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Dog Shivering and Trembling: Causes and Treatments

Many things may cause a dog to shiver or tremble. It could be from joy that you're home, or it could be from eating toxic foods.

What are the most common reasons a dog shivers or shakes? Is treatment necessary? And when should you talk to your vet?

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When to See a Vet

Dogs shake and tremble for all kinds of reasons -- excitement, pain, old age, even nausea.

Shivering and trembling may be symptoms of something serious -- like poisoning, kidney disease, or injury. So, if your dog suddenly starts trembling or shivering, it's important to take note of other symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, or limping. Then talk to your vet right away.

Dog Shivering and Trembling: Common Causes and Treatments

A few of the more common causes of shaking, shivering, trembling, or tremors in dogs include:

Distemper. Caused by a virus, canine distemper most often occurs in puppies and adolescent dogs that haven't been fully vaccinated. It's a common cause of tremors in dogs. Other signs of distemper include eye and nose discharge, fever, coughing, and other symptoms.

Treating distemper generally involves supportive care while your dog's immune system fights the virus. Treatment may also include antibiotics, airway dilators, physical therapy, and fluids to help manage dehydration.

Generalized Tremor Syndrome (GTS). GTS is also called steroid responsive tremor syndrome or white shaker dog syndrome. First noticed in small, white dogs such as Maltese and West Highland white terriers, it can occur in dogs of any size, breed, or color. No one knows what causes GTS.

GTS symptoms usually start between 9 months and 2 years of age. Treatment generally consists of corticosteroids like prednisone. Results can often be seen within a week of starting treatment.

Nausea. Just like people, dogs can get nauseous from motion sickness, medication, eating too much, or eating the wrong thing, such as a toxic plant. They also can get nausea from kidney or liver disease, as well as other diseases. Shaking is one sign that your dog is nauseous. Other signs include listlessness, lip smacking, swallowing or salivating more than usual, hiding, yawning, and vomiting.

Treatment for nausea depends on what's causing it. Poisoning is one cause of nausea. So, if your dog is suddenly vomiting or appears nauseous, call your vet or the Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 immediately.

Old Age and Pain. As dogs get older, some develop tremors in their hind legs. Sometimes, the tremors may be in the front legs, as well. These tremors usually don't affect how your dog moves or walks.

It's easy to assume that symptoms like shaking legs are due to your dog "just getting older." But trembling can also be a sign of other issues such as pain. So, always talk to your vet if your aging pet develops tremors.

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