Why Does My Dog Shake?

Post on
Why Does My Dog Shake?

Dogs have many ways to communicate to humans what they’re thinking or experiencing, but we’re not always able to interpret what they’re saying. Why does my dog shake? This is one of those potentially confusing behaviors all pet parents have seen their dogs do. From the joy of seeing you to a bad ingestion reaction, here’s how to decide if it’s a normal behavior or if treatment is necessary.

Shake, Shiver, and Shudder

Shaking, shivering, and shuddering are all relatively common in dogs, even if they’re not cold. Here are the most common reasons they do it.

Drying Off

This one is pretty easy to determine. Luckily for dogs, they have an efficient way to blow-dry their wet coat—simply shake it off! A wet dog can shake off about 70% of the water on its fur in under five seconds. This behavior helps protect your pet from hypothermia.


If your dog shakes a lot when playing with you, you can likely put his shaking down to how happy he is to see you. Shaking when they’re excited helps to lower a dog’s excess energy level and keeps them more contained, so it’s better to let them get it out of their system instead of urging them to immediately calm down.

Stress or Fear

Just like humans, dogs get stressed out or fearful, especially of unfamiliar people or places. Riding in a car, fireworks, loud crowds, and trips to the vet can all trigger stress or fear. Repeated negative experiences can also cause this reaction. Training usually works to stop a dog shivering in fear, but you can also talk to your vet about medication that can be given before a stressful situation.

Old Age

As dogs age they can develop leg tremors. Though some shaking is to be expected, it doesn’t mean it’s totally normal. For senior dogs, it could indicate pain in their joints. Along with adjusting his exercise routine, have your dog examined by the vet and talk about any treatments or therapies that might be available.

When is Shaking an Emergency?

If shaking or trembling is not something your dog normally does, it’s best to err on the side of caution when the behavior appears. Possible physical and/or medical causes include:

  • Weakness or atrophy of muscles.
  • Illnesses like distemper, kidney disease, nausea, inflammatory brain disease, and more.
  • Generalized terror syndrome, which usually occurs in younger dogs.

One of the most serious conditions that can cause a dog to tremble is poisoning from ingesting a toxic plant or dangerous product like antifreeze. Depending on how much gets into his system, it can cause neurological and gastrointestinal problems, respiratory and cardiac distress, coma, and even death. If you suspect your dog has eaten something poisonous, an emergency trip to the vet is in order. To avoid an accidental ingestion of a harmful substance, make sure to poison-proof your home! The Link Plus tracking device service plan provides unlimited access to the Pet Poison Hotline and is always there if the unthinkable happens.

As with most medical issues and unexplained behaviors, the sooner the cause is identified and treated, the greater the chance your dog will soon be back to his normal self.

Blog home

The Wanderer Newsletter

Sign up to receive news and updates