Dog Suddenly Shaking & Acting Weird: Causes and Treatments

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chihuahua shaking in arms of owner

There’s nothing more concerning to a pet owner than a sudden change in their dog’s behavior. One of those behaviors can be sudden shaking and just acting weird. As a vet, these aren’t uncommon complaints. You see, shaking and acting off can mean a lot of different things, some of which can be serious. So, don’t be afraid to contact your vet any time you notice sudden shaking, trembling, or just a general sense of weirdness in your dog.

Dogs suddenly behaving in a weird way – what does it mean?

It’s always concerning when a pet acts out of character, and seeing your dog shaking and acting weird can trigger scary thoughts. When you’re worried for your pet’s health it’s important to think about a couple of things. First, take time to recall things that have changed in the recent past that might be contributing to the condition. Second, remember your veterinarian is there to help you, so be sure to give them a call when you feel that something is wrong.

What are the causes of shaking and weird behavior in dogs?

While a variety of situations or conditions can cause shaking and weird behavior, here are some more common possibilities:

1) Anxiety: Perhaps the most common and most benign potential cause, dogs may shake and act weird when they are anxious or stressed. Consider whether or not something recent happened to upset your dog – strangers, loud noises, or changes to weather patterns, for instance. Learn more about anxiety in dogs and senior dogs.

2) Pain or illness: If your dog is shaking and acting weird, it could be a sign that they are in pain or ill. If this is the case, there may be other signs including lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, or lameness. Learn more about pain & pain relief.

3) Hypoglycemia: Hypoglycemia is a condition where a dog’s blood sugar levels drop too low. This can cause shaking, weakness, and even seizures. It can happen in any dog but dogs with other disorders such as diabetes are at increased risk.

4) Exposure to a toxin: If your dog has ingested something toxic, they may start shaking and acting weird within minutes to hours. Common toxins that could contribute to these signs include chocolate, rat poison, certain plants, medications, toxic mushrooms, and even compost.

5) Neurological problems: Dogs can develop neurological problems that cause them to shake and act weird. Some common neurological problems include seizures, tremors, and vestibular disease.

It’s important to take your dog to a veterinarian if you notice any unusual behavior, especially if it persists or worsens. The vet can help diagnose the cause of your dog’s symptoms and recommend appropriate treatment.

What are the early symptoms to look out for?

If your dog is shaking and acting weird, there are several early signs that you should watch for. These signs can help you determine the cause of your dog’s behavior and whether you should seek veterinary care. Here are some early signs to look out for:

  • Changes in appetite and thirst (increases or decreases)
  • Lethargy, tiredness or weakness
  • Changes in bathroom habits, including diarrhea or urine incontinence
  • Vocalizations, such as whining, barking, or howling
  • Changes in body language or behavior, such as staggering or confusion
  • Tremors, which are mild muscle twitches that may start before more severe shaking
  • Drooling

How to treat shaking and weird behavior in dogs

The answer to this question depends on the underlying cause of your dog’s shaking and weird behavior. In some cases, there may be home remedies or treatments that can help alleviate your dog’s symptoms. However, it’s important to note that not all conditions can be treated at home and some may require veterinary care for a good outcome.

Here are some examples of conditions that may cause your dog to shake and act weird that may have home remedies or treatments:

  1. Anxiety: If your dog is shaking and acting weird due to anxiety, there are several things you can do to help calm them down. These include creating a calm environment, providing plenty of exercise and mental stimulation, and using calming aids such as pheromone diffusers, pet-safe supplements, or calming beds or jackets.
  2. Hypoglycemia: If your dog’s shaking and weird behavior is due to hypoglycemia, you can help by giving them a small amount of honey or sugar to raise their blood sugar levels. However, this is only a temporary solution and it’s important to seek veterinary care right away with a hypoglycemic episode. If your dog is diabetic an taking insulin, it’s important to always feed a meal before giving them their medication to prevent hypoglycemia.

If your dog’s shaking and acting weird is caused by other situations though, like pain or illness, exposure to a toxin, or a neurologic problem like seizures, there are no safe home remedies and you should seek veterinary care as soon as possible.

