Why is My Dog Shaking?

They say a dog is a man’s best friend and it stands to reason. They give us affection when we are sad, entertain us with their funny characters, and provide company when we feel lonely. So, when our canine companions seem to be a little off compared to normal, we naturally get concerned.

A shaking dog can be fairly common, especially if you are about to have it embark on dog travel abroad. The reasons for it can be varied. Bouts of stress, anxiety, pain, or even seeking attention can all be part of why a dog shakes, but there can be more to it. In this month’s blog, we take a look at why dogs shake and how you may be able to help them overcome it.

Should I be worried if my dog is shaking?

There are many reasons a dog may shake and quite often, they amount to not much more than them seeking attention, feeling excited or maybe just a little bit cold, but sometimes, the shaking can be bought on due to something much more serious that may deserve the attention of a vet.

What may appear as shaking may be the start of a seizure so it is important to understand the difference between regular shaking and a seizure that could lead to long-term health problems for your dog. A seizure is very different to shaking and you should be able to recognize the difference. To help you, further down the page, we look a little more at the differences between the two.

Seizures are not the only cause for concern with a shaking dog though and quite often, shaking can be a sign of illness. The tricky thing is establishing what illness it is. Dogs can shake due to a variety of them, and some can be treated easily, others not so much. If you see your dog shaking and have noticed a change in character or behaviour, contact your vet right away.

Why do dogs shake?

At the top of the page, we gave a few examples of possible causes for a dog shaking but, there are many. Excitement, illness, attention seeking, or stress are just some but what else could a shaking dog mean?

There are commonly three categories behind shaking. Behavioural, medical, or environmental and each can have differing levels of severity.

Behavioural reasons for why your dog shakes

There are a few behavioural traits that may see your dog shake and most of the time they will not be a cause for major concern.

Dog shakes when it’s excited

This is a common one! Your furry friend may be playing or about to be fed and in its little mind, life could not be better! This is more common in puppies than adult dogs but can continue into adult life, especially if they find things to play with, or are getting lots of attention from people.

It is totally normal and normally subsides after the initial rush has passed. If you find they are regularly a little too excitable, it could be worth checking their surroundings. Have you got too many toys, guests or treats in their sight? If so, remove some to allow your dog a few moments of calm!

Dog shakes from anxiety

Anxiety is another common cause for dogs to shake and this can be bought on by a host of things. Situations that make the dog scared or fearful will increase the anxiety and a dog will exhibit this by shaking, whining and hiding. It will often arise from sudden loud noises like fireworks, large gatherings of people or thunder. At the same time, a change to their common environment can also have the same effect. A trip to the vet or the kennels could spark anxiety. This, just like excitement, is not a huge cause for concern and will normally pass but to help your dog you can help by removing the cause of the anxiety where possible. You can also purchase anti-anxiety medicines for dogs which can go some way to making them feel more comfortable.

Dog shakes to get attention

If you regularly pet your dog and reassure it when it shakes due to any of the issues mentioned previously, it may realise that a new opportunity for attention has arisen. Dogs are clever, perhaps more so than you thought. To get you to give it attention, it may replicate what caused it to get attention last time out. Shaking!  This time there will be no cause for the shaking other than wanting a cuddle and some playtime. If you notice that nothing else is wrong and your dog is just doing it, as hard as it sounds, it may be best to ignore it so the dog doesn’t start to become the master of the house.

Reasons a change to the environment may cause a dog to shake

Dogs love to explore and out on a walk, there is every chance a lake, a puddle or a stream has had four paws dipping into it. Snow can also be a cause for intrigue too as can holes and hills. Sometimes these sudden changes can lead to your dog shaking.

Dog shaking after a bath

It happens to us humans too. After a warm soak, the sudden change to our bodies when we emerge from the water sees us shiver a little as we adjust. It is no different for dogs. Dogs have that added benefit of shaking themselves dry, something we can’t do! However, as much as the fur around their body keeps them warm when we find things cold, it’s also very good at holding water. This means that despite the shaking to get water off working very well, there is still a fair bit on their body which can lead to a little shake as it gets itself back up to temperature. Use a towel to assist it if you need to.

Dog shaking due to cold weather

A temperature change, especially if you have been out walking your dog can be a shock to the system for both the dog and you. So, to warm up, we both shake and shiver to get the blood pumping and increase our body temperature. The thing is, a dog doesn’t know how to add an extra layer so when the temperature is making your dog cold consider a little coat and even little shoes for when you take it out for a walk. Then when you return, ensure its bed is close to a heat source and is dry and ready for them to snuggle down and warm up. Keeping a dog warm in winter makes for a much happier pooch!

