A good shake is as natural to a dog as chewing your slippers. It’s how they work out energy, dry themselves off, and get moving after a nap. Not all shakes are happy, though. Here are some of the reasons why your dog might be shaking and what to do if you suspect a medical condition.
1. Healthy, happy dog shakes
If you have a dog, you’re familiar with the wet dog shake. That wild body twitching, jowl flapping, post-bath dance is actually a healthy reflex for furry animals, allowing them to quickly dry themselves and prevent hypothermia. Another healthy behavior is the excited shake. When dogs are playing with you or other dogs they might occasionally shudder while jumping, licking, or nuzzling. It’s how they show emotion. While happy shaking isn’t necessarily a problem, some dogs do get overly hyper. In those instances, you might want to consider behavioral training methods that teach dogs how to reign in their excitement.
2. Stress-induced trembling
Far from your pet’s silly shaking is the near heartbreaking trembling of a dog that’s experiencing severe anxiety. Unfamiliar people or animals, thunderstorms, a visit to the vet, or missing you are just some of the common triggers that can spark anxiety. Unlike the happy shakes, this automatic response to stress may be accompanied by panting, chewing on furniture, and “bad” behaviors. Your dog may hide, growl, or display signs of aggression as well. Some breeds are more prone to anxiety, but disposition and circumstances also play a large part in a dog’s reaction to stress. If chronic anxiety is a problem, certain training methods might help dogs overcome their fears or acclimate to situations. Your vet might also recommend medication.
3. White dog shaker syndrome
A serious illness might also cause your dog to shake or tremble. These movements are very different from the happy shakes and can usually be ruled out as anxiety-related since they’re not a reaction to specific stressors. White dog shaker syndrome (also known as Generalized Tremor Syndrome and responsive tremor syndrome) is one of these disorders, causing full body tremors in young dogs. While first discovered in small breeds such as Maltese and West Highland White Terriers, it can occur in any dog, regardless of size or breed. Treated with corticosteroids, such as prednisone your pet should start to improve within a week.
This virus, marked by fever, coughing, and nasal discharge, can also cause seizures and tremors. Puppies that haven’t been fully vaccinated are at greatest risk. You should see your vet immediately if you notice symptoms or suspect your dog has been exposed to distemper. There’s no cure, but your vet can manage symptoms and help prevent secondary infections with intravenous fluids and antibiotics until your pet’s immune system fights off the virus.
In addition to vomiting and diarrhea, a dog that ingests chocolate, poisonous plants, or other harmful materials in high doses may suffer uncontrollable shaking. If you suspect poisoning, call your vet or contact the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center immediately at (888) 426-4435.
6. Kidney disease
Pets with chronic kidney disease or renal failure can be symptom-free for a very long time; then suddenly you might notice that your dog seems to drink and urinate more frequently. Other signs, including shaking, might follow as the damage progresses rapidly. While you can’t cure it, you can manage renal disease, which will allow you to offer your dog the best quality of life possible.
7. Addison’s disease
Dogs with Addison’s disease lack sufficient cortisol. Signs of Addison’s include loss of energy and strength, gastrointestinal problems, and little or no appetite. Trembling is another symptom. Addison’s is often misdiagnosed, which can lead to more severe problems. If your dog seems chronically ill and undernourished, talk to your doctor about all the possible causes to ensure that, if it is Addison’s, treatment can be given as soon as possible.
8. Advanced age
Unfortunately, aging dogs are at increased risk for disorders that cause trembling and cognitive deterioration. You can’t reverse the decline, but you can work with your vet to find therapies and treatments that will help reduce discomfort and support your pet during the senior years.
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This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.