When to pay the vet a visit

If your dog is shaking and acting weird, it’s important to monitor their behavior closely and seek veterinary care if their symptoms persist or worsen. If you are unsure whether to take your dog to the vet, it’s always better to err on the side of caution and seek professional advice. Your veterinarian can help diagnose the underlying cause of your dog’s shaking and weird behavior and recommend appropriate treatment.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can shaking and weird behavior be a sign of old age in dogs?

Shaking and weird behavior can sometimes be a sign of old age in dogs. As dogs get older, they may develop age-related conditions that can cause shaking, such as arthritis, muscle weakness, and cognitive dysfunction. Additionally, older dogs may also be more prone to anxiety and other behavioral issues. If your older dog is shaking and exhibiting unusual behavior, it’s important to have them evaluated by a veterinarian. Your vet can perform a physical exam, run diagnostic tests, and recommend appropriate treatment to help manage your dog’s symptoms and improve their quality of life.

How long does it take for treatment to be effective?

The length of time for a treatment to be effective for a condition that causes shaking and acting weird can vary depending on the underlying cause of the symptoms and the type of treatment being used.

For example, if the shaking and weird behavior are due to an anxiety disorder, treatment may involve a combination of behavior modification techniques and medication. In some cases, medication can help within minutes or hours, for acute anxiety (for instance thunderstorm anxiety). But if it’s longstanding anxiety, it may take weeks or months of consistent treatment before noticeable improvement is seen.

If the shaking and weird behavior are due to a medical condition such as hypoglycemia, treatment may involve addressing the underlying cause and managing symptoms with medication. In this case, treatment may be more immediate and the symptoms may improve within a matter of hours or days.

Disclaimer: This content is not a substitute for veterinary care. Always consult with your vet for health decisions. Learn more.

It’s important to follow your veterinarian’s recommended treatment plan and to be patient with the process. Depending on the severity and complexity of the condition, it may take time for your dog’s symptoms to improve.

Are there any home remedies that can help with shaking and weird behavior in dogs?

While one of the more common and most benign causes of shaking and weird behavior in dogs may be anxiety, there are other much more serious health conditions that can cause these signs. It is important to address the issue with your dog’s veterinarian before deciding whether or not to treat at home with a remedy.

If your dog is just nervous and needs some relief from anxiety, some of these options may be helpful:

1. Calming techniques: If your dog is shaking and exhibiting anxious behavior, try using calming techniques such as massage, gentle petting, or aromatherapy with lavender oil (diluted for aroma only, not for consumption or application)

2. Pet labeled over-the-counter supplements: Some pet labeled products, like Composure, may help calm anxious dogs (see listing below). However, it’s important to consult with a veterinarian before giving any supplements to your dog:

VETRISCIENCE Composure Calming Treats for...
  • Composure calming formula includes colostrum, l-theanine and thiamine; all recognized ingredients to support calmer behavior and relaxation.

3. Pheromones: Pet pheromones can be helpful in cases of anxiety as they can create a comforting environment through the use of naturally occurring pheromones. This is similar to the pheromones that a mother dog secretes to calm and comfort her new puppies:

ThunderEase Dog Calming Pheromone Diffuser...
  • POWERED BY ADAPTIL: Recommended by thousands of vets and scientifically studied and verified for over 20 years. Use only in properly functioning 120 volt electrical outlets.

It’s important to remember that while these home remedies may help alleviate mild anxiety symptoms, they may not be effective for more severe or persistent symptoms, and these remedies will do nothing to address shaking and weird behavior that is related to other health conditions.

If your dog’s symptoms persist or worsen, it’s important to seek veterinary care. Your veterinarian can help diagnose the underlying cause of your dog’s symptoms and recommend appropriate treatment.


  • Dr Chyrle Bonk, Veterinarian

    Dr. Chyrle Bonk received her Master in Animal Science from the University of Idaho and her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) from Oregon State University in 2010. She has over 10 years of experience in small animal veterinary practice, working for a veterinary clinic in Idaho.

  • Kate Howard, Vet Tech

    Kate Howard lives in Upstate New York, and received her degree in Veterinary Technology from Alfred State College of Technology in 2010. She has been a veterinary technician for 13+ years, and spent her career working primarily in general practice and veterinary emergency care. Kate has 3 dogs, a cat, and keeps a small flock of backyard poultry.

Disclaimer: This website's content is not a substitute for veterinary care. Always consult with your veterinarian for healthcare decisions. Read More.

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