What could be causing my dog to tremble?

Original Question: I have an eleven-year-old spayed Jack Russell Terrier crossed with Havanese. She has always been very excitable when people come to the house as we do not get many visitors. She is still like that and very energetic and playful but relaxed when just with my husband and me. Recently she has started trembling on and off and has become very needy wanting to be on our laps all of the time. Other times she is her usual self. Does this have to do with age? Do you have any suggestions? - Jackie

What could be causing my dog to tremble? Apr 25, 2018

Hi Jackie,

Thanks for your question.

Unfortunately there is very little information to go on in your question. However, I think I can share some general thoughts that may help.

I often get told from owners that their dog ‘trembles’. In my experience, it is very rare that it is associated with a disease state.

The most common reasons that a dog will tremble is due to behaviour. They often do it when they are excited, as well as cold (such as shivering), and even when they’re nervous. The way that you describe how she wants to be on your laps suggests to me that she could be ‘excited’ to get up there or a nervous dog in general and wants to be comforted. Even though this trembling has never happened before, keep in mind that as dog’s age, they can start to become a little more fearful about their environments because their senses (such as sight, smell and hearing) can diminish, offering them less awareness and control of their immediate surroundings. So older dogs do tend to become nervous where they have never been before.

Given your dog’s age, there is a real possibility that this trembling is related to a condition or ‘disease state’ that could be treated. Older dogs will often tremble when they feel weak, especially in their legs if they have arthritis. I would recommend that you have your veterinarian perform a physical examination and consultation, specifically focusing on feeling and manipulating the joints to evaluate them for pain or inflammation. Less commonly our pets can have metabolic disturbances such as electrolyte imbalances that can create muscle fasciculation’s and ‘shaking’. Routine blood work can help determine if this type of condition exists.

I hope this helps,

Dr. Clayton Greenway

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