, your dog is shaking in anticipation of something happening. Nothing to be concerned about here; your dog will stop shaking when the excitement is over.
- Four – Learned Behavior
Your dog has learned that, if he shakes, he will get a desired response from you, whether that response is a sign of affection and attention or a yummy treat. To stop this dog behavior, ignore the shaking, and instead, reward your dog with affection and attention when he is not shaking. Spread your attention, affection, and treats, throughout the day and evening, so your dog will learn he doesn’t have to shake to get what he wants.
Now it is time to talk about other reasons why dogs shake.
If your dog is shaking uncontrollably, determine when the shaking initially occurred, any symptoms the dog has, and what parts of the body are affected. All of these are clues to help you recognize a potentially serious health problem. For example, some dogs will shake if their blood sugar is dangerously low or immediately prior to having a seizure. In this segment, some of the reasons why dogs shake are alarming, but will help you determine the difference between healthy dog behavior and signs of a serious illness, and what to do if you suspect a medical condition.
- One – Poisoning
A dog that has ingested chocolate, poisonous plants, cigarettes, insecticides, contaminated food, and other harmful materials in high doses may suffer vomiting, diarrhea, and uncontrollable shaking. If you suspect poisoning, get your dog to an emergency hospital immediately.
- Two – Distemper
Distemper is a virus that is often seen in puppies before they reach adulthood and dogs that have not been vaccinated. Symptoms are fever, coughing, and nasal discharge; and can also cause shaking and seizures. Puppies that have not been fully vaccinated are at a greater risk of getting the virus. See your vet immediately if you notice symptoms or suspect your dog has been exposed to distemper.
- Three – Kidney Disease
Dogs can be symptom free for a very long time. If your dog suddenly starts drinking and urinating more frequently, there is cause for concern. Other signs, including shaking, might follow as your dog’s condition progresses. See your vet immediately for therapy and treatment options.
- Four – Addison’s Disease
Dogs with this disease will show signs of gastrointestinal problems, loss of energy and strength, and little or no appetite; along with shaking. Addison’s is often misdiagnosed, which can lead to more severe problems. If your dog seems chronically ill and undernourished, talk to your vet about possible causes.
- Five – White Dog Shaker Syndrome
It is a serious illness in small breeds, such as Maltese and West Highland White Terriers that may cause your dog to shake and causes full body tremors in young dogs. Anxiety related dog behaviors are ruled out, as this Syndrome is not a reaction to specific stressors. If you suspect your dog is shaking as a result of this syndrome, consult with your vet immediately.
- Six – Fever
If your dog appears to be shaking from the cold while in a warm environment, then your dog might have a fever. Your dog is shaking in an attempt to raise his body temperature. Take your dog’s temperature with a rectal thermometer, if possible. If his temperature is above 104 degrees then take your dog to the vet immediately. A temperature above 104 degrees is a medical emergency.
- Seven – Pain
Shaking can be a sign of pain. Signs that your dog is in pain are restlessness, changes in behavior, enlarged pupils, over sleeping, hiding, limping, excessive licking or biting, increased vocalization, in need of attention, poor coat, vacant stare, glazed expression, and decreased appetite. Signs of pain are hard to detect in dogs and vary based on the cause of the pain. Because most dogs are very good at hiding pain, your dog is usually in considerable pain by the time you notice a problem. If your dog is shaking and displaying any of the signs discussed, get your dog to a vet.
- Eight – Advanced Age
Unfortunately, aged dogs are more vulnerable to shaking and deterioration. Weakened muscles paired with a touch of arthritis make it painful for elder dogs to stand and walk. These symptoms can’t be reversed, but you can consult with your vet to discuss available therapies and treatment that will help reduce your dog’s discomfort and pain.
Now let’s recap.
Dogs shake for many reasons. Recognizing why your dog is shaking is important, especially if there is a health problem. The earlier an illness or disease is diagnosed, the sooner it can be treated.
When dogs are fearful, anxious or excited, their adrenal glands release adrenaline to prepare their bodies to escape from or deal with the situation causing the excitement. If your dog continues to shake in a warm environment, he may have a fever, or another health problem unrelated to the cold. If you are not 100 percent certain, have your dog medically cleared by your vet before assuming the shaking is normal dog behavior.
If your dog shakes and it is not apparent why, then take him to a vet. If your dog’s shaking is not constant, then it is a behavioral problem. Are you dealing with normal dog behavior, medical problems, or behavioral problems? If your dog is displaying normal dog behavior, then follow my four tips to help and comfort him. If you are dealing with behavior problems, then work with a professional trainer that offers positive, reward based training. If you suspect you are dealing with a medical problem, consult your vet immediately.
Hope you enjoyed this segment on Dog Behavior, specifically on the topic of why dogs shake, and hope you walked away with something of value. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to my channel on YouTube, Dog Behavior Videos. Thank you so much for reading. I look forward to seeing you inside my next article. Please like, share, comment, and subscribe. Until next time. Bye Bye.