Susan the Chihuahua Susan the Chihuahua

Why Do Dogs Shake?

Read time: 5 mins

06 Sep 2023

As dog owners and enthusiasts, we know that our furry friends can exhibit a wide range of behaviours that sometimes leave us puzzled. 

One common behaviour that might raise concerns is when our dogs start shaking. Should you be worried if your dog is shaking? Let's explore this question and understand the various reasons why dogs shake.

Should I Be Worried if My Dog Shaking?

Shaking is one such behaviour that can raise alarm bells for dog owners. However, it's essential to remember that not all shakes are cause for immediate concern.

In many cases, dogs shake for entirely benign reasons. For example, your dog might shake to dry off after a bath or a swim. Some dogs shake when they're excited or anxious, similar to how humans might fidget when nervous. These mild, occasional shakes are typically nothing to worry about.

However, if you notice that your dog is shaking persistently, violently, or accompanied by other concerning symptoms, it's time to investigate further. These symptoms may include lethargy, vomiting, diarrhoea, or a change in appetite. Such signs could indicate an underlying medical issue, and it's advisable to consult your veterinarian promptly.

What Should I Do if My Dog is Shaking?

When your dog starts shaking, the first and most crucial step is to remain calm. Dogs are incredibly perceptive, and they can sense our emotions. Staying composed can help reassure your furry friend and make it easier for you to assess the situation.

Here's a step-by-step guide on what to do if your dog is shaking:

Observe carefully

Take a moment to observe your dog's behaviour. Note the intensity and duration of the shaking. Is it a mild tremor that passes quickly, or is it persistent and severe?

Check for immediate causes

Consider if there is an obvious cause for the shaking. For instance, if your dog has just been in the water or exposed to cold weather, the shaking may be a natural response to regulate body temperature.

Assess overall health

Examine your dog for any other concerning symptoms. Are there signs of pain, distress, or discomfort? Changes in behaviour, such as sudden aggression or withdrawal, can also provide valuable clues.

Contact your veterinarian

If the shaking is severe, persistent, or accompanied by other concerning symptoms, it's best to contact your veterinarian. They can provide professional guidance and perform necessary tests to identify any underlying health issues.

Provide comfort

While awaiting professional advice, ensure your dog is comfortable and warm. Offer a cosy blanket and a quiet, secure space. Comforting words and gentle petting can also help alleviate anxiety.

Remember that dogs can shake for various reasons, and not all of them are cause for alarm. By staying vigilant and seeking veterinary assistance when needed, you can ensure your dog receives the best care possible.

Why Does My Dog Shake in Their Sleep?

Dogs are remarkable creatures with complex behaviour, even in their sleep. If you've ever watched your dog snooze peacefully, you may have noticed occasional bouts of shaking or twitching. But why do dogs shake in their sleep?

One of the most common reasons is what experts refer to as "dreaming." Yes, just like humans, dogs dream too! During the rapid eye movement (REM) phase of sleep, dogs may experience vivid dreams that trigger physical responses, including muscle twitching and shaking.

These dreams can be about various things, from chasing a ball to running through an open field. While it may seem like your dog is experiencing a nightmare during these episodes, it's more likely that they are simply engaging in the normal process of dream-related muscle activity.

Should you be worried if your dog shakes in their sleep? Generally, no. These episodes are entirely normal and are usually harmless. In fact, they're often a sign that your dog is experiencing deep, restorative sleep, which is essential for their overall well-being.

If you're concerned about the intensity or frequency of your dog's shaking during sleep, consult with your veterinarian. They can help rule out any underlying issues and provide advice on how to ensure your dog gets the best possible rest.

Why Is My Dog Shaking Their Head and Scratching Their Ears?

One behaviour that might puzzle you is when your dog vigorously shakes their head and starts scratching their ears. This action is often indicative of an issue that requires attention.

The most common reasons why dogs shake their heads and scratch their ears include:

Ear infections

Ear infections can cause discomfort and itchiness, prompting your dog to shake their head and scratch their ears. If you notice redness, swelling, or a foul odour in your dog's ears, it's essential to consult your veterinarian.


Allergies, whether to food or environmental factors, can lead to itching and irritation in the ears. Dogs may shake their heads in an attempt to relieve the itchiness.

Foreign objects

Occasionally, foreign objects like grass seeds or debris can become lodged in a dog's ear canal, causing discomfort and prompting them to shake their heads.

Ear mites

These microscopic parasites can infest a dog's ears, causing intense itching and irritation. Dogs may shake their heads vigorously to try and dislodge the mites.

Wax buildup

Excessive earwax can accumulate in a dog's ears, leading to discomfort and the need to shake their heads to remove it.

If you observe your dog repeatedly shaking their head and scratching their ears, it's crucial to investigate further. 

Check for any visible signs of redness, swelling, or discharge in the ears. If you notice any of these symptoms or if the behaviour persists, consult your veterinarian promptly. They can diagnose the issue and recommend appropriate treatment to ensure your dog's comfort and well-being.