Dogs may shake for many reasons. Just like humans, our dogs feel the cold and can suffer from anxiety and become nervous too. However, shaking can also be a symptom or sign of an illness or condition and should not be ignored.
Cold Weather – Dogs are not immune to the cold. Over the decades our domesticated dogs have become acclimatized to our indoor way of living and feel the cold much more then a wild animal would. Several breeds have short or almost no hair at all such as chihuahuas, dachshunds and greyhound type breeds. It does not take long for hypothermia to creep in on cold winter days when left outside without a coat or shelter. All dogs, no matter how thick their coat can suffer from frostbite on the pads of their feet. This is caused when walking on frozen pavement for long periods of time or left outside with no way of getting up off the icy, snow-covered ground.
Anxiety/Excitement – Shaking can also be related to a behaviour or emotion. Often dogs will start to shake when they see their owners prepping or packing to leave the house or when strangers come over to visit. Fireworks or loud noises can cause your dog to shake as well as overstimulation and excitement.
Pain – This is one that often gets overlooked. Some dogs shake due to pain, even if they show no other symptoms. If there is no other explanation and shaking is not “normal” behaviour for your pet, this might be an indication of pain and should be addressed.
Muscle Fatigue/Weakness –Weak, tired muscles can also cause your dog to shake. Dogs can overdo it too and an overactive pet may shake after a long run at the beach or hard play with a canine companion. Senior pets will also shake due to fatigue, strains and loss of muscle mass. Shaking can be a sign of hind end weakness associated with arthritis and aging hips.
Toxicity – Shaking and tremors can also be a sign of toxicity. If you suspect your dog may have gotten into something or been exposed to a poison (household chemical, antifreeze, plant, chocolate etc) call your veterinarian ASAP. Shaking is a common sign of toxicity and can lead to seizures.
If your dog starts to shake for no obvious reasons and this is a new behaviour for your pet, talk to your veterinarian about this new behaviour during their annual check-up or book an appointment sooner if you think it could be related to pain or illness.
Written by: Van Isle Veterinarian Hospital