Seeing your beloved dog shaking and acting out of character can be worrying. As a dog owner, you know your pup’s usual behavior and mannerisms. So when your dog starts exhibiting concerning symptoms like trembling and weird behavior, it’s natural to wonder what’s going on.
There can be various reasons for a dog shaking and acting strangely. It often indicates anxiety, nervousness, fear, or illness. While some causes may be mild, others can require prompt veterinary attention. Getting to the root of the issue is key to relieving your dog’s distress and restoring their health and wellbeing.
In this article, we’ll explore the common causes, symptoms, and treatments for a shaking and weird-behaving dog. Recognizing signs of a potential problem is crucial for pet owners. Let’s dive in to better understand what could be causing your pup’s peculiar shakes and behavior.
Common Causes of Shaking and Weird Behavior in Dogs
There are a number of possible explanations for canine tremors and odd conduct. Here are some of the most common culprits:
1. Stress and Anxiety
Feeling stressed or anxious can make dogs tremble and act strangely. New environments, loud noises, travel, or changes in routine can trigger stress and anxiety. Your dog may pant, pace, whine, seek comfort, or act timid or restless. Trembling and weird behaviors are signals your pup is unsettled.
2. Phobias and Fears
Dogs can develop irrational phobias or fears of things like thunderstorms, fireworks, or car travel. These phobias can induce shaking, hiding, barking, or destructive behaviors. Dogs may frantically try to escape the feared situation.
3. Pain or Injury
Pain or injuries from trauma, surgery, or conditions like arthritis can cause dogs to shake or act protectively toward certain body parts. They may become more subdued, irritable, or vocal. You may see limping, restlessness, or changes in appetite and sleep.
4. Toxins or Poisons
Ingesting toxic substances like antifreeze, pesticides, medications, or poisonous plants can make dogs tremble and behave strangely. Symptoms depend on the toxin but may include drooling, vomiting, diarrhea and dilated pupils.
5. Metabolic Disorders
Problems with the endocrine system, like diabetes or an overactive thyroid gland, can prompt shaking and odd behaviors. Excess panting, appetite changes, weight gain or loss, and excessive thirst and urination may also be seen.
6. Digestive Upset
Stomach issues like gastroenteritis or inflammatory bowel disease can induce shakiness and behavioral changes in dogs. Signs may include vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, abdominal pain and bloating.
7. Brain Disorders
Neurological conditions like encephalitis, seizure disorders, and brain tumors sometimes cause tremors, circling, pacing, head tilting, confusion, seizures, or unusual vocalizations. Episodes may come and go.
8. Blood Sugar Abnormalities
Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) and, less frequently, high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) can lead to shakiness and odd behaviors like weakness, confusion, vomiting, lethargy, and collapse. Brain function depends heavily on appropriate blood sugar levels.
9. Nutrient Deficiencies
Deficiencies in nutrients like calcium, potassium, or sodium may prompt muscle tremors and abnormal behaviors involving coordination, mood, and responses to stimuli. Usually, other symptoms are also present.
10. Liver Disease
Liver problems can cause a buildup of toxins in the blood. This may induce tremors (especially in the head and limbs), abnormal behaviors, vomiting, diarrhea, and jaundice. Seizures are also possible.
11. Kidney Disease
Kidney disorders allow toxins to accumulate in the bloodstream, leading to potential tremors, seizures, confusion, loss of appetite, increased thirst and lethargy. Vomiting, diarrhea, and bad breath may also occur.
12. Heart Problems
Some types of heart disease or arrhythmias can limit blood supply to the brain and lead to fainting, collapse episodes, weakness, confusion and possibly tremors in dogs. Labored breathing may also be seen.
Certain medications, like insulin, anti-seizure drugs, steroids, and pain relievers, can potentially trigger tremors and odd behaviors as side effects. Reactions vary between dogs.
Low body temperature (hypothermia) from being outside in the cold can induce shivering and unusual behaviors like lethargy, weakness and clumsiness. Frostbite or pale gums may also be seen.
A high fever can also prompt shivering, strange behaviors, body stiffness, lack of coordination, seizures and collapse. Fevers are the body’s response to infection or inflammation.
Senior dogs with canine cognitive dysfunction may exhibit tremors, anxiety, aimless wandering or pacing, inappropriate elimination and other behavioral changes. Confusion and sensory decline occur.
17. Neurological Problems
Nervous system disorders, such as epilepsy seizures, distemper, and neuritis, can produce tremors, shaking, unusual vocalizations, biting or snapping, and abnormal behaviors like restless pacing.
As you can see, tremors and weird behavior can arise from diverse medical and psychological causes. While every dog and situation is unique, your vet can help determine the underlying trigger and guide appropriate treatment.
Recognizing Signs Your Dog is Shaking and Behaving Unusually
How do you know if your dog’s shakes and odd behaviors warrant attention? Look for these common red flags:
- Trembling or muscle spasms – This can range from slight twitching to pronounced shaking of the limbs, head or entire body. Tremors may be intermittent or persistent.
- Panting without exercise or warmth – Heavy panting for no clear reason could signal anxiety, pain or illness in dogs.
