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What is Trembling?

When your dog is trembling, you will observe his body making involuntary movements during his waking hours, not including when he is displaying his excitement to see you. Trembling may occur anywhere in your dog’s body for any number of reasons. These include:

  • Anxiety
  • Pain
  • Problems with his muscles or joints
  • Poisoning
  • Shaker syndrome (generalized tremor syndrome)
  • A virus 
  • A neurological condition
  • Kidney failure
  • Addison’s disease

Whether the trembling your dog is experiencing is serious will depend upon the reason why it is occurring. If it appears to be due to anxiety, where it only seems to occur after exposure to new people, animals or a particular situation, his trembling will not be a serious concern. On the other hand, trembling may be the result of a serious underlying condition, therefore it is important that your dog be examined by your veterinarian.

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Why Trembling Occurs in Dogs

The reason your dog is trembling will be dependent upon what is causing it to occur. For example:

Anxiety

If your dog is feeling nervous, his body will release epinephrine (also known as adrenaline). His body may also respond to the anxiety he is experiencing with an increase in his heart rate and blood pressure. 

Muscle and Joint Issues

Anytime muscles weaken, trembling can occur. Fortunately, muscle disease is not common in dogs. Arthritis, a degenerative joint disease, can also result in trembling in your dog’s limbs that are affected by the disease.

Poisoning

The toxic component of an item consumed that can lead to poisoning in dogs can result in your dog trembling. 

Shaker Syndrome

Shaker syndrome is also known as white shaker disease and it occurs mainly in little white dogs. The disease will cause muscle tremors throughout your dog’s body. This disease is seen more often in Bichon Frise, Maltese, West Highland White Terrier, Poodle and Samoyed. The cause of the condition has not been confirmed however it is typically linked to a mild inflammation of your dog’s central nervous system. While the cause is not clear, there appears to be a congenital component as it occurs more often in particular breeds. 

Virus

Neurological symptoms can occur in your dog as a result of certain viruses; for example, distemper and rabies. Following a regular vaccination schedule will protect your dog from these viruses.

Neurological Conditions

A variety of neurological conditions can lead to your dog trembling. Conditions which impact the central or peripheral nervous system of your dog include seizures, a brain tumor, encephalitis and stroke.

Kidney Failure

Low potassium levels in kidney failure and chronic kidney disease can cause muscle weakness and tremors.

Addison’s Disease

When the secretion of the corticosteroid from the adrenal gland of your dog decreases, it is called Addison’s disease. Without sufficient levels of hormones, the metabolism and electrolyte balance in your dog will be off, causing symptoms like weak muscles and trembling. The most common reason for failure of the adrenal glands is their being attacked by your dog’s own body. This is most often seen in middle aged females.

What to do if your Dog is Trembling

If the only times that you notice your dog trembling are connected to loud noises or situations that could be causing him to feel nervous, you will want to work towards helping him overcome his fears. Should your dog’s anxiety be severe, you may want to seek your veterinarian’s guidance and/or work with a trainer. 

If your dog is trembling outside of things that can be causing him anxiety, you will want to schedule an examination with your veterinarian.

Your veterinarian will conduct a full physical examination and depending on what he sees during the examination, recommend further evaluation. He will likely request a complete blood count (CBC) and urinalysis to see if there are any abnormalities. He may choose to conduct a CT scan and/or MRI to see if there is any unusual brain activity or an injury to his brain. Your doctor will try to gain an understanding as to whether there is a pattern to your dog’s trembling.

Once your veterinarian has an understanding as to what is causing your dog’s trembling, he will be able to recommend the best option for treatment. In the case of muscle or joint problems, he will likely prescribe pain medication and anti-inflammatories, along with changes in his lifestyle. Should your dog be diagnosed with Addison’s disease, hydration therapy will likely be given. Medications to help regulate your dog’s hormone levels will also be recommended.

Prevention of Trembling

There are things that you can do to prevent some of the conditions that can cause trembling in your dog. Taking your dog for an annual examination with your veterinarian is important so that your veterinarian can catch possible issues at early stages before the condition worsens.

While your dog is being examined, you can also have your veterinarian administer vaccinations that can offer protection from certain diseases. To prevent trembling as a result of anxiety, you can do your best to minimize any anxiety that your dog experiences. For example, if he reacts to loud noises, ensuring that he has an area where he will not hear a lot of such sounds will be helpful. Making sure that your dog gets plenty of exercise will help alleviate any anxiety he experiences as well as have a positive impact on his overall health.

Cost of Trembling

The cost of treatment for your dog’s trembling will depend upon why it is occurring. If your dog is trembling due to anxiety, the treatment cost will likely be minimal. On the other hand, if your dog is trembling as a result of a neurological condition, for example shaker syndrome or generalized tremor syndrome, treatment costs will be much more significant. The cost, on average, when taking into account all of the causes of trembling, is $2,500.