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What are Having Tremors?

Dog owners aren’t usually surprised to see their pets quivering with excitement when their furbabies react to seeing them after a long day. More energetic breeds shake happily when greeting their owners, visitors to the home, at meal time, or when anticipating playtime or a treat. Seizure-like movements or involuntary twitching can be unsettling to both dogs and their owners. Convulsions that include foaming at the mouth, muscle weakness, behavioral changes, loss of appetite, or vomiting and diarrhea could be serious and may be caused by:

  • Distemper
  • Generalized tremor syndrome (GTS)
  • Poisoning
  • Kidney disease
  • Addison’s disease

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Why Having Tremors Occurs in Dogs


Distemper is a highly contagious disease that is usually fatal if left untreated. Dogs initially show symptoms of nasal and eye discharge, lethargy, a lack of appetite, and vomiting during the first stage of distemper. Often, a telltale sign is hardening of the paw pads, giving distemper the nickname “hard pad disease.” Should the dog survive the first stage of distemper, secondary infections can cause a variety of respiratory and gastrointestinal issues. Left untreated, distemper will progress into the central nervous system. Convulsions become more common at this point and can be very disturbing for both dogs and their owners. If a dog survives a bout with distemper, he will often have permanent nervous system damage. See your vet at the first signs of distemper so that treatment can begin with minimal residual effects of the disease.

Generalized Tremor Syndrome (GTS)

Generalized tremor syndrome is also known as “white shaker dog” disease. These tremors may be “generally” all over the body or may be localized to one location. Because tremors are symptomatic of so many canine illnesses, many tests to eliminate other possible sicknesses may be ordered. The term “white shaker dog disease” came to be when small breed white dogs such as Maltese, West Highland White Terrier, and Poodle were prominently found to have generalized tremors who had no infection present nor any other real problems pointing to another disease. Vets must play a game of elimination and treatment in order to properly diagnose generalized tremor syndrome. While the abovementioned breeds were some of the first to be found with the syndrome, it is not confined to those breeds. Any breed may suffer from GTS. 


Dogs who have ingested toxins, especially organophosphates, hexachlorophene or bromethalin, may have generalized tremors as a result. Mycotoxins such as mold can also cause twitching in dogs. Some drug therapy is also found to cause tremors in dogs. Dogs who ingest poisons such as antifreeze may also suffer from seizures. 

Kidney Disease

Kidney disease is a progressive illness that worsens over time; it is a leading cause of death in dogs. If the disease is diagnosed in an early stage, prognosis is usually very good; dogs in Stage I and II often respond well to treatment. Dietary changes will be in order, and often a “renal” diet helps to arrest the development of the disease. Blood in the urine, excessive urination, and lethargy along with seizures will often present in dogs suffering from kidney disease. Samoyeds, Bull Terriers, German Shepherds, Cairn Terriers, and English Cocker Spaniels are prone to suffering from chronic kidney disease. 

Addison’s Disease

Addison’s disease can cause a dog to become weak and lethargic; he may collapse for no reason. Muscle weakness, pain in the hind quarters, and tremors are also symptoms of Addison’s disease. The ailment is caused by malfunction of the adrenal gland. That means a number of factors can cause the illness. Toxic drugs, steroids, infections or tumors all have the potential to cause Addison’s to occur. Affected dogs may vomit, drink water excessively, and begin to lose weight. At times, dogs with Addison’s have higher levels of calcium in their blood. Early signs are dehydration, a slow heart rate, weak pulse, abdominal pain, and hair loss. If you observe any of these symptoms, see your vet for tests immediately. Addison’s can be successfully treated when caught early.

What to do if your Dog is Having Tremors

If your dog suddenly begins having seizures or tremors, you should see your vet. He or she will want to do lab work to begin ruling out various illnesses. Kidney disease requires blood work and urinalysis for proper diagnosis; the earlier chronic kidney disease is discovered, the more likely your dog will have successful treatment. If Addison’s is suspected, your vet will do an EKG of the heart along with blood tests and an ACTH test, which measures adrenal gland function. Your dog may need fluid therapy if Addison’s is found to be the cause of his seizures. Often, dogs respond well to treatment for Addison’s. Distemper can be fatal, and should be caught during the first stage to ensure your dog’s survival. 

Prevention of Having Tremors

Regular vaccination will prevent distemper in your dog. GTS or white dog syndrome can’t always be prevented as sometimes congenital issues contribute to the tremors of generalized tremor syndrome. However, you can keep your dog away from natural toxins such as mold that may contribute to GTS. While Addison’s disease is a complex illness with a variety of causes, it is not a disease that can always be prevented; however, avoid injury to the abdomen and be cautious with steroid-type treatments for your dog. In order to prevent chronic kidney disease (or at least the severe damage that occurs once kidney disease symptoms actually begin to show), see your vet annually so that he can administer blood work which will show changes in kidney function.

Cost of Having Tremors

Treating tremors in your dog can be expensive, with averages ranging from $250 to $6,000. The national average for treating Addison’s disease is $350.