Why Is My Dog Acting Scared and Shaking? – Trembling Truths

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Are you asking yourself, “Why is my dog acting scared and shaking all the time?”, then maybe it’s time to do something about it.

When your dog starts acting scared and shaking, you’re likely to notice other signs, such as cowering or hiding, possibly shivering as if they’re cold.

There can be many reasons for this behavior, from the obvious ones like loud noises from thunderstorms or fireworks to more subtle issues such as separation anxiety or even health problems. Knowing why your dog is reacting this way is important to helping them feel secure again.

A small dog cowers, trembling with wide eyes, ears pinned back, and tail tucked between its legs

Dogs communicate through body language, and shaking can be a sign of distress. They might shake when they’re nervous or scared, but it’s not always about fear. Sometimes it’s a response to feeling chilly or being overly excited.

However, if you see your dog is consistently scared and shaking without an obvious cause, it’s important to pay attention.

If you’re confused by your dog’s sudden fearful behaviors, it’s important to approach them with care. Keep in mind that shaking can also be related to physical conditions, so it’s best to consult with a vet if you can’t pinpoint the cause.

Addressing your dog’s anxiety early on can prevent their fear from escalating and affecting their quality of life.

Understanding Dog Anxiety and Fear

A small dog cowers, ears flattened, shaking in a corner. Tail tucked, eyes wide with fear

When your dog is acting scared or shaking, it’s often a sign of anxiety or fear.

Here’s what these signs look like and what can trigger such reactions in dogs.

Signs of Anxiety and Fear in Dogs

Your dog might show several indicators that they are feeling anxious or fearful. Common behaviors include:

  • Hiding or seeking comfort from you or their surroundings
  • Trembling or shaking, similar to how people might shake when they’re cold or scared
  • Whining or barking more than usual, which is a way for dogs to communicate distress
  • Panting heavily, even if they haven’t been exercising
  • Unusual aggression towards people or other animals, which can be a defense mechanism

These signs can help you identify when your dog feels threatened or uncomfortable.

Common Stressors for Dogs

Dogs can experience stress, and certain situations can trigger their anxiety or fear.

Here are some everyday stressors:

  • Thunderstorms often scare dogs due to the loud noises and atmospheric changes.
  • The presence of strangers or new animals can make your dog anxious if they aren’t socialized well.
  • Changes in environment or routine can lead to stress as dogs prefer predictability.

If your dog’s anxiety is severe or persistent, consulting a vet or an animal behaviorist can provide you with specialized approaches to help your furry friend.

Potential Health Issues

A shaking dog with wide eyes and tucked tail looks scared

When your dog is acting scared and shaking, it could be a sign of underlying health issues. Knowing what to look for can help you take the right steps to care for your furry friend.

Common Illnesses Causing Shaking

Your dog’s shaking might be the result of different sicknesses. Infections, like those in the ears, can make them uncomfortable and shaky.

Sometimes, fever goes hand-in-hand with infections, leading to trembling. Keep an eye out for signs of sickness.

  • Ear problems: Watch for head shaking or scratching.
  • Seizures: Brief episodes of shaking that start and stop suddenly could indicate seizures.
  • Neurological conditions: Issues with your dog’s nervous system may cause tremors.

Spotting these signs early on means a quicker visit to the veterinarian, and that can make all the difference.

When Shaking Indicates Pain or Injury

Shaking can signal that your dog is hurt or in pain:

  • Injury: If they’re favoring a leg or not moving around as much, check for injuries.
  • Arthritis: Older dogs often suffer from arthritis, which can cause shaking and difficulty moving.

Treatment varies depending on the cause, but your vet can help with pain management and therapy options to get your buddy back on track.

Don’t wait if you suspect an injury; get them checked out pronto.

Behavioral and Environmental Factors

A dog in a living room appears scared and shaking.
A dog in a living room appears scared and shaking.

When your dog is acting scared and shaking, it can often be due to behavioral and environmental triggers.

Impact of Cold Weather

Cold weather can make your dog feel uncomfortable and anxious. Just like you, dogs can get cold, and this physical discomfort can lead to shivering and nervous behavior.

Keep an eye on the temperature—ensure they have a warm place to retreat to during colder months.

