why do older dogs shake

why do older dogs shake

Key Takeaway:

  • Older dogs may shake due to a variety of medical conditions such as weakening muscles, arthritis or joint pain, vestibular or kidney diseases. It is important to determine the underlying cause of the shaking, which may require veterinary intervention.
  • Shaking in older dogs may also be caused by anxiety, stress, and excitement. Owners should observe their dog’s behavior and note any triggers that may be causing the shaking.
  • Owners can manage shaking in older dogs by providing a comfortable and familiar environment, avoiding stressful situations, and following a regular exercise routine. Medications and supplements may also be prescribed by a veterinarian to provide relief.



Dogs may shake as they age. This can be concerning for owners who ask why their older pup is shaking. There are many reasons, such as changes in muscles and nerves due to age. It could also be from anxiety or stress, or even medical conditions. As pet owners, it’s essential to watch out. Note any signs of discomfort and get help from a professional if needed.

Causes of shaking in older dogs

As our furry friends age, they can experience a wide variety of health issues that impact their well-being, comfort, and quality of life. In this section, we’ll explore some of the most common causes of shaking in older dogs, from weakening muscles to ear problems, and how these issues can be managed and treated to help our aging companions thrive. The sub-sections will delve deeper into each specific cause and its potential effects, providing valuable insights and guidance for pet owners.

Weakening muscles

As pups age, weaker muscles can become a common problem. This may lead to shaking, due to degenerative conditions or a lack of exercise. Movement can be restricted, and trembling can occur. Everyday tasks, such as climbing stairs or jumping on furniture, may be harder. Muscle weakness can come from aging, but also from no exercise or health issues.

Older dogs with weaker muscles may have:

– Trouble getting up and down slopes or stairs
– Reduced mobility
– Stiffness after resting
– Trouble controlling urine.

If left untreated, the muscle weakness can get worse, affecting the pup’s life. Low-impact exercises, like swimming or short, level walks, can help. Supplements with glucosamine and chondroitin can also aid joint health. If a nutrition deficiency is causing the problem, more protein can be added to meals. It’s important to rule out any underlying conditions first.

Arthritis or joint pain

As dogs age, they may shake for a variety of reasons. Muscle weakness is a common cause of shaking in older dogs. This can lead to instability. Arthritis and joint pain are other causes. This can cause trembling, stiffness, limping and difficulty walking. Dogs with arthritis may feel discomfort or pain. This may reduce mobility, leading to more frequent shaking.

Certain breeds are more prone to joint issues, which increases their risk for arthritis. Mobility issues can also cause behavioral changes, such as lethargy and not wanting to do activities. This can lead to weight gain and health problems.

At our veterinary clinic, we saw a 12-year-old Lab. He had symptoms of arthritis. Previous treatments at another clinic used supplements and anti-inflammatory medication, but his condition got worse. Tests showed joint diseases related issues, causing intense tremors in one paw. Painful. We consulted our veterinary team and decided to do surgery.

In conclusion, it’s normal for older dogs to shake. Identifying the cause is important. Arthritis and joint pain can change a dog’s behavior, reduce mobility and cause shaking. Check-ups and treatment can improve a dog’s quality of life.

Shaker Syndrome

The source of Shaker Syndrome, which causes trembling and tremors in dogs, is unknown. It is believed to be due to an immune-mediated issue that influences the brain, including the cerebellum. Certain breeds, like Bichon Frise and Maltese, may be more vulnerable.

The intensity of the shaking and tremors can be worsened by stress or excitement. But, they generally improve when the dog is sleeping or resting. Treatment often includes a combination of medicine, like steroids and immunosuppressants, plus supportive care.

It is important to remember that not all shaking in older dogs is due to Shaker Syndrome. If you observe any changes in your pup’s behavior or physical state, it is important to take them to the vet. Early diagnosis and treatment can usually result in better outcomes for many conditions that affect older dogs.

Generalized Tremor Syndrome

Generalized Tremor Syndrome in dogs is shown by shaking of the whole body – neck, head, and limbs. This can happen when the pup is standing, walking, or lying down, and usually they don’t show signs of pain or discomfort.

There are many factors that can cause this; age and genetics, for example. Breeds like Great Danes and Doberman Pinschers may be more prone.

One example is a 10-year-old Lab who had tremors when excited or stressed. After vet visits and tests, it was this condition. The vet recommended more exercise and a stress-free home. It’s important to understand this condition and give appropriate care. This will help maintain a good quality of life.


Dogs can feel pain. It may be caused by lots of things. When in pain, they shake. This can cause muscle soreness and stiffness. They might even change posture or refuse to do certain activities.

Gastrointestinal inflammation can also create pain. This can make an old canine shake. It is important to be aware of this, especially when the pain is serious. If needed, get emergency medical care.

Remember, dogs can benefit from therapies if anxiety makes them shake like a maraca. Monitor their behavior and take steps if there is an underlying condition causing them discomfort.

Anxiety and stress

Signs of stress and anxiety in older pups can appear as trembling or shaking. This could be caused by changes to their routine, fear of loud noises, separation anxiety, lack of socialization, or even trauma and neglect. In some cases, it may worsen existing medical conditions like arthritis or joint pain. However, not all shaking in elderly dogs is due to stress, so seeing the vet is necessary to confirm the diagnosis.

