Why Is My Dog Shaking Or Shivering?

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Dog shaking water off (caption: Dog Shaking Explained)Ever wonder why your dog shakes all the time? For my dog, it seems to be right after I sweep the floor. It happens in slow motion. I put the broom away, my dog gets up, and she gives a long shake. I picture her saying, “You missed a spot, Mom,” as I watch each hair slowly fly off of her body and drop to my wooden floors that were spotless just a moment ago.

So why is she shaking? Does she know I just cleaned the floors? Is she purposely trying to negate my hard work? Of course not, but she could be shaking due to one of the reasons we cover below. You may also notice that your dog’s shaking is more like shivering or trembling – and there are different reasons for that too.

Article Overview

Why Do Dogs Shake Their Bodies?

Dogs shake for many reasons. If your dog is a fan of swimming, you may notice they shake when they get out of the water, and everyone might run to avoid getting wet. But dogs shake when they’re dry too. But why?

Your dog may shake after greeting people, while playing, or when getting up or readjusting to a different position. Each shake has a different reason.

To Dry Off

Dogs shake after a bath or a dip in the lake to help them dry off and maintain their warmth. A dog’s skin warms up their coat and helps evaporate the water, and shaking is an effective way for a dog to get dry.

To help your dog dry off sooner, use a towel to help soak up extra water on her coat.

To Relieve Stress & Tension

Your dog may shake after an interaction with another dog or during a break in play. You may even notice your dog shake after you give a hug. That’s because most dogs aren’t too keen on being hugged.

Hugs are a way for humans to show affection, and our dogs have learned to tolerate it, but it can make them feel a little uneasy.

Dogs also shake after being in an unfamiliar place or an undesirable location (like the vet’s office). This can include being around a person they don’t know.

Some dogs experience anxiety, and shaking can help relieve the tension they experience during these encounters. Other signs of stress in dogs include:

  • Whining
  • Barking
  • Yawning
  • Licking
  • Drooling
  • Dilated pupils
  • Pinned back ears
  • Tense posture

To Stay Clean

Shaking helps dogs keep their coat clean. Dogs may lick themselves to clean their coat, but not to the extent that cats do.

Shaking is a good way to remove dust and debris on the coat. Another good way to remove dust and debris from your dog’s coat is to brush and bathe them regularly.

They Have An Ear Issue

Your dog may have an ear infection, or your dog may just have gunky ears that need cleaning out. If your dog is shaking more often than normal and seems to be off-balance (a sign of an ear issue), schedule an appointment with your vet immediately.

They Have A Skin Condition

Your dog may be looking for relief from a skin condition. If your dog has mites, fleas or ticks, she may be extra itchy, and shaking can help relieve the itch momentarily.

If your dog is scratching excessively and shaking, there’s a chance your dog may have an allergy or skin condition. Call your vet and ask how you can help your dog.

To Reset

A shake can also be a way for your dog to “reset.” Does your dog shake after playing, going for a walk or waking up? If so, your dog’s shaking may be a way for them to say, “Ok, I’m finished with that, now what?”

Why Is My Dog Shivering?

For the sake of this article, we classify shaking as being different from shivering and trembling. Shivering or trembling is uncontrollable, whereas shaking is intentional by a dog. If your dog is shivering or trembling, it may be due to one of these reasons.

Your Dog May Be In Pain

If your dog has been injured, they may be experiencing some pain. This pain can produce high adrenaline and panting, which can cause your dog to shiver uncontrollably.

If you think your dog is in pain, you should go to the vet immediately.

Your Dog May Be Scared

Many dogs shiver during thunderstorms or 4th of July fireworks. In these instances, a thunder jacket may help calm your dog.

Another reason your dog may tremble is when they are fearful of someone. A dog who has been abused may tremble if something alarms them (raised voices, quick motions, specific objects, etc.).

This has happened to my dog, Sally, when I’ve got the fly swatter out to get rid of some (you guessed it) flies. We adopted Sally from a shelter when she was a couple of years old, and we don’t know her history, since she was found on the side of the road.