Fear of Loud Noises and How to Reassure Your Dog

Loud noises, like those during a thunderstorm, can be very scary for dogs. Their heightened sense of hearing makes them more sensitive to these sounds, which may explain the fear and trembling.

If your dog is scared, staying close and offering comfort can help make them feel protected and a little safer. Displaying a calm demeanor can be reassuring to your dog; it shows them there’s nothing to worry about.

Create a cozy and quiet space for them to escape the noise. This safe haven is incredibly important during noisy events, and provides a sense of security for your pet.

Dietary Causes of Shaking in Dogs

Your dog might suddenly start shaking because of something they ate. Let’s look at two specific reasons: toxic foods and sugar issues.

Toxic Ingestion and Its Effects

When your dog eats something they shouldn’t, like chocolate or xylitol (often found in sugar-free gum), their body is at risk of poisoning.

These toxins can lead to noticable symptoms including vomiting, diarrhea, and tremors.

If you believe that your dog has eaten something toxic, get them to a vet right away.

  • Chocolate: Leads to rapid heartbeat and shaking.
  • Xylitol: Causes blood sugar drop and liver damage.
  • Nicotine: Found in cigarettes, results in tremors.
  • Metaldehyde: In slug bait, causes severe shaking.

Low Blood Sugar Episodes

Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, can make your dog shaky and weak. This might happen if they haven’t eaten for a while or after a lot of exercises.

Signs to watch for:

  • Weakness
  • Confusion
  • Shaking

It’s important to feed your dog regularly to prevent blood sugar drops. If they’re acting off, consider when they last ate. Small, energetic dogs are especially prone to low blood sugar episodes.

If your dog is shaking, look around for any evidence of what they’ve eaten, and if you’re in doubt, it’s best to play it safe and consult your vet.

As your dog gets older, you might notice them shaking or having a harder time getting around. This can often be due to joint problems or changes in their nervous system.

Signs of Joint Disorders in Senior Dogs

Old age can bring arthritis, which might make your senior dog shake and show signs of discomfort when moving.

You’ll see they might limp, hesitate to jump, or take longer to stand up after lying down. Keep an eye out for:

  • Limping or uneven gait: Your dog may favor one leg over the other.
  • Reluctance to move: They may not be as eager to climb stairs or jump onto furniture.
  • Visible joint swelling: Their joints might look bigger or be sensitive to touch.

Understanding Neuromuscular Changes in Aging Dogs

As dogs age, muscle weakness due to nerve changes can cause shaking and less stability. It’s not just about sore joints; their muscles aren’t what they used to be.

Here’s what to look for:

  • Tremors: These may be more noticeable when your dog is trying to stand still.
  • Stiff movements: Their actions may seem less fluid, and they may shuffle their feet.

Be proactive with regular vet check-ups, this can help manage these age-related issues so your furry friend stays comfortable in their golden years.

Specific Canine Conditions Linked to Shivering

When your dog acts scared or is shaking, it’s important to consider specific health issues that might be causing this behavior.

Conditions could include the following…

Identifying and Treating Generalized Tremor Syndrome

Generalized Tremor Syndrome (GTS), often called shaker syndrome, causes widespread shivering and trembling in dogs.

This condition doesn’t just make dogs shake when they’re scared; they might tremble constantly. GTS can be managed with medications like corticosteroids that your vet can prescribe after a diagnosis.

Look for signs such as shaking across their entire body that isn’t related to excitement or cold.

Common signs of GTS include:

  • Whole-body shivering
  • Difficulties with coordination
  • Trouble standing or walking

Recognizing Seizure Disorders and Epilepsy

Seizure disorders and epilepsy can lead to episodes of shaking, which might look like your dog is scared.

If you notice your dog having a seizure, they might suddenly fall, paddle their legs, or lose consciousness.

These signs demand a vet’s attention. Seizures can vary from mild twitching to severe shaking.

Epilepsy isn’t curable, but it can often be managed with medication.

Key points about seizures:

  • Sudden collapse or paddling of legs
  • Loss of consciousness or twitching
  • Needs immediate veterinary care

Care and Treatment for a Shaking Dog

When your dog starts acting scared and shaking, knowing how to respond is important. This section will guide you on when to get professional help and how to provide supportive care at home.

