Why Is My Old Dog Shaking? 14 Causes

Not all shaking in senior dogs is a cause for concern. For example, you may notice your dog shaking after a long nap or a strenuous activity. This type of shaking is usually temporary and goes away on its own. 

Mild tremors are common in senior dogs due to the natural degeneration of muscles and bones, reduced production of hormones, lowered ability to regulate body temperature, etc.

Shaking can be considered a normal sign if your dog is excited, it can also mean that they are cold, anxious, or frightened. 

However, if shaking is followed by:

  • Loss of appetite or sudden increase in thirst
  • Lethargy or lack of energy
  • Difficulty standing up or walking
  • Excessive panting or coughing
  • Changes in behavior or personality
  • or any other unusual symptoms 

schedule a vet appointment.

Shaking vs Shivering vs Trembling vs Seizures 

Shaking is a general term used to describe short and rapid movements that can occur intentionally or unintentionally. 

It can be caused by anxiety, excitement, or even being cold. 

On the other hand, tremors are involuntary rhythmic muscle movements that cause shaking, shivering, or trembling. Tremors can be caused by diseases of the muscle (myopathies) or nervous system (neuropathies and brain disorders). 

They can be rapid or slow, affect the whole body or just one part, and can vary in intensity from mild to severe.

Shivering and trembling are similar terms and are typically used to describe shaking caused by being cold or feeling anxious or scared. These actions are usually voluntary and self-limiting. 

However, if your dog is shivering or trembling continuously, it may indicate an underlying health problem that requires a veterinarian’s attention. Shaking may be a sign that your dog is nauseous.

Seizures are caused by abnormal electrical activity in the brain and can result in sudden, involuntary muscle contractions. 

Seizures can be caused by a variety of factors, including brain tumors, toxins, or genetic predisposition. 

Shaking, tremors, shivering, trembling, and seizures are all different phenomena that can occur in senior dogs. While shaking, shivering, and trembling are usually voluntary, self-limiting actions caused by external factors, tremors, and seizures are involuntary and can be caused by underlying health problems.

Tremors in Dogs / Why is my ld dog shaking


Arthritis in senior dogs is a condition characterized by inflammation and degeneration of one or more joints, which can cause pain and discomfort for dogs. Senior dogs are particularly prone to developing arthritis due to age-related wear and tear on their joints.

Arthritis and joint pain can cause significant discomfort and pain. Joint pain can lead to shaking and tremors, as the constant pain and discomfort can cause muscle loss and weakness. 

Dogs with arthritis may also have difficulty moving around and may appear stiff or lethargic

Some common symptoms of arthritis in senior dogs include: 

  • stiffness 
  • lameness 
  • limping 
  • difficulty getting up
  • lethargy 
  • reluctance to run, jump, or play 
  • weight gain 
  • irritability or changes in behavior 
  • pain when petted or touched 
  • difficulty going up and down stairs 
  • reduced willingness to exercise
  • shaking can be caused by pain, discomfort, or weakness in the affected joints

Dogs are good at hiding pain, so owners should be aware of subtle signs that their senior dog may be experiencing discomfort. For instance, reduced activity levels or a reluctance to go on longer walks may be indicative of joint pain.

Shaker syndrome/ Generalized Tremor Syndrome (GTS)

Shaker Syndrome is a neurological disorder that causes a dog’s entire body to shake uncontrollably. It is also known as idiopathic cerebellitis, which describes inflammation of the cerebellum for unknown reasons.

Shaker Syndrome is most commonly seen in small-breed, white dogs, although dogs of any size and color may be affected. 

This disorder usually develops suddenly in young adult dogs, but can also affect older dogs.

A diagnosis of Shaker Syndrome is made by ruling out other medical conditions that may cause neurologic signs. 

Blood tests and urinalysis help the veterinarian to rule out underlying medical conditions such as liver or kidney disease.

The exact cause of Shaker Syndrome is unknown, but it is thought to be autoimmune due to its response to treatment with steroids. 

Treatment involves the use of corticosteroids to suppress the immune system and reduce inflammation in the cerebellum. 

The tremors typically resolve within one to two weeks of beginning treatment, and once the tremors have resolved, your veterinarian will gradually taper your dog’s prednisone dose.

Shaker Syndrome

Neurologic issues

Neurological disorders are conditions that affect the nervous system and can cause issues with walking, coordination, interacting with surroundings, problem-solving, and senses such as seeing, hearing, and balance. 

