Why Is My Dog Shaking: Causes, Diagnosis & Treatments

Why Is My Dog Shaking: Causes, Diagnosis & Treatments

Dogs tremble for several reasons, but not all of them are red flags. Read on for an explanation on dog shaking and how to treat it.

Why Is My Dog Shaking: Causes, Diagnosis & Treatments

If your pup is shaking or trembling, it could be out of fear, excitement, or an underlying illness.

Although shaking in dogs is not always cause for alarm, it’s smart to get a veterinary specialist involved if you are unsure about your dog’s behavior. Additionally, Finn’s got you covered on the causes, diagnoses, and treatments for your shaking pooch. 

What Are the Most Common Causes of Dog Tremors?

Dogs tremble for all sorts of reasons. Some of the most common causes are listed out below, along with tips and tricks on how to help your pet. Read on to determine if your dog’s tremors warrant medical attention. 


Shaking is a common result of pets being afraid. Pay close attention to what is happening when your dog starts to tremble. 

Is there chaos in your household? Are there young children running rampant through your hallways? Are there fireworks being set off near your home? Or is  a thunderstorm rolling in? 

All of these situations can lead to fear in your pet, and there are a number of ways you can comfort your pup.

In that moment, start by identifying the trigger, and then try to remove it. You can use your dog's crate as a way to calm them down (if they’re crate-trained). In addition to removing any triggers, you can also use their favorite chews, treats, and interactive toys to keep them busy. 

You can also give your dog a calming aid to help them de-stress and relax. 

You can always talk to your vet before introducing new supplements into your dog's diet if you want additional guidance.


Excitement-related shakes are relatively harmless and are a natural way that dogs exert excess energy. Generally, this type of tremor subsides within a few minutes after your pup has had a chance to calm down. Puppies and hyperactive dogs may take a bit longer to relax. 

Your energy as a pet parent will play a role in the outcome of your dog’s excitement-related shakes. When you get home, enter with a cool, calm, and collected demeanor. As difficult as it might be, don’t be too giddy with your pup when you first get home. Give them a chance to settle down. 

As a pet parent, keep your movements deliberate and slow. If you’re playing with your pup and they start to tremble out of excitement, reset. Give your dog some time to calm down before proceeding.

(On that note, there’s nothing inherently wrong with an excited dog — if you don’t mind the crazy little dude jumping around and shaking, all the more power to you!).

Separation Anxiety

A common symptom of separation anxiety is quivering. If your dog starts to shake when you leave the house, they are likely experiencing separation anxiety. While separation anxiety is common in dogs, there are ways to help prevent it. If left untreated, dogs can have destructive behavior due to their separation anxiety.

Exercise, crate training, interactive toys, and supplements like the calming aid we mentioned earlier are all ways to keep your dog’s nervousness at bay when you leave the house. 

If you choose to leave your pooch with a toy while you’re gone, make sure it’s safe-for-crate and that there is no possibility that it can become a choking hazard.


Many dogs can develop tremors as they grow older, so it’s not uncommon for senior dogs to tend to shake. This could either result from their nervous system deteriorating or simply because their muscles are weakening. You’ll want to consult your vet if your senior dog develops a tremor, as this could also be a sign of a more severe medical issue. 

Preventive care is a good idea for dogs that haven’t quite reached old age. A hip and joint supplement can help nurture joint mobility, and support gut health, strong joints, and a luscious coat.


Ever been near your dog after they hopped out of the bathtub? Watch out! Dogs shake when they are wet. This is another happy and healthy dog shake. 

If you catch your pup’s body twitching and their jowls flapping after a day at the beach, it is a healthy reaction to dampness and is a way for dogs to lower their own body temperature. Shaking not only dries them off but prevents hypothermia and other cold-related illnesses. 

If your dog has thick fur, drying them off can be a daunting task. That said, there are quick and hassle-free ways to dry off your soaking wet pup. Microfiber towels tend to be the most effective, as they are the best at absorbing liquid. 

Dry your pup from top to bottom and front to back. Make sure you’re drying their ears and eyes, as infections can develop if they stay wet and dirty for too long. 

Discomfort and Illness

While we hope that this isn’t the case, tremors and shaking might be indicators that your dog is suffering from a serious illness. 

Listed below is a non-exhaustive list of the illnesses that cause your dog to shake or tremor. Contact your vet immediately if you suspect your pup is sick.

Canine Distemper

Canine distemper is a serious illness that is contagious among dogs. It’s caused by a virus that attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems in both puppies and adult dogs. It can be spread through airborne exposure, shared food, or passed on from mother dogs to their puppies. 

Symptoms of canine distemper include discharge from the eyes, fever, nasal drip, coughing, loss of appetite, and lethargy. Some behaviors that may occur include circling, head tilts, muscle twitches, convulsions with jaw chewing movements, salivation, and seizures. Vaccinating your dog when they are young can help prevent canine distemper. 


If your dog has eaten something toxic, they may experience convulsions and full body shakes. Compost garbage, spoiled food, human medication/prescription drugs, rat poison, most mushrooms, and chocolate are just a handful of a long list of items that are toxic to canines. 

If your dog starts to tremble after eating something poisonous, take them to the vet as soon as possible. 

Fenced-off gardens, compost areas, secured pantries, medicine cabinets, and more humane vermin traps are all ways to keep your dog from getting into something they shouldn’t. 

Treatment may include induced vomiting, endoscopies, and in more serious cases, surgery.

Addison’s Disease

Trembling can also be a symptom of Addison’s disease. Addison’s disease is a disorder caused by a deficient production of certain hormones. Essentially, this disease occurs when the adrenal glands fail to do their job. 

While the cause is virtually unknown, it is usually linked to an autoimmune process. Shaking, depression, lethargy, increased urination, weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, bloody stools, and hair loss are all symptoms of Addison’s disease. 

For the most part, dogs with Addison’s disease can be treated. It requires prescribed medication that is either taken through injections or orally. Therapy and treatment are based on the severity of the condition. 

Generalized Tremor Syndrome

Your dog’s tremors could also be a sign of Generalized Tremor Syndrome, also known as Shaker Syndrome. It typically happens in smaller dogs like Malteses, West Highland White Terriers, and Poodles. 

Rhythmic, repetitive, and involuntary muscle movements are the clinical signs of this disease. Similar to Addison’s, this condition is thought to be caused by an autoimmune dysfunction. 

Generalized Tremor Syndrome is treated by steroids that come prescribed by your vet. 


While dogs shake for a handful of reasons (some more serious than others), most are not life-threatening. 

Dogs can shake out of fear, anxiety, stress, excitement, separation from their pet parent, and old age. Dogs can also shake out of discomfort and underlying medical issues like canine distemper, poisoning, Addison’s disease, and Generalized Tremor Syndrome, among other illnesses. 

If you’re unsure why your dog is shaking, consult your vet and get your playful pooch checked out. It’s always better to be safe than sorry. 

For more information on all-things-doggo, check out the Finn blog here!


Dog Shivering or Trembling: Causes and Treatments | Pet WebMD

Separation Anxiety | ASPCA

Canine Distemper | AVMA

Chronic Kidney Disease in Dogs | VCA Animal Hospital

Addison's Disease in Dogs: Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention | American Kennel Club

Shaker Syndrome in Dogs | VCA Animal Hospital



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