When to Seek Veterinary Care

If your dog suddenly starts shaking or seems unusually scared, it’s important to consider several factors.

Look out for these signs that mean you should consult your vet:

  • Persistent shaking, especially if it doesn’t stop over time
  • Accompanying symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, or limping
  • Change in behavior such as aggression or withdrawal
  • After a possible injury or ingestion of a toxic substance

If you notice these issues, contact your vet or an emergency vet promptly. In some cases, immediate intervention like surgery might be necessary to resolve your dog’s health issue.

Home Care and Supportive Strategies

For less severe situations, providing supportive care at home can help calm your dog down. Here’s how you can support your pet:

  1. Create a Safe Space: Set up a quiet, comfortable area where your dog can relax away from loud noises and stressors.
  2. Be Calm and Reassuring: Your demeanor affects your dog. Use a gentle voice and calm body language.
  3. Avoid Punishment: Never scold or punish your dog for being scared, as this can make their fear worse.
  4. Distraction Techniques: Offer toys or engage in a gentle play to distract your dog from their fear.

These home care strategies are only for dogs that are not in immediate distress.

Why is My Dog Acting Scared and Shaking – Final Thoughts

Seeing your dog scared and shaking can set off alarm bells. It might be something simple like the cold or a bit more complex, such as anxiety or health worries.

If you’re thinking, “why is my dog acting scared and shaking,” start by looking around. Could it be a noisy storm, a new routine, or something they ate? Spotting these signs early is vitally important.

For unexplained shaking or fear, a vet visit is wise. They can check for things like infections or pain that might be causing distress.

At home, a quiet spot, some gentle reassurance, and keeping a positive vibe can help.

Regular routines and safe foods are also important to avoid upsets.

Always keep an eye out for what might be triggering their fear. If the shaking continues or you’re just not sure, a vet’s advice can offer peace of mind.

Helping your dog through fear and shaking means being observant, supportive, and proactive.

Frequently Asked Questions

When your dog acts scared and shakes, it’s natural to feel worried.

Let’s walk through common questions to understand why this might happen and what you can do.

What could cause a dog to start trembling and seem apprehensive?

Several reasons could explain why your dog is trembling and seeming anxious. Common causes include anxiety, fear, or even cold weather. Some dogs tremble due to excitement or when anticipating something they enjoy.

How should I respond if my dog is shivering and appears frightened?

Stay calm and provide a quiet, comforting environment. Offer your dog a safe space and try to remove any stressors that may be causing them fear. Gentle petting or holding them can sometimes help to calm their nerves.

What are potential health concerns if my dog is panting, trembling, and clinging to me?

Panting, trembling, and clinging behavior could point to pain, illness, or anxiety. If these symptoms are new or severe, it’s best to see a vet to rule out health issues such as poisoning, pancreatitis, or heart problems.

Can environmental factors lead to my dog acting terrified and shaking?

Yes, environmental factors like loud noises, changes in living situations, or the presence of unfamiliar people or animals can make your dog feel terrified and shake. Dogs can also react to changes in the weather, like thunderstorms.

What does it mean if my dog isn’t eating, acting strangely, and shaking?

Lack of appetite combined with unusual behavior and shaking could indicate stress, discomfort, or illness. If your dog is exhibiting these signs, a check-up with the vet is important to determine the cause.

What symptoms, alongside shaking, should prompt concern for a dog’s well-being?

Look out for other symptoms like hiding, excessive barking or whining, aggression, or changes in bathroom habits. These could all signal that your dog isn’t feeling well or is stressed, and it may be time to consult with your vet.


All information in this article is for educational purposes only and is not meant to replace your veterinarian's advice.
Jen Smart

Jen is the founder of, a leading resource for managing and treating anxiety in dogs. With over a decade of experience in working with rescue dogs, Jen holds diplomas in Understanding Canine Anxiety, Canine Holistic Health & Therapy, CBD Oil for Animals, and Zoopharmacognosy. Her expert insights help dog owners navigate the challenges of anxiety with compassionate, innovative solutions. Follow Jen’s guidance at Anxious Canine for a calmer, happier dog.

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