- Restlessness, pacing, or hiding – A typically active dog may act lethargic, while a normally calm dog could seem agitated. Hiding also shows distress.
- Uncharacteristic aggression – Irritability, snapping, or biting without provocation may indicate pain, neurological issues, or fear.
- Loss of housetraining – Previously house-trained dogs may have indoor urination or bowel movements if sick, stressed or cognitively impaired.
- Weird vocalizations – Whimpering, barking, or howling randomly could stem from anxiety, senility, or neurological problems.
- Lack of appetite – An abrupt disinterest in food may signal nausea, mouth pain, or metabolic abnormalities.
- Excessive thirst/urination – Increased drinking and urination can indicate diabetes, kidney issues or other illnesses.
- Disorientation – Bumping into walls, getting stuck in corners or staring into space may indicate neurological, visual or cognitive dysfunction.
- Self-isolation – Withdrawing from human family members could stem from stress, anxiety, depression, pain or sickness in dogs.
Any pronounced changes in your dog’s regular behaviors or normal functioning warrant a discussion with your veterinarian. Prompt vet attention is advised for tremors, seizures, vomiting, diarrhea or collapse. Let’s go over some smart next steps.
What To Do If Your Dog is Shaking and Acting Weird
While some shaking or odd behavior may resolve on its own, other reasons demand swift action. Here are some tips if your dog is trembling or behaving abnormally:
- Stay calm – Getting anxious may further aggravate your dog’s stress. Use a soothing tone and comfortable handling to minimize their fear.
- Check temperature – Take your dog’s rectal temperature at home if possible. Temperatures over 104 F or under 99 F are concerning.
- Limit stimulation – Lower noise levels, dim lights, and restrict interactions with other pets or people to avoid overstimulation.
- Call your vet – Describe all symptoms in detail. Your vet will advise if an urgent visit is needed or if you can safely monitor at home.
- Keep a diary – Note when shaking and unusual behaviors occur, plus any potential triggers, to aid your vet’s diagnosis.
- Video episodes – Filming your dog’s tremors or weird activity is tremendously helpful for identifying causes.
- Learn canine first aid – Know how to safely restrain a seizure, manage to choke, treat wounds or administer pet CPR if needed.
- Skip punishment – Never discipline your dog for odd behaviors stemming from medical conditions or psychological issues. This will only increase their distress.
- Read drug labels – If your dog takes medication, look out for potential side effects like tremors or abnormal behaviors. Report concerns.
- Ensure safety – Use baby gates, crate rest and pet-proofing to prevent injury if your dog seems confused, weak or unsteady.
- Offer comfort – Extra snuggles, a favorite toy, or calming essential oils can soothe your pup. But avoid excessive coddling.
Stay observant between vet visits for any improvement or worsening of symptoms. Follow all home treatment and medication instructions carefully. Track any questions or concerns to discuss with your veterinarian.
Diagnosing Why Your Dog is Shaking and Behaving Strangely
To pinpoint the reason behind your dog’s trembling and unusual behaviors, your vet will gather important diagnostic clues:
- Medical history – Previous health issues, medications, supplements, vaccinations, and any recent changes to your dog’s routine or environment.
- Symptom timeline – How long tremors and odd behaviors have been present, and any patterns of recurrence?
- Physical exam – Measurement of temperature, pulse, respiration, blood pressure and body weight. Palpation for pain, masses, or areas of swelling. Neurological assessment.
- Lab tests – Analysis of blood, urine, feces, or fluid samples for signs of infection, anemia, diabetes, toxins, organ issues, and electrolyte abnormalities.
- Diagnostic imaging – X-rays, ultrasound, MRI, or CT scans to evaluate organs, bones, tissues, and body structures. Useful for injuries, masses, and organ disorders.
- Endoscopy – A camera is inserted into the body to visualize the esophagus, stomach, intestines, and other areas if gastrointestinal issues are suspected.
- Biopsy – Microscopic examination of tissue samples taken from organs or abnormal growths. It can identify cancers, infections, and other conditions.
- Behavior evaluation – Assessment of your dog’s typical personality, daily activities, and interactions to help interpret behavioral changes.
- Diet history – Types of food, treats, table scraps, supplements, chewing items, and access to garbage or compost that could indicate toxin ingestion.
Your vet will assemble the findings into the most logical diagnosis. Treatment can then be tailored to your dog’s situation. Certain specialists like neurologists, ophthalmologists, or surgeons may offer consultation for complex cases.
Treating a Dog with Shaking and Strange Behaviors
The appropriate treatment plan for your dog’s tremors and unusual behaviors depends on the underlying cause. Your vet will likely recommend the following:
- Medications – Antibiotics for infections, steroids or NSAIDs for inflammation, anticonvulsants for seizures or neurological problems, insulin for diabetes and more.
- Fluid/electrolyte therapy – Intravenous or subcutaneous fluids with added electrolytes to restore hydration and blood chemistry balance.
- Injectable vitamins – Injectable therapy is sometimes needed if a dog can’t absorb nutrients properly through the digestive tract.