Some common causes of neurological disorders in dogs include: 

  • metabolic problems like low blood sugar or low calcium
  • tumors or infections in the brain 
  • cerebellar degeneration 
  • traumatic injury 
  • defects in the electrical transmission of nerve signals within the brain

Treatment options depend on the underlying cause and may include physical therapy, medication, and surgery.

Hypomyelination is a neurological condition in dogs that affects the formation of the myelin sheath which is a fatty protective layer that surrounds the axons of the neurons. 

This can lead to axonal damage, abnormal communication between neurons and progressive neurological symptoms. 

Symptoms may vary depending on the affected areas of the nervous system, but they typically include: 

  • weakness 
  • tremors
  • difficulty in coordination
  • gait abnormalities
  • changes in behavior

Some breeds are more susceptible to hypomyelination, including Springer Spaniels and Samoyeds. 

A veterinarian can diagnose hypomyelination based on clinical signs and medical history. 

Treatment may involve supportive care and medications, but there is no cure for this condition. It is advisable to avoid breeding affected dogs to prevent further spread of the condition.

Addison’s disease

Addison’s disease is a rare disease in dogs caused by a deficiency of essential hormones produced by the adrenal glands. It is also known as hypoadrenocorticism.

This disease can affect any breed of dog and gender, but it is most common in young, female, and middle-aged dogs. 

Addison’s disease can cause vague signs of illness that come and go, but if left untreated, it can be fatal. 

The clinical signs of hypoadrenocorticism are often non-specific, but laboratory changes consistent with Addison’s disease include: 

  • anemia
  • absence of a stress leukogram
  • hypoglycemia
  • elevated potassium 
  • low sodium

Symptoms of Addison’s disease in dogs:

  • reduced appetite 
  • lethargy
  • weakness
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • weight loss
  • shaking.
  • In severe cases, some dogs may collapse and develop shock-like symptoms, which is known as an Addisonian crisis, and require immediate assistance from an emergency vet.

Canine cognitive dysfunction

Canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS) is an age-related disease in dogs that affects the brain, causing deterioration similar to Alzheimer’s disease in humans. 

CCD is common in aged dogs, affecting between 14% and 68% of the pet dog population, depending on the age group. 

The condition may be underdiagnosed since the behavioral changes progress slowly, and owners may assume that some of the changes are normal aging processes. 

Some common signs of CCD in dogs include: 

  • confusion 
  • anxiety 
  • disturbance of the sleep/wake cycle 
  • repetitive behavior 
  • disorientation 
  • altered interactions with owners 
  • house-soiling 
  • changes in activity 
  • memory loss 
  • difficulty learning new things
  • shaking 

There is no specific timeframe for the progression of the disease, and life expectancy can be a tricky prognosis to make.

A full physical exam and a neurologic exam should be performed by a veterinarian to diagnose CCD, including bloodwork, x-rays, ultrasounds, and other diagnostics to rule out other causes of the presenting clinical signs


Canine distemper is a highly contagious viral infection that affects dogs. 

According to the AKC, most dogs develop a fever approximately 3-to-6 days after being infected, but the initial symptoms depend on the severity of the case and how the patient reacts to it. 

The symptoms of canine distemper can include: 

  • fever
  • lethargy
  • coughing
  • nasal discharge
  • vomiting and diarrhea
  • shaking, shivering, or tremors

The vaccine is recommended for puppies at 4-6 weeks of age and older, and treatment is primarily supportive, aimed at reducing the severity of the symptoms. 

Diagnosis is based on clinical signs and laboratory testing, and care for dogs with distemper may include giving water gradually, liquefying the dog’s meals, and administering them with a syringe, as well as monitoring the dog for any changes in respiratory rate, diarrhea, or vomiting.

Seizure Disorders

Seizures are not uncommon in dogs, with up to one out of every 20 dogs experiencing a seizure during their lifetime. 

Seizures are caused by a sudden, temporary disruption in normal brain function. 

Many health problems can lead to seizures in dogs, including: 

  • infections or inflammation of the brain 
  • cancer affecting the brain
  • head trauma
  • hypoglycemia
  • liver disease
  • hypocalcemia
  • kidney failure
  • low blood oxygen levels
  • lead toxicity
  • organophosphate toxicity
  • antifreeze poisoning
  • etc.

If a dog has a seizure that lasts more than five minutes or has several in a row while unconscious, they should be taken to a vet as soon as possible.

The longer a seizure goes on, the higher a dog’s body temperature can rise, and they may have problems breathing. Veterinarians will prescribe treatments for any underlying health problems causing the seizures. 

But when seizures continue or when a dog has been diagnosed with primary epilepsy, anti-seizure medications may be necessary. 