The moment I got the fly swatter out, she went into the other room and began trembling. It broke my heart. I can’t help but think she was abused with a fly swatter in the past but I guess I will never know for sure.

Now when I need to use the fly swatter, I try to do it when she’s outside, in another room or someone can distract her.

Your Dog May Be Excited, Anxious Or Nervous

This can happen when dogs are excited and trying to control themselves. For example, if you ask your dog to sit while holding a treat in your hand, they may shiver with excitement. Your dog is trying to control herself and remain seated so she can have the treat.

Sally trembles when she thinks we’re leaving the house without her. She curls up in a ball and begins to shiver. This is her separation anxiety showing. It breaks our hearts that she hates when we leave her, but we know it’s only for a short period and we’ll be back soon to give her lots of affection.

If you think your dog is suffering from anxiety, you might consider CBD oil after checking with your vet.

Your Dog May Be Cold

If it is cold outside and your dog is shivering, it’s a given that your dog is probably cold as well. Make sure you are properly bundling your dog up in the winter months with booties and coats and not leaving them out too long in low temperatures.

This has happened to Sally before. She went outside in the winter for a potty break with another dog, and they got distracted playing to the point where they were both standing still, shaking and lifting their paws off of the snow because they were so cold. My husband went outside and carried them back to the house to get warm.

Your Dog May Be Ill

Some dogs suffer from illnesses that cause tremors, including:

Why Do Dogs Shake In Their Sleep?

Your dog’s nighttime “shaking” may be better characterized as twitching. This most likely occurs during your dog’s REM (Rapid Eye Movement) stage of sleep. It is during this stage that your dog is getting its most restful sleep and dreaming.

Your dog may dream about chasing a rabbit, catching a frisbee or playing with a toy. These dreams may result in your dog twitching in her sleep, as shown in the video below.

Why Are My Dog’s Back Legs Shaking?

This may be a sign of muscle weakness. This can happen in senior dogs or dogs who have experienced a trauma or illness. If you notice your dog’s hind limbs trembling, schedule an appointment with your vet for a complete physical exam.

Talk To Your Vet

If you are concerned about the amount of shaking that your dog is doing, consider mentioning it at your dog’s next vet exam. If you think it’s concerning and could be health-related, schedule a check-up with your vet today. You can also try out this online vet service to get an answer from a vet immediately.

What do you think is the cause of your dog’s shaking?

About The Author:

Kimberly received her Bachelor of Arts in multimedia journalism from Simpson College. She has been writing about dogs since 2014, covering subjects such as dog insurance, training, health, accessories, and more. Her work has appeared in many notable brands, including The New York Times' Wirecutter, Reader's Digest, Forbes, People, Woman's World, and Huffington Post.

Kimberly's natural curiosity helps her research as she seeks the truth when learning about, comparing, and personally testing canine products and services. With every piece she writes, her goal is to help our readers find the best fit for their unique needs. Kimberly grew up in a family that loved Labrador Retrievers and remembers running and playing in the yard with them as a child.

In 2017, she and her husband adopted their Coonhound mix, Sally, from a local shelter. Kimberly’s research was put to good use since Sally faced some aggression issues with other dogs and needed some training to be an inside dog. She worked daily with Sally and sought help from professionals to help Sally become the happy pup she is today. One of Kimberly’s favorite pastimes is spoiling Sally with new toys, comfy beds, and yummy treats (she even makes homemade goodies for her). She tries to purchase the safest products for Sally and knows that each canine has their own specific likes and dislikes. Kimberly is passionate about dogs and knows the bond between humans and canines is like no other.

Disclaimer: The information provided through this website should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or a disease. It is not a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, you should consult your health care provider.

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April 6, 2020 8:49 pm

My dog is 16 years old. Lately he’s been shaking and extra loveing. What’s wrong?

Apiffany Gaither Billings
April 7, 2020 11:02 am
Reply to  Judy

Shaking can have many underlying issues. We always recommend seeing a vet when you think something is wrong with your pet. If you cannot take your dog to a vet, perhaps this online vet service can help.