- Diet change – Prescription dog food or adding/restricting certain ingredients to address deficiencies, blood sugar abnormalities, liver disease, kidney disease, gastrointestinal issues and weight issues.
- Surgery – Operations to remove tumors or masses, repair injuries, eliminate obstructions or ulcers in the digestive tract, correct structural problems or implant medication delivery devices.
- Physical therapy – Exercises, massage, cold/heat therapy, underwater treadmill, and other modalities to improve mobility, strength, coordination, and muscle function. Especially helpful for injuries and arthritis.
- Behavioral modification – Techniques like desensitization and counterconditioning to overcome fears and phobias. More structured routines for cognitive dysfunction.
- Alternative medicine – Options like acupuncture, chiropractic, supplements, CBD oil, homeopathic remedies and nutraceuticals. Evidence for efficacy varies.
- At-home nursing – Guidance for safe handling, wound care, medication administration, feeding, bathroom assistance and monitoring during recovery periods.
Follow-up vet visits are key to assessing treatment effectiveness and adjusting therapies as needed. Be vigilant about following your vet’s instructions for medication doses, activity restrictions and monitoring. Report any recurrent or worsening symptoms immediately.
Providing At-Home Care for a Shaky and Weird-Acting Dog
Caring for your dog after a trembling or odd behavioral episode involves:
- Keeping them rested, comfortable, and stress-free. Avoid over-stimulation and limit handling or contact with other pets during recovery periods.
- Ensuring access to fresh water, tempting foods, and dog-safe, washable bedding. Make food and water bowls easily reachable if mobility is impaired.
- Administering all medications carefully as prescribed. Never adjust dosages or skip/stop medications without your vet’s approval.
- Gently clean soiled fur after vomiting, incontinence, or other episodes. Monitor appetite and bowel habits.
- Using slings or mobility assist harnesses/carts for unsteady dogs needing help standing or navigating steps. Prevent falls and injuries.
- Keeping emergency contact numbers handy (vet, poison control center, emergency clinic, etc.). Monitor closely for seizure activity, collapse, or choking.
- Speaking encouragingly, providing tactile comfort, and using calming scents (lavender, chamomile). But avoid constant reassurance that maintains anxiety.
- Urinating, defecating, and eating on schedule. Make a note of any changes in urine, stool, or food/water intake.
- Reporting any adverse medication reactions like loss of appetite, lethargy, diarrhea, or skin irritation that could require a drug switch.
Caring, observant pet parents play a pivotal role in helping dogs recover from episodes of shakes and weird behaviors! Monitor changes and work closely with your vet for the best results.
See also: Why Does My Dog Peck Other Dogs?
Answering Common Questions about Dogs Shaking and Behaving Strangely
Pet owners understandably have lots of questions when their dog trembles and acts out of the ordinary. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:
1: Why has my senior dog started shaking and getting confused?
A: Cognitive dysfunction syndrome, similar to Alzheimer’s in humans, can cause these signs in aging dogs. Veterinary guidance for management is important. Medication, dietary changes, structured routines, and brain work can help minimize the symptoms.
2: My dog shakes after grooming or bathing. What gives?
A: Shivering in wet dogs is normal as the coat takes time to completely dry and warm up. But excessive shaking or odd behavior warrants a veterinary visit to check for skin problems, ear infections or stress/anxiety related to grooming procedures.
3: Are muscle tremors serious? My dog’s back leg quivers sometimes.
A: Mild tremors from overexertion, stress, or excitement generally don’t require major concern. But persistent, worsening tremors or those involving multiple limbs, the head/neck, or the whole body need prompt veterinary attention to identify underlying medical causes.
4: Could my dog’s diet cause weird behaviors?
A: Yes, poor nutrition can potentially contribute to odd behaviors. Deficiencies, low protein intake, excess carbs/sugars, food allergies, gastrointestinal issues, and other diet factors can influence behavior, energy levels, and neurological health. A veterinary nutritionist can advise an optimal diet.
5: Why does my dog only shake and act strange in the car?
A: Motion sickness, travel anxiety, or fear during car rides can prompt these signs. Medication, calming aids like dog-appeasing pheromone sprays, and desensitization training can help dogs overcome travel stress and phobias over time.
6: Are tremors in dogs fatal?
A: Tremors themselves are not typically life-threatening. Often the underlying condition causing tremors is the most serious, like toxin exposure, severe infections, cancer, or untreated metabolic diseases. Prompt veterinary treatment is key to managing any worrisome tremors.
The Takeaway: Stay Vigilant About Your Dog’s Shaking and Odd Behaviors
Is Fluffy acting strangely? Did Fido get the shakes? When your dog trembles, act erratically or exhibits behavior changes, it’s easy to worry. But try to stay calm and observant. Note all the details to share with your vet. While some causes are mild, others require rapid medical intervention. So don’t hesitate to call your veterinarian or an emergency animal hospital as needed.
With proper treatment guided by your vet, most dogs with tremors and weird behaviors can make a full recovery and return to their happy, energetic selves! Stay alert to any concerning symptoms in your dog. And keep up with wellness care to catch issues early before they become advanced or life-threatening. Here’s to healthy, thriving dogs and relieved pet parents!
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