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What is Scared and Shaking?

Dogs will have normal stress responses that are healthy. These can include startling briefly when a loud noise occurs or being weary when approached by a stranger. Normal stress responses that last only a short time are nothing for dog owners to be concerned about. When your dog exhibits signs of maladaptive stress responses this is when you should be concerned. Maladaptive stress responses are chronic and/or long-term anxiety or phobias to some form of stress such as loud noises or strangers. Maladaptive stress responses can cause physical illness and emotional distress for your dog.

If the onset of acting scared and shaking comes on quickly and your dog has never acted in this manner, you should do a thorough check of your dog to determine if something has simply scared them or if there is an underlying problem that needs to be addressed by your veterinarian. Some things that can cause your dog to act scared and shake include:

  • Anxiety
  • Toxic poisoning
  • Pain
  • Joint or muscle problems
  • Neurological conditions 
  • Viruses

Why Scared and Shaking Occurs in Dogs

There are so many reasons your dog could be acting scared and shaking. If this is normal behavior for your dog, you may want to consult a canine behaviorist or a professional dog trainer to learn how to boost your dog’s confidence and teach them how to deal with their anxiety and stress. 

Anxiety

If this is something that just started, you will need to do an assessment of your dog and their environment to determine if the cause is medical or if it is environmental. Strong storms, loud noises or strangers in the home can be environmental factors that can cause your dog to be anxious for a time. Do not feed into your dog’s anxiety, but do reassure them that all is well.

Toxic Poisoning

Dogs that are suffering from toxic poisoning may exhibit signs of being scared and shaking. Dogs cannot reason as to why they feel bad and therefore may seem scared when they are ill from a toxin to which they have been exposed. Common toxins that dogs get into include xylitol, chocolate and nicotine. 

Pain

Pain can also cause your dog to act scared and shake. Pain in their back, neck or abdomen can be especially scary for them as can pain that limits their mobility. Joint and muscle pain, such as degenerative joint disease or arthritis can cause your dog to shake and act as though they are fearful. Some dogs will lash out when they are in pain because they fear that they will be hurt more by those trying to help them. 

Neurological Conditions

Neurological conditions such as seizures, viruses or distemper can cause your dog to act scared and shake. Neurological conditions cause involuntary shaking and seizing which can be very scary for your dog and cause them to show fear and to shake uncontrollably. 

If you suspect your dog is suffering from a medical condition that is causing them to act scared and shake, you need to contact your veterinarian for an appointment.

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What to do if your Dog is Scared and Shaking

You will need to decide if a trip to your veterinary clinic is needed. If you suspect that your dog is suffering from some medical condition, call your veterinarian and ask if they feel your dog should be seen immediately or if you should monitor the situation for a bit before bringing them into the clinic. 

Should your dog need medical attention, your veterinarian will do a full assessment to determine the cause. Correctly diagnosing the cause will be paramount in determining the appropriate treatment plan for your dog. Your veterinarian will want to conduct several different tests to rule out possible causes and to confirm their initial diagnosis. 

Medications and other therapies may be prescribed depending on the diagnosis. Always follow dosing instructions for any medications prescribed for your dog. Watch your dog closely for any side effects to the medications and report to your veterinarian if your dog suffers significant problems with their medications. Dogs suffering from arthritis or neurological disorders may require long-term treatment plans to manage their pain and other symptoms. 

Dogs that are suffering from anxiety or maladaptive stress responses may also be given natural or prescription remedies to help them overcome their anxiety. Dog behaviorists may be able to give you training tips and other guidelines to help your dog become less anxious and more able to handle the stresses that they are exposed to.

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Prevention of Scared and Shaking

It can be stressful to dog owners to see their dog acting scared and shaking. Determining the cause of the behavior can sometimes be frustrating and futile without seeking the advice of your veterinarian. If the behavior comes on suddenly, you should stop and assess the situation starting with the environment. Ask yourself if anything has changed in the home to cause your dog to become fearful.

If there is no apparent environmental cause for your dog to become scared and shake, then you should do a hands-on assessment of your dog, watching for any signs that your dog is in pain or ill. Be sure to seek veterinary care for your dog if you suspect that the cause of their acting scared and shaking is medical related.

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Cost of Scared and Shaking

Dog behaviorists and professional dog trainers can be employed to help your dog deal with their anxiety. Generally, a behaviorist or trainer will cost $50-$75 per session. Medical conditions such as pain management for arthritis can cost around $1600. Neurological disorders can generally be treated for $3000.

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Scared and Shaking Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Pyrenees Pit

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Two Years

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Unknown severity

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2 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Shaking, Whining, Acting Scared

We have suspected for about a week now that she was pregnant, and so have attributed subtle behaviour changes (less energy, increased apoetite) to that. Yesterday while juzt sitting down, she just stared at my wife and whined, which is out of character. Just an hour ago, my daughter said the dog was sitting in her normal spot but whined when getting up to move to my daughters bed. She whined again getting up into the bed, then was shaking uncontrollably once in the bed. Now is hiding under the bed and wont come out, even for her favorite treat.

Sept. 12, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. From your description, I do think it would probably be best to have her seen by your veterinarian. Those are fairly subtle signs, and it is difficult without being able to examine her to see what might be going on are causing those problems. If she is pregnant, it is very early in her pregnancy to be showing signs like that, and she may be painful, or she may have an infection of some kind. Having her seen by a veterinarian will allow them to examine her, see what might be causing this, and let you know what treatment she might need. I hope that she feels better soon.

