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    Why Do Dogs Shake Their Bodies?

    Why Do Dogs Shake Their Bodies?

    by Behavior / 3 min read

     

    Estimated Read Time: 3 ½ minutes 

    Summary: “What does it mean when a dog shakes?” In this blog, learn why dogs shake their fur, head, and bodies and what’s normal for a dog when it comes to body shaking... 

     

    If you’ve ever seen your dog shake, you may have wondered “why do dogs shake?” Well, dogs can shake for a variety of reasons: 

    What Does It Mean When A Dog Shakes? 

    Reasons dogs shake include: 

    • They’re cold/wet (perhaps they need help drying off or offered a blanket to help them stop shivering) 
    • They’re scared/worried (they may be trembling because they can hear fireworks or thunder) 
    • They’re excited (you may have just returned home or are mid-playing their favorite game with them!) 
    • They’re unwell 
    • They have an underlying medical condition causing them to shake 
    • They’re releasing tension (muscular/emotional) 
    A black and tan medium-sized dog shakes off water on a sandy beach against a backdrop of blue sky, large gray rocks and blue ocean. A red tennis ball sits at their feet.

    Why Do Dogs Shake Off? 

    Dogs may be shaking their fur to get rid of water if they’re wet as an attempt to dry off; it’s a really effective technique! The Journal of the Royal Society Interface found that dogs can shake off up to 70 percent of water on their fur in just four seconds! 

    Dogs will also shake their body and fur sometimes after a nap or after high-energy exercise. This is essentially a recalibration technique for a dog; they may need to reinvigorate themselves after a snooze or reset themselves ready for their next move.  

    Dogs can also use this shaking behavior as a way to help release emotional discomfort – it can act as a way of eliminating an unpleasant feeling your pup has just experienced.  

    Why Do Dogs Shake Their Heads? 

    When dogs shake their heads, this is usually indicative that something is bothering them in that area, particularly if this behavior is frequently repeated. They may be injured, have an infection, have mites or there’s something stuck inside their ear like a grass seed.  

    Ear infections can be common in dogs, especially in dogs with longer pinnae (ear flaps). You should consult with your dog’s vet if they are frequently head shaking.  

    Puppy Shaking 

    If you have a puppy and they are shaking/trembling, you should always check in with a vet. These can be signs of conditions like cerebellar hypoplasia (a developmental brain issue) or hypomyelination (a nerve issue) – particularly if they’re struggling with walking and staying balanced.  

    A fluffy black and white dog stands in very snowy woodland against the base of a large tree. They are mid shake-off.

    Why Does My Dog Shake So Much? 

    Although dogs shaking their bodies is quite often very normal or nothing to be too concerned about, sometimes shivering or muscle tremor-like shaking can be signs of a health issue, like: 

    • Nausea (additional signs may include lip licking, swallowing or dribbling) 
    • Pain (additional signs may include ear flattening, low mood, or licking a particular area repeatedly) 
    • Muscle weakness 
    • Fatigue 
    • Epilepsy 
    • Poisoning 
    • Canine distemper (Thanks to vaccinations, distemper is rare but if your dog isn’t vaccinated against distemper and they are shaking, make sure they see a vet ASAP). 
    • Ear conditions 
    • Kidney disease 
    • Generalized Tremor Syndrome (GTS) 

    Shaking can also occur because of old age in senior dogs as their muscle strength deteriorates which will most often be seen in their legs. Your vet can advise on how to help build their muscular strength back up.  

    If you are concerned by your dog’s shaking, you should always consult with your vet to rule out any health issues that could be causing the shaking.  

    You should see a vet as a matter of urgency if there are any other accompanying worrying signs or behaviors, if they’re a puppy or if they’ve been shaking consistently for a while.

    Sources

    “Why Does My Dog Shake?” The Kennel Club https://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/health-and-dog-care/health/health-and-care/a-z-of-health-and-care-issues/why-does-my-dog-shake/  

    Author Blume, Jillian “Why Do Dogs Do Those Random Shake Offs?” This Dog’s Life, Jan 12. 2020 https://www.thisdogslife.co/why-do-dogs-do-those-random-shake-offs  

    Author Dickerson, Andrew K. and Mills, Zachary G. and Hu, David L. “Wet Mammals Shake At Tuned Frequencies To Dry” National Library Of Medicine, Aug 17. 2012 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3481573/  

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