Common types of seizures in dogs include: 

  • focal (partial) seizures, 
  • generalized seizures (grand mal), 
  • tonic-clonic seizures. 

Symptoms of a seizure can include:u

  • uncontrollable shaking or twitching 
  • loss of consciousness
  • loss of bowel or bladder control 
  • disorientation 
  • temporary blindness. 

Treatment for dog seizures may involve medication, dietary changes, or surgical intervention, depending on the underlying cause

Screening tests are recommended to look for metabolic disease and other illnesses that can cause seizures. Owners should be made aware that once therapy is initiated, in most instances, it is life-long.

Dog Seizures

Kidney Disease

Chronic kidney disease can develop over a period of months, and owners may not notice the signs until significant parts of the kidneys are damaged. 

Chronic kidney disease is most common in older dogs, and the exact cause is often difficult to pinpoint because of its slow onset. 

Dental disease is a leading cause of chronic kidney failure in older dogs. Veterinarians monitor a dog’s creatinine and SDMA levels to determine the stage of kidney disease. 

Dogs with kidney disease may benefit from calcitriol, a medication that helps to improve calcium and phosphorus balance.

There are several common symptoms of kidney failure in dogs, including: 

  • increased thirst and urination
  • weight loss
  • loss of appetite 
  • fatigue
  • weakness
  • depression
  • muscle wasting
  • difficulty breathing
  • shivering, trembling, and muscle twitching. Dogs with kidney failure may also have low calcium levels, which can cause muscle spasms

Liver Disease

Liver disease in senior dogs refers to a range of conditions that affect the liver’s normal functioning. 

It can be caused by toxins, infectious diseases, cancer, or genetic abnormalities. 

Common symptoms of liver disease in dogs include: 

  • weight loss
  • low energy
  • diarrhea
  • vomiting
  • jaundice (yellowing of the gums and skin)  
  • shaking or shivering

Shaking or shivering happens when toxins in the bloodstream, including ammonia build up in the body. 

Ammonia is a by-product of protein metabolism, and in a healthy liver, it is converted into urea, which is then eliminated from the body through urine. However, in dogs with liver disease, the liver may not be able to efficiently convert ammonia into urea, resulting in elevated levels of ammonia in the blood.

The accumulation of ammonia in the bloodstream can affect the nervous system and lead to a condition called hepatic encephalopathy

This condition can cause neurological symptoms, including shaking or shivering, disorientation, behavioral changes, and even seizures. 

The exact mechanism behind why dogs with liver disease shake is not fully understood, but it is believed to be related to the toxic effects of ammonia on the central nervous system.

Muscular atrophy

Muscle atrophy in dogs is the gradual loss of muscle mass and function, which can occur as dogs age or due to illness or injury. 

Muscle atrophy also leads to weaker and thinner muscles. This condition can be seen in senior dogs, dogs with medical conditions, or dogs who cannot exercise properly.

Signs of muscle atrophy in dogs may include: 

  • depression
  • lethargy
  • paw dragging
  • weakness
  • lameness
  • noticeably thinning muscles 
  • limping
  • balance problems
  • paralysis
  • changes in behavior 
  • pain, shivering, and shaking  

There are two main types of muscle loss in senior dogs: 

  • sarcopenia 
  • cachexia 

Sarcopenia is the gradual breakdown of muscle tissue seen in all senior dogs to some degree, while cachexia is more severe and usually associated with chronic diseases such as cancer. 

The gradual loss of muscle mass in older dogs can be addressed with a combination of diet and exercise, including a high-protein diet and low-impact exercises like walking and swimming. 

Muscle atrophy can also be a symptom of degenerative myelopathy.

Fortunately, muscular atrophy doesn’t have to be a lasting problem for your senior dog. With a few simple changes in routine, you can help your pup maintain muscle mass before atrophy begins or rebuild muscle if the effects of atrophy start to appear.

Senior dogs are at higher risk of being afflicted with musculoskeletal disorders such as arthritis, dysplasia, and muscle wasting. 

One specific type of muscle loss seen in senior dogs is sarcopenia, which is a reduction of lean muscle mass due to aging. Sarcopenia can reduce the quality of life and increase health risks in senior dogs.


Hypoglycemia is a medical condition where the blood sugar levels are abnormally low. In dogs, hypoglycemia is defined as a blood glucose concentration of less than 3.3 mmol/L (60 mg/dL). 

Glucose is the primary source of energy for the body’s cells, and when the amount of sugar in the bloodstream becomes too low, the body starts to show symptoms of not having enough energy to operate. 

