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?
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 may be a 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 and you know what they may have ingested, 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.
Poisoning. Several toxins or poisons can cause tremors or shaking in dogs. Some of these are harmless to people but toxic to your pet. For instance, items that can be poisonous for dogs include: chocolate, cigarettes(which can cause nicotine poisoning), and xylitol, the sugar substitute found in many chewing gums. Snail baits containing metaldehyde can also cause severe muscle tremors and convulsions.
Symptoms of poisoning can vary. They include tremors, weakness, disorientation, depression, drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, and seizures. If you think your dog has swallowed anything potentially toxic, call your vet right away. Or call the Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435.
Seizure Disorders. Epilepsy, a neurological disorder, can affect dogs. Symptoms may include collapsing, jerking, stiffening, muscle twitching, loss of consciousness, drooling, chomping, tongue chewing, or foaming at the mouth. Dogs can fall to the side and make paddling motions with their legs. Treatment includes medications to control seizures, such as keppra, phenobarbital or potassium bromide.
Excitement. You really don't have to do much to make a dog happy. Just your coming home at night is more than enough to make some dogs shake, bark, even urinate with excitement. While dogs often grow out of some of these traits, you can help your canine companion calm down by keeping your greetings calm and brief. You may want to train them to sit before offering a greeting in return.
Other Causes of Shivering and Trembling in Dogs
There are other less common reasons for shivering, shaking, trembling, or tremors in dogs.
Chronic kidney failure can lead to tremors. So can neurological problems that may include inflammatory brain diseases or seizure disorders. An Addisonian crisis, a condition related to an underactive adrenal gland, and demyelinating disorders may also lead to shaking in dogs. Dogs may shake when their anal sacs are full.
If you have questions about your dog's shivering or trembling -- or about any canine health and wellness issue, talk to your vet.