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What Does It Mean When Dogs Shake?

What Does It Mean When Dogs Shake?

At some point most of us have experienced our dog’s shaking.  With people we can go down a checklist of items to determine shaking, based on our answers, but what about our dogs?  One of our senior dogs, Skippy, tends to shake when not feeling well, or loud noises.  Violet on the other hand is from the south and any temperature change below 60 brings on the shakes. (this explains her extensive sweater collection).  But what other reasons cause dogs to shake and when should we be concerned and seek professional help?  Some dogs are just predisposed to shake.  Ask any Chihuahua parent why their dog shakes and they will have a list of reasons.  But not all shaking is alike and not for the same reasons.


Often after bathing our dogs or they go for a swim they shake.  Fortunately, dogs dry off almost 70% of water in their fur by shaking, but they are still wet, and depending on the thickness of their fur, they can stay wet for hours.  Whether using a hair dryer on a low setting, putting the dog in front of a warm fire, or wrapping them in blankets, there is a solution to this type of shaking.

A lot of small dogs and dogs with thin coats shake in the cold weather. Shivering helps your dog generate heat and raise their body temperature. There are literally thousands of coats, sweaters, warm up suits, boots, shoes, etc to keep our pups warm.  What used to be considered frivolous is now a necessity.  Unless you have a husky, or thick coated dog, they are not accustomed to the cold and need that extra layer of warmth just like us. Yes, a fur coat helps keep in warmth, but it is not enough to protect them from extreme temperatures.


“Wanna go for a walk?” can induce a dog into a frenzy of excitement which in some dogs is exhibited by shaking.  This is completely unharmful.  Sometimes does with sensitive bladders also have a little accident or two with this sort of excitement.  In this case it is encouraged to not speak with a lot of emotion, or “talk up” the thing that sets your dog into this frenzy.  Keep calm to reduce your dogs reaction over time.  Dogs with strong drives tend to be most prone to this type of trembling. Anticipatory shaking is harmless and often goes away as dogs become more mature.


Just like us, dogs have the same “fight or flight” fear which brings on shaking for both we humans and our pups.  Many of us experience our dogs shaking when visiting the vet, during thunderstorms and fireworks, traveling or around strangers. The shaking can get so intense that a dog will make themselves sick.  We always put our K9 Comfort Spray Calm Tranquility on Skippy’s bandana before visiting the vet to offset his extreme anxiety.  The response is a huge reduction in his panting, pacing, and shaking.  

With fear shaking always make sure you are in control of your dog because each year thousands of dog’s bolt, run, hide to get away from their fears.  Never yell or scold or punish your dog.  Instead talk in calming, soothing tones.  If it is noise fear, put on soothing music to distract and draw your dog’s attention away from their fear.  Our Earmuffs Diffuser Oil did so well that we were asked to formulate a spray version for travel, and ease of use.  We do recognize that some dogs have extreme anxiety and sometimes talking to a vet or behaviorist is needed to help find alternative solutions.


Dogs may shake if they are in pain or suffering from a health condition.

Like us humans, dogs may also shake when they’re going to be sick, when they eat too much, or feel nauseous. Some major issues related to shaking can be but are certainly not limited to are:

Generalized Tremor Syndrome (GTS) – Also known as shaker syndrome, this is an autoimmune problem and can be seen in dogs at 9 months to 2 years of age. The causes are unknown, but symptoms may vary from incoordination in movements and rapid shaking.

Distemper – Quite common in younger dogs without full vaccination, distemper is caused due to a virus attacking body organs. Symptoms include, shaking, coughing, fever, nose and eye discharge, tiredness.

Poisoning – Poisoning from chocolate, moldy foods, caffeine, slug baits can have symptoms like shivering. When our Schnauzer, Boomer opened my suitcase and ate a dark chocolate bar, he immediately started shivering and we rushed him to the emergency clinic.  An overnight stay, and stomach emptying process saved his life, but had we not taken his shaking seriously, he would not have survived.

Pain – Body stiffness, avoiding food, licking a body part are some of the symptoms that indicate that your dog may be suffering from some pain. If the shaking continues at only a particular area, it could mean muscle weakness or even arthritis (especially in old age).

Epilepsy – We often think of dramatic, flailing grand mal type, but seizures can be much more subtle. Cerebellar degeneration or injuries to the cerebellum are also known to cause neurological symptoms such as shaking or tremors.

Ear problems – If your dog shakes its head constantly, this might be a reaction to an ear infection, injury, mites, or other illness. 

Other conditions could be kidney disease, Addison's disease, Canine Distemper, Unbalanced electrolytes, hypoglycemia to name a few.  When in doubt, ALWAYS communicate with your veterinarian.

Oftentimes we are told to ignore certain behaviors as this only encourages our dogs to repeat it.  When it comes to shaking, do not ignore, but rather explore what is causing this behavior as it can be as simple as wanting a treat, or a more serious medical condition.


For calming your dog in stressful situations or when left alone, consider using K9 Comfort Spray, which contains YOUR scent.  Your scent is scientifically proven to bring comfort and happiness to your dog.

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