When you’re a first-time dog parent, you’ll notice that your pup will have a lot of quirks and peculiar behaviors that you may not be familiar with. Some will be easy to understand, such as their happy tail wags while other behaviors such as a dog shaking may cause you to worry. Here, we answer the concerns you may have when you ask yourself, “My puppy is shaking and acting weird, what should I do?”
Possible Reasons Why Your Dog is Trembling
Below is a list of some of the reasons why your dog shakes, where some are a normal part of dog behavior, while others should be a cause for concern.
1. Your Dog is Excited
One of the most common reasons why your dog is shaking is because it’s excited. Feeling joy and excitement while having excess energy is a common reason why small dogs might begin to shake. Just seeing you come in the front door after being away all day is enough to trigger your dog’s shaking.
While you might expect your pooch to bark or jump up and down when they greet you by the door, different types of dogs will actually start shaking when they see their owner. It’s the same feeling we get when receiving exciting news — we get overwhelmed with adrenaline. You may also notice that your dog gets the shakes when you come home after being away for longer than usual; this is your pup’s way of saying they love you.
2. Your Dog is Cold
Much like humans, dogs also get cold due to the weather — toy breeds and smaller dogs, in particular, will tend to shake more than larger dogs. This is due to their small size and will feel colder during the winter months, causing them to shiver. The same thing is true for puppies; because of their smaller size, young dogs will tend to shake with their entire body.
Moreover, breeds that have sparse or short coats such as whippets and greyhounds are also more sensitive to cold and could start shaking if it’s cold outside. Dogs of any size can get cold if they don’t have much fur, and may even have nose discharge when the weather is chilly. When you notice that your pup’s body temperature is colder than usual, be sure to dress your puppy in a jacket or sweater.
3. Your Puppy is Sad or Stressed
While dogs may have a carefree approach to life, they can also experience sad and upsetting emotions as well. Shaking can be a sign of sadness or stress but it’s no reason for you to worry. According to experts, dog shivering and trembling are perfectly normal — stressful situations such as fireworks, thunder, and loud noises are some of the common causes behind shaking dogs.
Many dog owners will use a comforting jacket or play soothing music to help calm their dog’s tremble. Furthermore, changes in their surroundings or being in a new environment can trigger shaking in dogs, such as the death of another pet, or moving to a new home. When this happens, be sure to shower your pup with love and attention to relieve the cause of your dog’s stress.
4. Your Dog is Scared or Anxious
Many animals, not just dogs, will begin to tremble or shake when they get scared or nervous — which is again related to a rush of adrenaline. Young puppies will take a while to get used to people, so they may start shaking whenever they see new people. One scenario that could trigger your dog’s anxiety is the dreaded visit to the vet’s office.
To help them get comfortable with the process of vet visits, be sure to mitigate their fear of getting a shot. You can get your pup petted, weighted, and then sent home with a treat so they don’t become traumatized with each visit. Alternatively, your vet could provide anti-anxiety medication in severe cases.
5. Your Dog has Generalized Tremor Syndrome (GTS)
It’s important to check whether or not there’s an underlying cause behind your dog’s muscle tremors. Be sure to look for additional symptoms such as vomiting, muscle weakness in the hind legs, and eating problems. These could indicate serious problems such as seizure disorders.
Confusion, when combined with anxiety, can lead to the first symptoms of seizures in dogs before the shaking and twitching start. Certain breeds, such as Cocker Spaniels, Labrador Retrievers, and Miniature Schnauzers will often experience seizures more than other breeds. Also known as white shaker dog syndrome and steroid-responsive tremor syndrome, generalized tremor syndrome can affect dogs of any color, size, and breed, although it is popular in white dogs.
The shaker syndrome can cause shaking that’s rhythmic, involuntary, and repetitive. However, the whole body may also shake, or it could also be localized such as around the back legs, and could also manifest as excessive head shaking. The cause behind GTS is currently unknown, some veterans believe that it’s related to our dog’s nervous systems.
6. Your Pup has an Ear Infection
If you’ve noticed that your dog has been doing a lot of head shaking, it’s a good idea to check your dog’s ears since this could be a sign of an ear infection. Golden Retrievers, Basset Hounds, and Cocker Spaniels are more prone to getting ear infections compared to other breeds. While these health issues are common and rarely escalate to an emergency situation, be sure to call your vet if you suspect your pup is suffering from it.
7. Your Dog is in Pain
Shaking may also be a sign of pain or may even be an indicator of a severe medical condition. This is often seen in older dogs, but other signs of pain in dogs include heavy breathing, whimpering, and a lack of appetite. But you should also consider that when most pain-related shaking comes and goes, it won’t likely become a medical emergency.
For instance, if you’re out on a walk on a cold winter night, senior dogs may hurt their paws on the ice or the ground when it’s freezing. It’s also vital to note that shaking and trembling that don’t cease or start to affect your dog’s daily life should be quickly addressed with veterinary care. Remember that you’re the person who knows your dog the best, so if something seems wrong, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
8. Your Dog Smells Something
A walk through the dog park can trigger full-body shaking in dogs, as they can become excited or alarmed by other animals and the various scents they can smell. One example of this can be seen when a Beagle shakes while it’s hunting or sniffing wild animals such as squirrels. This behavior can be observed in small breeds as well as dogs of old age — they will tend to raise their head and bark or vocalize during their pursuit, which shows their excitement.
What to Do if Your Puppy Is Shaking
Should you notice that your dog is shaking, be sure to first assess the situation. If it’s possible that your pup had contact with toxic substances, then it’s imperative that you see a vet right away. In cases where your dog feels cold or stressed, then warm them up and remove anything that could be stressing them.
Some things that could stress your puppy include new animals, people, or even a new environment. Loud noises such as fireworks can also stress and scare them, along with strange objects they don’t know about. If you’ve tried warming them up and have removed any stressors from the environment, but see no improvement it’s time to see a veterinarian.
When to See a Vet
If you feel that your dog’s trembling isn’t caused by the environment, then consider talking to your veterinarian. This is especially important if your dog is also exhibiting other symptoms apart from its shivering. Look for other signs such as:
- Distress or anxiety
A dog that continues shaking for long periods of time could be showing signs of more serious health conditions. Another explanation could be that it has swallowed a potentially toxic substance — one of the best things you can do is to go to your vet immediately for a good chance of a positive outcome.
How to Prevent Your Puppy from Shaking
You can plan preventative steps to help stop the cause of your pup’s shaking. Try the following suggestions below to help your canine friend better cope with its condition, whether it’s a young puppy or an old dog:
- Keeping them at a healthy weight
- Staying up-to-date with vaccines
- Ensuring your dog stays warm
- Keeping them away from toxins
As mentioned, shaking for prolonged periods of time could be a warning of a more serious medical problem. When combined with common signs of illness and other concerning symptoms, then be sure to contact your vet as soon as possible. If your dog has canine distemper, low blood sugar, motion sickness, kidney disease, liver disease, or Addison’s disease, along with episodes of shaking, then your pup will need supportive care.
Don’t delay and contact your veterinarian right away to develop a preventative plan to help manage your pup’s condition and symptoms.