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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

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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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Georgian Shepherd, Lab, Wolf

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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

Fearful, Hiding

My 4 year old male has twice now had anxious/fearful behaviors that quite literally happened in a second. Both times it's happened the only common denominator is that it started in the computer room. When it happens he gets super timid, getting low to the ground and in the end bolting for his kennel where he hides. If he can't get to his kennel he wraps himself around me as much as he can and is just terrified. He isn't aggressive. Outside of the few occasions this has occured he's his regular outgoing self that I've had since he was a puppy. Due to job losses from Covid he is late on his boosters

Jan. 21, 2021

Owner

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Dr. Linda S. MVB MRCVS

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0 Recommendations

I'm sorry to hear about this issue. As it has happened in one location we would have to assume there is something worrying him there. I would consider a sound or smell that is too subtle for humans to detect such as a plane or fireworks in the distance, mice under the floorboards, another animal outside etc. For now, try to keep him out of this room to see if the behaviour stops. Consider also some calming supplements and a pheromone plug in to see if this helps.

Jan. 21, 2021

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jack

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Five Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

My dog is acting really scared and his eyes is black and cloudy and he want let me touch him

Dec. 7, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question, I'm sorry that your dog is having problems. It is difficult to say without being able to see him, but it sounds like he may be blind or not able to see. It would be best to have him seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible, as they can examine him and his eyes, and see what treatment might be available for him so that he feels better again.

Dec. 7, 2020

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Min pin chihuahua

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Three Years

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Shaking, Acts Different As In Not Him Happy Self, Tired, Moves Back Legs Often As If Trying To Get Comfortable

Hello, my little dog has these episodes about once every 3 to 4 months, but it has happened twice this month. Could this be seizures of some kind? He acts as if he is sore or in pain. I don't think he has hurt anything recently. He doesn't want to be bothered, normally he is very social and active. He sleeps alot, drinks and eats very little. Thank you for any advice! Kristi

Oct. 3, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. From your description, it sounds like your dog may have some back pain or abdominal pain. Since he is not eating and drinking and seems quite uncomfortable, I think the best thing to do would be to have him seen by a veterinarian, as they can assess what might be going on with him in treatment so that he feels better. I hope that all goes well and he feels better soon.

Oct. 3, 2020

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Yorkshire Terrier

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One Year

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Shaking And Hiding Behind Objects Such As Bed Boxes Tv Consoles

Is there a reason why my yorkie is acting strange. Shes hiding behind our tv console and under our blanket on the bed.and shaking uncontrollably.

Sept. 28, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. From your description, it is possible that she is scared, or painful, or anxious. If the problem is persisting, it would be best to have her seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine her and see what might be going on. I hope that she is okay.

Oct. 8, 2020

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Saint Bernard

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Five Years

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Very Scared And Severing Off And On In Front Know

This came on suddenly. What causes this. She is a scaredy-cat anyway of loud nosies or anything she hasn't been around. Nothing new in house or outside. It's not bloat, her stomach is tacked

Sept. 24, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I apologize for the delay, this venue is not set up for urgent emails. I hope that your pet is okay. If they are still having problems, It would be best to have your pet seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine them, see what might be going on, and get any testing or treatment that might be needed.

Oct. 24, 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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0 found helpful

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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

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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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