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Tremors/Shaking in Dogs

By: Dr. Bari Spielman

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Tremors are rhythmic, to and fro involuntary movements that persist through the waking state. True tremors stop during sleep. There are a variety of causes of tremors, depending on which part of the body is affected.

Tremors of the Head

  • Cerebellar abnormalities (coordination part of the brain)
  • Idiopathic (unknown cause)
  • Genetic causes
  • Inflammatory processes (encephalitis)
  • Trauma
  • Drugs
  • Vestibular diseases

    Tremors of the Pelvic (rear) Limb

  • Weakness or pain
  • Metabolic disease (kidney failure, low blood sugar)
  • Compressive lesions of the spine (tumors, narrowing of vertebra)
  • Neuromuscular diseases

    Generalized Tremor

  • Toxicities (organophosphate, mycotoxins)
  • Hypomyelination (diseases that decrease the covering of the nerves)
  • Degenerative neurologic diseases
  • Idiopathic generalized tremor syndrome (white shaker dog syndrome)

    What to Watch For

    Abnormal, involuntary movement involving the head, limbs or whole body


  • A complete blood count (CBC), biochemical profile, and urinalysis are recommended in all cases. It is important to rule out metabolic disorders such as hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) or kidney disease. Include a creatine kinase to assess for the possibility of muscle disease.

  • Screening chest and abdominal radiographs (X-rays) are most often within normal limits; however, they should be performed. Radiographs of the spine may be recommended in some cases.

  • A myelogram (study of the spine using dye) may be recommended to assess for the presence of tumors or disc disease.

  • A CT (computerized tomography) scan and/or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) will help detect structural changes of the brain and/or spine.

  • A cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) tap may confirm encephalitis.

  • Electromyelography (EMG) will help in the diagnosis of associated neuromuscular disorders.


    There are several things your veterinarian might recommend to symptomatically treat the patient with tremors.

  • Treat and address the primary or underlying disease if possible
  • Avoid excitement and exercise, as this may exacerbate tremors
  • More specific therapy may be indicated, as in the case of a patient who needs surgery for a disc protrusion

    Home Care

    Avoid toxin exposure. If intoxication is a possibility, do not allow additional exposure, consult poison control and contact your veterinarian.

    Animals with generalized tremors often lose weight. Monitor your pet's weight and make appropriate changes in the diet.

    Only administer drugs and medication as directed by your veterinarian.

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