Dog tremors often manifest as an uncontrollable shaking or shivering movement. Some dogs may whine or appear distressed while they’re experiencing tremors. In many cases, pet owners can resolve the cause of the tremors and reverse the behavior.
If there doesn’t seem to be a clear rhyme or reason for the tremors, or if they persist for an extended period, it’s time to get your dog to the vet as soon as possible.
What Causes Dogs Tremors?
If you notice your dog is exhibiting tremors, it’s important to consider the entirety of the situation. Observing these tremors in their relevant context can help you resolve the source of these tremors or comfort your dog until the tremors pass.
If tremors don’t resolve on their own or seem to worsen as you observe them, to determine whether they’re a sign that your dog needs the help of a vet.
Dogs may tremor when they’re scared, overwhelmed, or stressed out. Some dogs tremor when they’re overwhelmingly excited, like in anticipation of a treat or when they’re expecting a fun car ride. If your dog tremors when they hear the car keys and excitedly jump into the car the moment the door is opened, these tremors are likely harmless.
Dogs may also tremor when they hear or see other animals they feel they cannot adequately protect themselves against. Some dogs tremor when they’re suddenly surrounded by a lot of people, especially strangers. People change the comfort of their environment and introduce new sounds and smells, sometimes causing dogs to feel overwhelmed.
Some dogs will tremor in response to loud sounds like thunderstorms or fireworks. Although many owners would love to make these sounds stop to calm their dogs down, there’s not much to be done when it starts raining or when the neighbors are celebrating a holiday.
Tremors Caused by Pain or Discomfort
Many dogs will tremor when they’re very cold, just like people. If your dog just went outside in the cold or if there is no heat in a room during the winter months, tremors are a natural response to the temperature. Your dog simply needs to be kept warm.
If your dog was injured, tremors can be a physiological response to their discomfort. Dogs are excellent at hiding injuries and masking symptoms of discomfort, which can make it difficult for pet owners to determine if their animals are in pain.
If you know your dog is injured or suspect your dog could be injured, go to the vet immediately.
Illnesses That Cause Tremors
Canine distemper virus is a serious condition that may cause tremors, in addition to discharge from the eyes and nose and changes in behavior. Dogs should be fully vaccinated against distemper to avoid contracting the virus.
Distemper is most common in puppies and younger dogs who have been exposed to the virus before full vaccination. Canine distemper virus requires serious and immediate medical intervention to improve your dog’s chances of recovery. Without veterinary care, distemper can be fatal.
Generalized tremor syndrome (GTS), sometimes referred to as Shaker Syndrome, is a condition that affects dogs of all breeds and sizes. The cause of GTS is unknown, but it responds very well to steroid treatment. Dogs with GTS will radically improve shortly after beginning steroid medications like prednisone.
Many illnesses and diseases can cause tremors, including accidental ingestion of a food or chemical not safe for canine consumption. Never take risks with your dog’s health. Go to the nearest emergency vet immediately if it’s not immediately clear what may be causing your dog to shiver.
Kidney disease, liver disease, autoimmune disorders, and metabolic disorders may cause neurological symptoms like tremors. Your vet needs to rule out underlying conditions or appropriately manage them.
If there are no underlying conditions within other parts or systems of the body, it’s possible your dog may have a neurological condition other than generalized tremor syndrome. Focal seizures, or seizures involving a single part of the body, may appear to be localized tremors. Vets will make these evaluations on a case-by-case basis after a thorough examination of your dog.
What Is the Difference Between Tremors and Seizures?
Dogs having seizures typically lose their presence of mind during the seizure. They’ll come out of the seizure somewhat disoriented with no memory of what happened. Dogs who have tremors are aware of what’s happening and are actively affected by them.
Focal seizures may involve involuntary and repetitive head movements, almost like your dog is attempting to bite an invisible bug flying around their head. These movements may be mistaken for head tremors, but they’re far more serious. If you think your dog may be having focal seizures, see the vet immediately.
When To Talk to Your Vet About Tremors
If your dog was shivering because they were cold, scared of fireworks, or intimidated by a larger animal, there’s no reason to go to the vet. Meeting your dog’s immediate needs will typically cause the tremors to stop.
These are situations you can easily help to resolve in the moment and distressing situations that will inevitably pass, like the sounds of a holiday celebration in your neighborhood. If the tremors are persistent and have no apparent cause, the situation requires further scrutiny. Bring your dog to the vet.
If there is any chance that the behavior you’re witnessing is a seizure rather than a tremor, don’t take your chances. Seek emergency medical intervention.
Helping Your Dog Through Normal Tremors
Make sure your dog is kept at a comfortable temperature. If your dog is too cold, tremors are a discomfort response to the temperature. Don’t leave dogs outside in the winter. Consider getting a sweater or a windbreaker for your dog. Make sure the windbreaker stays dry. Briefly tossing it in the dryer after each walk in the snow will keep the windbreaker ready for your next walk.
Tremors relating to temporary environmental distress, such as thunder, require desensitization and special training. Your dog needs to understand that there’s no reason to be afraid of the storm, and this process can take some time. Some pet owners find that turning up the volume on the TV can help to mask the sounds of the storm, or distracting their dog with a puzzle toy takes their attention away from the storm sounds.
When your dog is experiencing temporary emotional distress, CBD can be a helpful tool. CBD works to ease physical and emotional tension in animals in addition to supporting regular brain and gastrointestinal health. The effects of CBD typically last from 8 to 12 hours.
If you’re interested in using CBD oil to soothe your dog, speak to your veterinarian. Most dogs are excellent candidates for CBD, but some dogs would benefit more from other types of intervention or specialized behavioral training. Ask your vet about CBD at your dog’s next appointment.