It can be concerning when you look over at your beloved dog and you see them visibly shaking or trembling.  These shakes don’t have to necessarily be because of the cold temperatures, they may be associated with a number of different things.  Shakes can be medical, physical, or behavioral. 

It is important to assess your dog when they start to shake to see the situation they are in, and if there are any other symptoms.  Some dogs are just predisposed to shake like Chihuahuas.  Depending on why your dog is shaking will help determine if they need to be seen by a vet or not.  


Sometimes your dog will shake for reasons that are not severe.  Just like humans, dogs get cold.  Your dog shivers if they are cold for the same reason humans shiver.  To get the blood pumping and raise their body temperature to ward off hypothermia.  Dogs who have short thin coats of fur, or a small body fat percentage will be more affected by the cold than other dogs.  The best thing to do if your dog does not handle the cold well is to limit their exposure to it.  If they have to go outside look for a doggy sweater or jacket for them to wear to help keep them insulated.  Another thing you can do is keep a warm spot for them to curl up in, such as blankets. 


Another non harmful reason your dog may shake is from excitement.  Excitement shaking in dogs is a natural way for their bodies to exert excess energy and help them calm down.  This can happen when you come home from work, or you are preparing them dinner.


Anxiety can also cause shakes in dogs.  Anxiety isn’t harmful to your dog, but stress isn’t healthy for anyone.  Anxiety for loud noises, fireworks, or being in a crowded room or area can cause a dog to shake.  These are not uncommon stressors for dogs.  It is important to help your dog stay calm by staying calm, as well as trying to remove any stressors that you can from your dog.  


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There are medical reasons why your dog may be shaking.  Distemper is a virus that puppies or young dogs who are not fully vaccinated can be infected by.  This virus is usually fatal.  It attacks the gastrointestinal, nervous, and respiratory systems.  Other symptoms that go along with shaking are nose discharge, coughing, fever, lethargy, reduced appetite, vomiting, and eye discharge.  This virus can only be treated by a veterinarian.  Sometimes dogs can recover from it.  


Another cause of shaking dogs in nausea.  Nausea can be caused by a number of things like motion sickness, medications, overeating, poisoning, kidney disease, liver disease.  Poisoning can happen if a dog ingests something it shouldn’t, like chocolate, cigarettes, or xylitol.  If your dog is feeling nauseous they may vomit, smack their lips, salivate more, or swallow frequently.  If your dog has eaten something poisonous you will need to call the vet right away. 

Sometimes if nausea is caused by a different reason no intervention from the vet is necessary.  If your dog is vomiting a lot, dehydration may occur so you will want to make sure your dog is still drinking water.  Otherwise they may need fluids through an IV given at the veterinarian’s office.  

Generalized Tremor Syndrome or GTS

Generalized Tremor Syndrome or GTS, is also called steroid responsive tremor syndrome.  It was first witnessed in small white breeds of dogs such as a Maltese.  It has later been seen that any breed, size, or color of dog can get this condition.  The tremors of this condition are rhythmic, repetitive, and involuntary.  Shakes may be localized to one area or they may affect the entire body.  This condition usually affects dogs that are between 9 months and 2 years.  It is treated with corticosteroids.  

Age, Pain, Arthritis & Illness

Pain and old age can also cause shakes in dogs.  As a dog gets older it is very common for them to develop arthritis or some joint pain.  This can cause shaking in the hind legs of dogs.  Older dogs can also suffer from muscle weakness.  Pain in dogs can be caused by an injury, infection, or chronic illness.  These could be arthritis, bone cancer, joint pain, or a ruptured CCL.  Other symptoms of pain your dog may be showing are panting, whining, excessive licking, limping, stiffness, avoidance of being touched, or low appetite. 

Warning Symptoms 

If your dog is showing symptoms of lethargy, limping, incoordination, diarrhea, vomiting, drooling, or panting it is time to go in and see the vet.  These signs usually deem that something more serious is happening and causing your dog’s shakes.  If the shaking lasts for a long time, for a few hours, then you may also want to reach out to your vet.  

It can be hard to prevent your dog from shaking, unless you know the route cause.  If it is just from the cold make sure you keep them bundled up and in a warm environment.  If the shaking is caused by something more serious, than talking with your vet about the causes is important.  There are lots of things that can cause your dog to shake from excitement, pain, old age, nausea, poisoning, kidney disease, or injury.