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If a dog trembles, they are not necessarily ill. Joy, exertion, tension or fear can also be possible causes of trembling in dogs. Some breeds do this naturally, for example. Age or insecurity can also be a trigger. In any case, you should observe your dog closely. In which situations does the trembling occur? Does it last for a long time or is it only temporary? In this article you can read about the harmless causes and when you should consult a vet. 

Young, inexperienced or traumatised dogs often tremble out of fear - of situations with negative connotations or unknown situations. 

If your dog is trembling, the first thing to do is to keep calm. Everyday physical conditions or emotions can also trigger trembling in dogs. There are many parallels to humans and other mammals. 

Does your hund tremble fairly frequently? This can be related to their breed! Some breeds have a natural tendency to tremble. A terrier, for example, has hunting in its blood and is constantly under power. By trembling, they compensate for this inner tension. A Yorkshire Terrier also shivers quite often, just like many other small dog breeds - they get cold more easily than larger breeds. In the case of Chihuahuas, this is due to their Mexican origin and petite build. Naked dogs or animals without an undercoat also get cold relatively quickly. 



Many dog breeds love to frolic, be active and exert themselves physically. Your four-legged friend may tremble all over after an intensive period of running. After all, their muscles will need to recover after the physical exertion. Muscle tremors in dogs are harmless after intense physical activity. In such cases, make sure that your dog does not become hypoglycaemic. 

After intense physical exertion, a dog's hind legs (or even their whole body) may tremble. 

Has your pet reached a ripe old age? If so, it's not surprising that they are a little unsteady on their feet from time to time, or twitch slightly. Older dogs may tremble now and then - just like older people. Such muscle movements can start spontaneously and are, in many cases, harmless. 

Older dogs often tremble without any specific cause - it is no different from senility in humans. 

If your dog trembles, it may also be due to emotional reasons. After all, humans also react physically to stress, excitement or fear. Triggers can include, for example, unfamiliar situations, other dogs or strange people. This could include particularly loud fireworks on New Year's Eve, or a larger dog behaving aggressively. If your furry friend trembles when you are driving or doesn't even want to get in the car, they may be afraid. Usually, however, you can get them used to driving step-by-step. 

Frightened dogs often display other signs:

  • flattened ears
  • growling noises
  • snarling
  • crouching
  • tail tucked between the legs 

Positive emotions can also trigger trembling in dogs. Pure joy is also usually accompanied by tail wagging, barking or prancing. 


Does your dog shake in their sleep? Many dogs do this. During the night, they process the experiences of the previous day. Sometimes this leads to very vivid dreams accompanied by muscle movements. It does not necessarily signal that your dog is having a nightmare, even if it seems so at first glance. It is usually a sign of deep relaxation and helps your dog to relieve stress. 

Many dogs shake and howl in their sleep because they are processing the things they have experienced previously. 

  • stress relief
  • cold
  • exertion
  • age
  • stress
  • fear
  • joy
  • dreaming
  • learned behaviour

All of these aspects are usually harmless and have no negative impact on your four-legged friend's health. In some cases you don't need to do anything about your dog's trembling - for example, if it is in the nature of their breed. 


Other causes can easily be combatted:

  • Shivering from the cold: if your four-legged friend is often cold, you can get dog clothes to be worn for winter walks. Regular grooming also helps: use a brush to remove the dead undercoat and allow new and warm fur to grow. This also helps to prevent colds. 
  • Learned trembling: sometimes, however, a change in behaviour on your part can help. This is the case if your dog has learned that trembling is associated with a reward. If you give your dog attention, treats, or strokes when they tremble, they will understandably do it again. 
  • Trembling due to fear: you can also promote or reduce fear-related trembling through your behaviour. By comforting or reassuring your dog, you can confirm their negative emotion. It may therefore make sense to remain calm. Your four-legged friend will learn this from you. 

Cold and learned behaviour, for example, can be counteracted. In other situations, you do not need to do anything. But make sure you observe your dog carefully: are they excited or anxious? Do they want a treat, or are they ill? 

If your dog trembles frequently, for a long time or unexpectedly, it may be due to health reasons. However, shaking and twitching is rarely the only sign of a specific dog disease. 

You should therefore look out for other symptoms, such as:

  • diarrhoea
  • vomiting
  • limping
  • yelping
  • apathy

Many dogs tremble because they are in pain. These can be caused by digestive problems, injuries, but also by more dangerous ailments. 

IllnessDescriptionOther symptoms alongside trembling
Kidney failurePoisoning, high fever or blood loss can lead to acute kidney failure. Chronic insufficiency develops insidiously. In most cases, clear symptoms only appear in the advanced stages of the disease. Restlessness, loss of appetite, low urine output, thirst, loss of appetite, weight loss, apathy.
Addison's diseaseThis is a deficiency of adrenal cortical hormones. It is more common in the females of larger breeds. Apathy, diarrhoea, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, thirst
White Dog Shaker SyndromeThis hereditary disease mainly affects dogs with white coats.Loss of orientation, rapid eye movements
Gastric torsionThe stomach turns around its longitudinal axis. This causes the dog to tremble due to severe pain. This condition tends to occur more often in large breeds. Strangulation, flatulence, restlessness, circulatory problems.
Canine distemperThis viral disease damages the brain. Vaccination against it is usually part of the standard programme. Seizures, nasal discharge, shortness of breath, coughing, paralysis, horny paws or nose.
EpilepsyThe nerve cells in the brain become very excited. Seizures


Along with muscle tremors, vomiting, increased salivation, abdominal pain and fever are signs of poisoning. How can you prevent this? Be vigilant when walking your dog and don't let your pet eat anything from the roadside. Special anti-poison bait training is also useful. If your dog does ingest poison, you should act quickly. Take your pet to the vet immediately and try to remain calm to prevent upsetting them further. Ideally, you should take the poison or bait with you so that the vet can assess the situation properly. 

Even if your dog is trembling all over, they will still usually respond to you. They will be able to control their body and maintain eye contact with you. This is not possible with convulsions, such as an epileptic seizure. 

If you cannot attribute the trembling in your dog to a harmless cause, you should consult a veterinarian. This applies, for example, if your dog trembles in unusual situations. Also, if the behaviour persists over a long period of time, it is best to have the reason clarified in a practice or clinic. You can also prevent many illnesses with a healthy diet. Therefore, always give your furry friend species-appropriate and balanced dog food of high quality.