Sometimes dogs shake to get rid of something in their fur, like water or dirt. Other times, they tremble at the sound of fireworks. But what does it mean when they shiver out of the blue?
When your healthy dog is panting and shaking, check for signs and possible external causes. These may generally be non-serious ones, but some symptoms require immediate attention from your veterinarian.
To help you make better pet care decisions, know the 7 reasons why dogs tremble and the possible treatments for each.
This is usually the case when the trembling happens whilst your pooch is playing or showing you affection. It’s also when he sees you approaching him with food or a beloved toy. The shaking is your dog’s way of letting out extra energy.
When your dog is startled or in distress, he may tremble and pant at the same time. Your dog may also hide, tuck his tail, lick excessively, or try to escape. Very loud noises, raucous events, or a trip to the vet may trigger this reaction. Anything that boosts adrenaline levels can lead to trembling.
What to do: Move your dog away from the source of his fear. Do not reassure the dog as you would another human—he will interpret it as a reinforcement of his anxiety.
Exude a calming presence and act as if everything is normal. Distract him by playing with him. Assigning an ‘escape area’ where he can hide when the fireworks or thunderstorm begins can also help. It could be a small room or the basement. The place must not have windows but have lights to make the flashing lights less obvious. If the room has windows, then curtains must be drawn.
3) Learned behaviour
If you constantly show affection when your pooch shivers, he will learn to shake when he wants to get your attention. What you think is comforting to a trembling dog is actually a reinforcement of his behaviour.
What to do: If your pet shakes even though he has no health issues or external signs of injury, ignore him. When he calms down, praise him and show affection. Repeat this until he learns he is getting nothing from voluntary trembling.
4) Extreme temperatures
When it’s too cold, your dog may experience hypothermia and tremble. The same is the case when his body’s temperature is too high. He may be suffering from heatstroke.
What to do: If your dog is cold, wrap him with a blanket, sweater, or doggy coat. You can also make him wear canine booties. If he needs to cool down, take him to a shaded area, give him water to drink, and splash some water on him.
Serious Reasons for Dog Shaking
If your dog is limping, shivering, and panting at the same time, he is likely in pain from an internal or external injury involving his legs. If there is no limping, the pain may be coming from some other part of his torso.
What to do: If your dog is calm and allows you to handle him, check his body for injuries or bruising. If you are unable to find any physical sign, take your pet to the vet for a thorough check.
What to do: Check your dog’s mouth—he may have eaten something he’s not supposed to (e.g., grapes, goodies with xylitol). Take his temperature; the normal temperature should be 100.5–103 degrees Fahrenheit. Check his stomach for signs of dog bloat.
Take note of other symptoms that come with the shivering. If it includes eye or nose discharge, coughing, and fever, it may be due to distemper.
If the tremors are accompanied by diminished appetite, lethargy, increased thirst, and vomiting, kidney issues may be the culprit. Bring your dog to the vet as soon as possible especially if other distressing symptoms are present.
Senior dogs are likely to have trembling legs and the occasional body shaking due to a weakening system. However, if it persists for more than a day, it is no longer normal. Your pet may probably be in more pain.
What to do: Reduce the length or intensity of his exercise. Contact the vet for guidance on the right medication.
Related: Give Your Old Dog a New Life
Don’t Panic Over Canine Trembling
Observe your pet for twenty-four hours to see if he recovers from the tremors. Stay calm, so you don’t reinforce the wrong behaviour. Other factors should also be considered, such as:
- Your dog’s history Has he trembled in the past? If yes, when does he usually do it? Is he currently receiving treatment or has an existing health condition?
- Other symptoms As mentioned, note other signs accompanying the trembling. This will be helpful in determining the cause of the shaking and also in identifying the right treatment.
- Preceding events Are there potentially harmful food, harmful plants, or substances inside and outside your home that your pet may ingest? Has he been exposed to extreme temperatures recently?
- Environment Is there something in your house or area that may have frightened your dog? Is there a change in your routine that may have distressed him? Leaving home or having a new housemate can lead to a psychologically-induced tremor in your pet.
If your pet has not recovered from shaking despite your first-aid efforts, take him to the vet. This is especially when the tremors are accompanied by lethargy and other serious symptoms.
For more practical help on some of the most common dog issues, check out our pet care advice section!