Common signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia in dogs include: 

  • lethargy
  • low energy, or listlessness
  • appetite loss
  • tremoring, seizures
  • weakness 

Hypoglycemia can be caused by reduced food intake or starvation, xylitol toxicity, sepsis, or tumors. The diagnosis of hypoglycemia in dogs is done using a simple blood test to check the concentration of glucose in the blood.


When dogs experience nausea, they may exhibit shaking and trembling as a symptom, along with other signs such as restlessness, panting, and drooling.

Nausea is a common symptom that can be caused by various conditions in dogs. The most common causes of nausea in dogs include: 

  • gastritis
  • pancreatitis
  • bacterial infections
  • metabolic conditions like kidney or liver disease  

Nausea can also be a side effect of medication or viral infection. 

Nausea can be a symptom of more serious conditions such as cancer, heart disease, or bloat.

Symptoms of nausea in dogs include: 

  • lack of appetite
  • licking
  • restlessness
  • excessive drooling 
  • vomiting
  • Some dogs with nausea may also appear lethargic, depressed, or dehydrated, and may have diarrhea or weight loss.

Treatment may involve medication, dietary changes, or management of an underlying condition. In some cases, hospitalization may be necessary, especially if the dog is dehydrated or has other severe symptoms.


If there is no obvious reason for a dog to be in pain, it is commonly a symptom of an underlying medical issue. 

Symptoms of a dog in pain:


Poisoning occurs when a toxic substance is swallowed, inhaled, or absorbed through the skin, eyes, or mucous membranes. 

The signs and symptoms of poisoning can vary depending on the type of toxin involved, but there are common indicators to watch out for.

In the case of older dogs, the signs of poisoning may include: 

  • gastrointestinal issues such as vomiting, diarrhea (which may contain blood) 
  • loss of appetite
  • restlessness
  • neurological symptoms and shaking or shivering

Shaking or shivering in dogs can be a symptom of poisoning due to the effects of certain toxins on the nervous system. 

Some toxins can cause irritation, inflammation, or damage to the nerves, leading to tremors, muscle spasms, or shivering. These tremors can be seen as involuntary shaking movements in the dog’s body.

Tremors from Toxins in a Dog

Non-Medical Causes of Shaking in Old Dogs

Anxiety and Stress

Anxiety is the anticipation of future danger, while stress is a response to a real or perceived threat. 

Both anxiety and stress can trigger a cascade of physiological responses in the body, including the release of stress hormones such as cortisol. 

These hormones can affect the dog’s nervous system and lead to physical manifestations of anxiety or stress, including shaking or trembling

Older dogs may be more prone to anxiety due to decreased mobility, vision or hearing loss, or cognitive decline. 

Behavioral Signs of Stress: 

  • changes in body posture
  • dilated pupils
  • blinking rapidly
  • pinned-back ears
  • shaking or trembling can be one of the physical responses exhibited during moments of heightened anxiety or stress.

Physiological Responses: 

Anxiety and stress can lead to physiological responses that cause shaking in older dogs. The release of stress hormones can increase heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure, and these changes can contribute to trembling or shaking

Anxiety and stress can also be caused by underlying medical conditions, such as chronic pain or cognitive dysfunction.

Cold Temperatures

Senior dogs, like humans, tend to get colder more quickly due to their reduced muscle mass and loss of insulating body fat. 

Shaking and shivering can be a sign of temperature-induced stress in older dogs. It’s important to keep your dog warm and comfortable, especially during the colder months. This can be achieved through the use of sweaters, blankets, or heating pads.

However, excessive heat can also be a problem for older dogs. Overheating can lead to dehydration, heat stroke, and other serious health issues. It’s important to monitor your dog’s body temperature and provide them with a comfortable environment that is not too hot or too cold.


Older dogs can experience shaking and trembling due to loud noises, excessive handling, and too many visitors can lead to an overstimulated dog. 

This can be especially problematic for dogs with cognitive dysfunction, as they may become easily overwhelmed or confused.

Identifying Red Flags

In addition to shaking, other signs to look out for include:

  • Loss of appetite or sudden increase in thirst
  • Lethargy or lack of energy
  • Difficulty standing up or walking
  • Excessive panting or coughing
  • Changes in behavior or personality

Providing Your Senior Dog with Proper Care

If you have an older dog who is shaking, it’s important to understand why it’s happening so you can help them feel better as soon as possible. 

Your senior pup deserves the best care possible, so make sure to work closely with your vet. 

At home, there are things you can do to make your dog’s life more comfortable and healthy: