Why Do Dogs Tremble?

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Trembling is common with lots of dogs. Sometimes it can be an indication of a health problem but for many dogs it is perfectly normal. Dogs can tremble when they are excited or very happy, for example. Some dogs, especially shorthaired dogs in cold climates, will tremble if they get cold. Chihuahuas and Whippets, for example, are notorious for trembling. Their owners often provide them with sweaters and coats to help them stay warm when it’s cold.

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Dogs can also tremble if they are in pain. For instance, it is not unusual for a female dog to tremble when she is having puppies. Whelping puppies, like childbirth, involves a certain amount of discomfort when the dog is having contractions.

If your dog does not normally tremble when happy or excited, or nervous, and you observe that he is trembling, you should try to find out why your dog is trembling. Things like poison or an injury can cause a dog to tremble. Is your dog vomiting or having diarrhea? Is he limping or does he have signs of an injury? You should take him to the vet right away.

Nausea can cause a dog to tremble. If your dog has motion sickness or if he is sick from medication or from eating something bad, he may feel nauseated and could tremble. Liver or kidney disease can also make a dog feel nauseated and leave them trembling. Your dog may also salivate more than normal and smack his lips. He might appear listless, try to hide, vomit, and yawn. Your dog could also feel nauseated if he was poisoned. He needs to see a vet.

Age and pain can make a dog tremble. Many older dogs can have problems with arthritis. They can be unsteady or wobbly when they walk. Sold older dogs will tremble. Sometimes an older dog trembles due to pain so make sure your dog sees the vet. There are many ways to manage pain in older dogs. Your dog doesn’t have to be uncomfortable.

Chronic kidney failure can also make a dog tremble. Seizures, neurological problems, illnesses that affect the brain, and Addison’s disease can also lead to trembling. These issues are less common but you and your vet may want to consider them if your dog is trembling and having health problems.

Canine distemper usually occurs in puppies and young dogs. It can cause tremors, along with other symptoms such as fever and coughing, and eye and nasal discharge. Distemper is a serious illness. You should make sure your puppy or dog is vaccinated against it from a young age.

Dogs can also tremble due to Generalized Tremor Syndrome (GTS). This condition especially affects small white dogs such as the Maltese and the West Highland White Terrier, but it can affect any dog of any breed, color, or size. It usually affects dogs when they are between nine months and two years of age.

You can see there are lots of health reasons why a dog might tremble. Remember, however, that most dogs tremble because they are happy or excited or scared – it’s an emotional reaction. Or, in some cases because they are cold. You don’t usually have to worry about a dog trembling unless you notice some health problems accompanying the trembling.

Carlotta Cooper

Carlotta is a long-time contributing editor for the weekly dog show magazine Dog News. She's also the author of The Dog Adoption Bible, the Dog Writers Association of America Adoptashelter.com Award winner for 2013. In addition, she's written Canine Cuisine: 101 Natural Dog Food & Treat Recipes to Make Your Dog Healthy and Happy.

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