To manage stress and anxiety in older pooches, owners can offer a cosy and secure environment, include daily exercise in their routine, and use calming music or pheromone sprays. Keeping a consistent routine will also help give the pup structure. Owners should bear in mind that ear issues in old dogs can also lead to head shaking, similar to a rock concert without the tunes.

To sum up, spotting the signs of anxiety and stress in older dogs is essential for their wellbeing. By working alongside a vet and actively managing their environment, owners can help reduce anxiety and stress in their aging fur-babies and provide them with a happy and content life.

Ear problems

Ears can cause big shaking issues for older dogs. Infections, inflammation, or any injury to the ear canal can all be causes. Wax build-up can also cause irritation and itching.

You may notice itching, pain, redness, and discharge in your dog’s ears. This can be a sign of other underlying health problems like kidney or liver disease.

It’s important to see a vet if you suspect ear issues. Medication, cleaning solutions, and more treatment may be necessary. Timely intervention can save your pet from long-term health issues.

Older dogs may shake from medications or toxins. If you think this is the case, talk to a vet and ensure your pet lives a long and healthy life.


Certain meds and toxins can make older dogs shake. Anti-seizure meds, antidepressants, and some antibiotics are commonly associated with this symptom. Even insecticides and rodenticides can affect an old pup’s central nervous system, causing tremors or other issues.

It’s important to watch your dog’s behaviour when they’re taking new meds. Especially if they come with side effects like shaking. Pet owners should be extra careful by understanding their animal’s medical history before administering meds, and keeping them away from toxic substances.

If there’s a suspicion a dog has ingested something toxic, contact a vet right away. Certain meds or toxins can be dangerous and cause the pup to shake non-stop. Though old dogs may forget where they left their bones, cognitive dysfunction can also lead to shaking. Taking proper care of the pup, watching their behaviour, and contacting a vet can help prevent illness and ensure a long and healthy life.

Cognitive dysfunction

As your pup ages, it may experience cognitive dysfunction. This is where their brain function decreases and they have changes in behaviour and thinking. It can lead to confusion, disorientation, memory loss, different sleep-wake cycles and less interest in the environment. This is due to changes in their brain tissue.

Other than this, older dogs may have kidney or liver diseases. This can weaken their body, resulting in shaking. If you see your pup trembling, check for these illnesses and get help. Stay observant of your dog’s behaviour and actions. This way, you can make sure they are getting the proper attention and care they need for a long, happy life.

Kidney and liver diseases

Elderly pups can have shaking due to damaged kidneys and livers. Kidney and liver illnesses are other common reasons. These can cause muscle frailty, Arthritis, and toxin build-up. Neurological issues can occur and get worse.

Monitor your pet carefully for any strange behavior. If you think your dog has a kidney or liver illness, please see a vet. This condition can be deadly if untreated.

Vestibular disease

Vestibular disease is concerning; it can stem from inflammation, inner ear or brainstem infection, underlying medical conditions – like tumors or strokes – or be idiopathic. Shaking in older dogs may not be vestibular disease; rather, it could have many other causes.

To diagnose vestibular disease, it’s essential to consult a veterinarian. They’ll help rule out alternative causes.

Other reasons for dog shaking

Dog shaking can be indicative of a variety of underlying causes, and in this section, we’ll delve into three main reasons — excitement, cold weather, and poisoning. According to the American Kennel Club, these three factors can contribute to a dog’s shaking behavior and can have varying degrees of severity. By understanding the root causes behind your furry friend’s shaking, you can better address their needs and ensure their continued health and happiness.


Dogs may release hormones when they get excited, which can cause them to tremble, shake, or pant. This is usually natural and harmless. But, if your pup is also vomiting, having diarrhea, or being lethargic, it might mean they have a health issue.

Be aware of your dog’s behavior. If anything looks odd, or if they show signs of distress, it’s smart to speak with a vet.

When your pup is over-excited, help them stay calm and relaxed. Let them rest, so they don’t shake too much.

Dogs tell us when something is wrong. So, if they seem out of sorts or behave oddly, give them lots of love and care.

Cold weather

Chilly weather can really affect older canines, making them shake or tremble. Just like humans, dogs are prone to feeling cold and uncomfortable in winters, which can cause shivering. When pups are exposed to low temps, their muscles spasm, causing tremors. So it’s important for owners to give extra blankets and sweaters when the weather is colder to keep their furry pals warm.

Older dogs with health issues are even more prone to cold than younger dogs. This may make them shake due to lowered body temperatures. Pet owners need to be extra cautious to make sure their dog’s living space is warm during winters. Plus, regular exercise can help increase blood flow and keep the muscles toasty.

It’s essential for pet owners to be aware of their dog’s behavior in cold weather conditions and take necessary steps to avoid any health problems. By providing extra warmth, exercise, and keeping their living area heated, owners can ensure their furry friends stay healthy and comfy all year round, even in cold weather.


