Dogs do shake, shiver and tremble for numerous reasons. A distinction however has to be made between a dog shaking its body, shivering and trembling. Shaking can be instinctive, deliberate, or from joy or from excitement. Shivering and trembling in dogs could have more serious implications.
Why and when do dogs shake themselves?
Cynologists (cynology is the study of canines and domestic dogs) have come to the conclusion that dogs try to get rid of water is an instinctive habit from their wilder days, just like a dog going around in one place before lying down. Being wet in the wild could prove dangerous for a dog, particularly for dogs with longer hair. Weighed down by the weight of the water, the dog will not be able to move fast enough to either escape from other predators or to catch its own prey. Dogs in colder climates could freeze to death if they remain wet. By shaking itself the dog can shed up to 70 percent of the water from its body, and be in a position to react faster.
Dogs may also shake themselves to get rid of bugs, which they imagine might have crawled onto their bodies. This behavior is also believed to have been inherited from wild ancestors who used to sleep on jungle floors. They had to shake to get rid of the dust and the bugs, and that instinctive habit has survived in the domesticated dogs.
Dogs may also shake instinctively after excessive grooming and touching. Cleaning of years, pulling and tugging may prompt a dog to shake. Shaking itself is just a dog’s way of getting rid of what it feels is invasive touching.
Why do dogs shiver or tremble and what to do about it?
Dogs may shiver or tremble for several reasons; some of them not of much consequence, but others could need the attention of a veterinarian.
Dogs will shiver when they are cold, frightened, excited, or when they are asleep and dreaming. Puppies and physically weak dogs, when out in the cold, will start shivering faster than healthier canines. They may also start shivering when they are anxious or are frightened by fire crackers, thunderstorms, any sudden climatic changes, or from a long car ride. Excitement like spotting a cat, a squirrel or a rabbit to chase, could also induce dogs to shiver. If the dog is cold get the dog indoors or take it to a warmer room.
Frightened, anxious and excited dogs can be calmed by a person familiar to them, by talking softly to them in a confident voice. An injured dog, suffering from trauma, will also tremble because of the pain it suffers from. In the case the trembling could be localized to the injured portion of the body.
Dogs will also shiver or tremble when they are unwell or are infected by viruses. A dog is very likely to shiver or tremble when it has an upset stomach. Nausea can also lead to trembling. This condition can set in if the dog has eaten something toxic, like an insecticide or leaves that are poisonous to dogs, along with some other food. If the poisoning is severe, the dog will foam at the mouth or vomit, and in serious cases it will vomit blood or excrete bloody feces. In such cases consulting the veterinarian for a diagnosis and treatment is an absolute must.
Diseases, viral infections and autoimmune disorders can also lead to dogs shivering or trembling. Dogs with these afflictions will show fatigue and lethargy, and in some cases a loss of appetite, vomiting, pass bloody stools or foam at the mouth. Auto immune diseases and viral infections can afflict a dog suddenly and the causes are difficult to identify. If your dog is showing symptoms like vomiting, skin discoloration, exhaustion and loss of appetite the best recourse is the veterinarian.
Most organ problems will lead to vomiting, bad teeth, diarrhea, and blood in the stools, fatigue, lack of appetite and shivering or trembling. The trembling here is from the weakness. If you notice any two of these symptoms it is best that you consult a veterinarian.
And then there is the white dog shaker syndrome. The condition is so called because the syndrome was first noticed in breeds like the Highland White Terrier, and the Maltese, and both breeds are white and small. The disorder however is not limited to these breeds and can affect dogs across all breeds and colors. The dogs affected are usually small and young adults. They exhibit head tremors that can range from mild to severe, and the sickness calls for the immediate attention of a veterinarian.
Dogs can also tremble because of weakness from old age. The option here is to make sure that the dog eats and drinks water regularly, and to consult the veterinarian for treatment and some medication to boost the dog’s health.
Dogs can go into convulsions because of idiopathic epilepsy, liver disease, kidney failure, toxins and brain tumor or trauma. Epilepsy can be inherited by dogs from their parents. Most other afflictions are not hereditary. It is best to approach a veterinarian in case your dog shows fits of convulsions.
What is the best thing to do if your dog shakes shivers or trembles?
In short, if your dog is shaking, shivering or trembling, keep a close eye on it and try to recollect the events of the past few days that the dog has been through. But if the dog shows one or two other symptoms like fatigue, loss of appetite, vomiting, bloody stools or convulsions get the dog across to the veterinarian for and immediate diagnosis and treatment. Many of the infections can be avoided if a dog is treated regularly and vaccinated. Getting your pup to a veterinarian when it is about eight weeks old, for a thorough check-up, and following the veterinarians advice thereafter, will ensure that your dog is healthy.