Medical issues that cause dog shaking

There are many medical reasons your dog may shake and some require just a small degree of care whilst others need specialist treatment.

Can nausea make a dog shake?

If your dog has vomited or appears as it may do, it is likely to be shaking a little. Look out for increased licking of lips or dribbling as indicators that they may be feeling a little nauseous. This could be a simple case of eating too much but could also be a sign of poisoning.

Poisonous substances that make a dog shake

Dogs are curious creatures and will often eat things that they shouldn’t. Sometimes it becomes very evident that they have done this as the reaction from what they have ingested can lead them to shake. The problem here is that quite often, you will not know what they have eaten and by the time you have realised it may be too late. If you have reason to believe they have eaten any of the things listed below, contact your vet immediately.

  • Chocolate
  • Mouldy food
  • Caffeine
  • Cigarette butts
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Grapes
  • Insect poisons

Do dogs shake when in pain or ill?

When a dog hurts itself, it can often be hard to detect that something is wrong but shaking is one sign they can’t seem to hide. If you notice shaking alongside a change in appetite, a limp, flattened ears, scratching or licking an area constantly and a change in mood, they may have hurt themselves.

If any of these indicators are present, you should contact your vet.

With illness, it can be much the same and whilst we referenced nausea and poisons, low blood sugar levels can also make your dog shake.

Low blood sugar in dogs can be a sign of a pancreatic tumour as well as diabetes so it is best to get it treated fast. Your dog may have also consumed xylitol which is extremely toxic to dogs.  Along with the possible identifiers we mentioned above, look out for your dog exhibiting signs of confusion, low energy or loss of coordination as indicators of low blood sugar.

Distemper in dogs

If your dog has distemper, shaking can be a key identifier as this condition can be fatal. More common in puppies and younger dogs distemper attacks the organs of the dog requires the immediate intervention of a vet. Luckily it is now extremely rare thanks to the vaccine programme dogs go through. You may see:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Coughing
  • Tiredness
  • Runny nose
  • Temperature

All of the above alongside the shaking could indicate distemper in your dog.

Why do old dogs shake?

As a dog ages, its body cannot support itself in the same way it did as a puppy. Muscle weakness that naturally comes through age can cause less stability and as a result, see the dog shake. The same with temperature, with less muscle mass, the cold weather is harder for a dog to endure and will result in more frequent shaking than when it was younger. The easiest remedy here is to make life as easy and comfortable for your dog and not to let it over-exert itself.

Head shaking in dogs

Repeated head shaking from a dog can mean an ear infection is present but it could also mean that something has got stuck in its ear. If you notice that the shaking is constant, contact your vet. It may be that a procedure needs to be carried out to remove what is trapped. Alternatively, if it is an ear infection, medication may be required.

Other causes of shaking in dogs

Listed above are the most common causes of shaking in dogs but there can be several others.

Generalised Terror Syndrome

Also known as shaker syndrome, GTS commonly affects small dogs but it has been found in larger dogs too. Tremors occur across the whole body and normally begin when the dog is young. It can be present in just one area of the dog and increases in its presence when the dog gets excited. If you spot constant tremors in your dog, take it to the vet where, after tests, the vet will prescribe medication that suppresses the condition.


This is a condition that causes puppies to shake and have trouble walking. It can be evident from when the puppy is as young as 2 weeks old. This is also known as shaken puppy syndrome. If you spot this, contact your vet.

Cerebellar hypoplasia

Another condition that causes a puppy to shake, it affects the brain and causes the part that controls coordination to not develop as it should. You will spot this through constant leg shaking and their head moving around a lot. This is another condition that requires the immediate help of a vet.


A dog shaking can also be signs of kidney failure, brain conditions, low calcium and Addison’s disease. If anything at all causes you concern, contact your vet immediately.


Pet travel can be worrying for some animals and can cause them to shake as they get a little concerned about what is happening, it is only natural! Flying can be stressful for dogs but our team at PBS work to make sure that both you and your dog are comfortable with the arrangements to get them to the destination safely and securely.  Why not contact our team of pet travel specialists today to see how we can help? We can even guide you through all the pet travel paperwork so that it is one less thing for you to worry about!