Sept. 12, 2020

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Yorkshire Terrier

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Seven Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Shaking

Dog has been shaking, breathing heavily, has her paw up, and tail tucked, and won’t walk. She went to a stranger’s house and was left alone yesterday and started acting this was as soon as she was dropped off at their home. She’s back home now and is still acting this way.

Aug. 1, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. I'm sorry that she is not feeling well. It does sound like she has pain of some kind, It is hard to say what may have happened while she was alone, but she does seem like she doesn't feel well. It would be a good idea to have her seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine her, see what might be going on, and get treatment for her so that she is more comfortable. I hope that all goes well for her!

Aug. 1, 2020

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Pit Bull

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Four Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Shaking, Tachypnea, Panting, Decrease Appetite, Scared

You Hello, I have been to the emergency vet twice and they have found nothing wrong. But my dog is acting very strange in my house. We visited my moms house for a week. And when we came back to our house, she was acting normal then she started panting, shaking, and just acting scared of everything. Won’t go out back to pee/poop. Will only go pee on a walk. And now hasn’t eaten at all today, had some water.

July 20, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question, I'm sorry that your dog is having these problems. If your veterinarian has not found anything wrong, that may be a positive thing. It does sound like your dog is scared of something, however. she may benefit from some anti-anxiety medications at least in the short-term, and that is something that you can talk to your veterinarian about. I hope that your dog is feeling better soon.

July 20, 2020

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Chihuahua

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Nine Years

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Shaking, Yelping,

My dog has always had anxiety, which causes her to shake however for the last two weeks she isn't jumping on beds or couches, she is having a hard time going up and down stairs, to the point now she doesn't even tempt it she just stands there. When she does she yelps really loud and on going for a few minutes and has her left rear leg lifted, and begins shaking, any other time she does walk fine so I am not sure what is going on. She will also shake randomly troughout the day.

July 15, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. It is hard to say without examining her, but that does not sound like anxiety to m. That sounds like back or neck pain. Since most over-the-counter pain medications are quite toxic to dogs, the best thing to do for her would be to make an appointment with her veterinarian in the near future, and have her examined. They will be able to see where the source of pain or problem is, and get her appropriate medication so that she feels better. I hope that all goes well for her.

July 15, 2020

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Cavapoo

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Three Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Shaking

At least once every 1-2 months, my pup will shake like he is cold. He will hide beside a chair or face a wall. The last time it happened, he went into my clothes closet and hid under the clothes. There is nothing out of my he ordinary that precipitates this behavior. Tonight we were just sitting on the couch when it started. He seems to be “out of it” while it’s happening and it usually lasts about an hour. Could this be a type of seizure?

July 14, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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Hello, yes, this can be a type of seizure. It would be best for your dog to see a vet. They can start your dog on seizure medication and see if these signs do go away. I hope your dog starts to feel better soon.

July 14, 2020

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Harely

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Shih Tzu

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5 Years

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Fair severity

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Shaking And Crying (Whining)

my dog gets scared everytime my phone notifications go off. i have no idea why. he doesnt usually get scared from loud noises like thunder. he starts shaking and it reminds me of an anxiety attack. it worried me all the time. he is a 5 year old shih tzu. everytime this happens i usually dont have trouble calming him down. i hold him to my chest and cover him with a blanket. i pet him and tell him everything is okay and that his momma is here. this most recent time it took almost an hour to calm him down. im very worried about why the sound of just an iphone 'ding' scares him so much.

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Doogle

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Goldendoodle

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5 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Shaking

Dog scared from the avalanche bombs going off in the valley.They went off while we were walking in town and he got scared. Now our dog refuses to walk in that direction. We tried walking around and back into town a different way but he soon realized where were and started to shake all over and he dragged us home. At a loss as what to do?

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Chester

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Boxer

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3 Years

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Shaking

My dog got sprayed by a skunk this morning I bathed him came home at lunch and he was fine ‘ came home from work and he had his tail between us legs. He was shaking uncontrollably for along time ! And didn’t want anyone to go near him he would just lay down! And this is not normal for him he is a boxer. Anyway I was feeling his tail and he yelped. He doesn’t want anyone to touch his tail something is wrong! Was just wondering what I could do or if you possibly know anything that could be wrong I do not have enough money right now to take him to the vet!

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Gia

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American Cocker Spaniel

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4 Years

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Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Shaking
Lethargy
Scared

Tonight my parents got home from a long trip (1 month) and when they returned my dog began acting scared and i noticed she was shaking. Before they got back during the day she was fine and was behaving normally. An incident that happened that has never happened before was the my sister tried to pick her up and she started crying. We examined to make sure she wasn't hurt and we found nothing. She is usually very energetic and happy. We tried to comfort her by holding her and she was very tired and lethargic (this usually doesn't happen). I got up from about 20 minutes of holding her and she immediately went into a corner and laid down ( very unusual behavior). Later one she was laying down and I called her upstairs she got up very slowly also as she was making her way up the stairs she was going very slow so slow she tripped. This behavior is unlike her normal behavior and is concerning. How could her mood change so fast ( around 15/20 minutes)? Could it be a form of anxiety?

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Brownie

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Mixed

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3 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Shaking
Seperation Anxiety
Shivering
Anxiety

My dog recently has been jumping at any noise he hears and he never used to do this before. I am worried this is due to being shifted back and forth between my apartment and my parents house as i don't like to leave him home alone as he has never been home alone before he has always been with another dog. Brownie is 3 years old on Prozac at 1.5 pills a day and he has terrible separation anxiety and my parents mentioned to me that while with them he is not acting his playful and happy self. however when at my apartment my boyfriend and i find that he is super playful and happy and sleeps well and just wants to snuggle. could this behavior he has at my parents house have to do with his separation anxiety? Or is this something i should worry about?

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