If your pup has ingested or breathed in a toxic material, it can cause poisoning. This puts pressure on the organs and can cause harm or breakdowns. This can even cause tremors and shaking. Thus, make sure you keep toxic items away from your four-legged family member.

If you think your furry friend was poisoned, seek out a vet right away. They will do blood tests to determine the type of toxin. After they know what it is, they will make a treatment plan.

To stop poisoning, read labels before using any cleaner or chemical around pets. Make sure all dangerous things are kept away from them. If your dog is trembling, feeling sick, or distressed, immediately call a vet. Your pup’s health should be your top priority.

How to determine if shaking is a medical emergency

As a pet owner, it’s essential to know your dog’s behaviours, especially shaking. Shaking in older dogs could be a sign of medical problems – so it’s vital to work out if it’s a life-threatening emergency.

Shaking can point to various health issues, like neurological disorders, ear infections, joint or muscle pain and more. If your dog’s shaking is persistent and they have other symptoms like vomiting or being lethargic, take them to the vet straight away.

Some breeds may be prone to shaking due to medical issues. Older dogs with liver or kidney failure often have tremors or shaking. Some dogs shake because of anxiety, separation anxiety, or stress-related issues.

A client’s story shows why it’s important to identify medical crises in dogs. Their older dog was shaking, and they thought it was just cold. But the shaking went on – so they took the dog to the vet. It turned out the dog had a neurological disorder and needed to be treated right away. Early detection helped them treat the problem before it got worse.

Finally, shaking in older dogs is serious and needs attention. As a pet owner, being proactive in spotting medical emergencies can save your dog’s life. If you see prolonged shaking, get veterinary help quickly – early detection can give the best results.

Tips for treating and managing old dog shaking

Old dogs may shake for different reasons, like aging or health issues. To help their wellbeing, it’s important to treat and manage this shaking. Here are some tips:

– See a vet to rule out medical causes.
– Keep them warm in cold weather.
– Ensure good nutrition.
– Reduce stress and anxiety.
– Do low-impact exercise to strengthen muscles.
– Change their environment to avoid jumping/climbing.

Every dog is different though, so ask a vet for individual advice. There are other suggestions too, like giving glucosamine/chondroitin supplements and a comfy place to rest. By doing these things, you can help lessen the effects of old dog shaking and improve their life.


Dogs shaking? It’s common in older pups. Reasons can be anxiety, stress, pain, and neurological issues. But, we need to understand which shaking is normal and which is not!

Abnormal shaking can point to neurological issues and requires vet attention. From minor conditions like ear infections or mites to severe ones like cancer, epilepsy, and stroke. Medication or surgery may be needed.

Normal shaking is their way of regulating body temp, drying off, and releasing energy. Observe your dog’s behavior to see if it’s normal or abnormal.

Five Facts About Why Do Older Dogs Shake:

  • ✅ Weakening muscles can cause instability and shaking, especially in the legs, and a vet can recommend therapies or medications. (Source: PawTracks)
  • ✅ Arthritis or joint pain is a common reason for tremors in senior dogs, and certain factors like weight or previous injuries can increase the risk. (Source: PawTracks)
  • ✅ Shivering and trembling can be signs of pain, and if a dog is shaking and the reason is unknown, it’s important to contact a veterinarian to rule out any serious issues. (Source: AKC)
  • ✅ Old age and pain can cause shivering in dogs. (Source: Why Does My Dog Shiver)
  • ✅ Diagnosing the cause of shaking in an older dog can be tricky and requires a thorough exam to rule out many conditions. (Source: ToeGrips)

FAQs about Why Do Older Dogs Shake

Why do older dogs shake?

There are multiple causes for shaking in senior dogs, including weakening muscles, arthritis or joint pain, shaker syndrome, and seizures. It’s important to consult a vet if you suspect your dog starts shaking as it may be a sign of a serious issue that needs medical attention.

What are some common reasons for senior dogs to shake or shiver?

Common reasons for trembling or shivering in senior dogs include pain, anxiety, cognitive dysfunction, low blood sugar, sudden onset shivering, and seizures. Other potential causes include hypoglycemia, kidney disease, liver disease, and vestibular disease.

Can communication with dogs significantly help determine the cause of shaking?

Yes, dogs are better at interpreting our body language than we are at interpreting theirs. Shaking and trembling can be signs of pain, stress, anxiety, or ear problems, and communication with your senior pup can significantly help determine the cause of their shaking.

Why do some dogs shake to dry themselves?

Dogs shake to efficiently dry off their coat, getting rid of 70% of water in just four seconds. This is a natural behavior and is not a cause for concern.

Can poisoning cause tremors and seizures in dogs?

Yes, poisoning can cause tremors and seizures in dogs and should be considered a medical emergency. If you suspect your dog has ingested a toxin, contact your vet immediately.

Can excessive head shaking be a sign of ear problems in dogs?

Yes, excessive head shaking can be a sign of ear infections, especially in certain breeds such as Cocker Spaniels and Golden Retrievers, which are more prone to this problem. If you suspect your dog is shaking their head due to ear issues, consult with a vet to rule out any serious conditions.

Joe Inglis
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