This is not an infrequent concern we the veterinarians of Brook-Falls Veterinary hospital hear from our clients concerning their K9 companions.
Owners will periodically, note that their dog experiences shaking or tremors in their limbs especially the rear legs. The vast majority of the time, the shaking or tremoring occurs only occasionally and in general does not seem to be overtly bothered by this behavior. These disorders affecting dogs, resulting in tremoring or shaking, of limbs on an intermittent basis are not usually the result of an underlying neurological condition. The causes can usually be determined by a good history, physical exam and some routine screening blood work.
Cold and Fear Tremors
Cold cause whole body tremors/shaking, which we know as shivering. This will disappear when the dog is allowed to warm again. Fear can also cause these whole body tremors /shaking, and again these will resolve when the dog is removed from a stressful situation or placed in a safe environment.
Pain is one of the most common causes of tremoring/shaking that we see in dogs. The pain can be from muscle, bone, joint or nerve issues and can be the result of a recent injury /trauma or result from more chronic issues such as degenerative joint disease/arthritis, spinal disc disease, etc. The tremoring/shaking is especially noted when the dog is exercising or with any other exertion i.e. standing for extended periods i.e. grooming. For older patients with some muscle atrophy (wasting), secondary to disuse of a limb because of arthritis can experience tremoring/shaking of the limb due to muscle fatigue in only a matter of minutes.
Electrolyte Abnormalities Tremors
More uncommon causes of shaking/tremoring in dogs can be due to electrolyte abnormalities, calcium imbalances, and some infectious causes. Routine screening blood work can help identify patients with these conditions. Occasionally special lab testing or referral to a boarded veterinary neurologist may be required in dogs with breeds related conditions of the nervous system that can make them prone to tremor/ shaking. Lab testing will also be important, if it is determined your K9 companion has arthritis or another form of chronic pain. Oral pain medications may be prescribed as part of a treatment plan to improve the pet’s comfort and will require periodic testing to ensure safety.
Age Related Tremors
Lastly, some breeds of dogs also have age-related tremors of undetermined cause; meaning on review of history, after a thorough exam and lab testing no cause is identified to explain the tremors. These are termed a benign, non-aggressive, form of tremoring, and no harm to the dog is done, and no treatment is needed or available.
If your dog is experiencing shaking or tremoring, please call the hospital today to set up an appointment to discuss this issue with a veterinarian.