My Dog Is Shaking and Panting: What Do I Do?

“What does it mean if my dog is shaking and panting?” is one of the questions vets are asked most often. And it’s not an easy one to answer. Dogs pant, shake, shiver, and tremble for many reasons—some of them normal and some indicating a serious health issue.

Is your dog shaking and panting because he’s happy you’re home? Is he too hot or too cold? Or has he eaten something toxic?

Let’s explore some of the many reasons dogs shake and pant.

Why is your dog shaking and panting?

Panting is normal for dogs. It helps them cool down and oxygenates their blood. Shaking is normal for some dogs, especially small breeds like the Chihuahua.

But when are shaking and panting normal, and when are they warning you that something is wrong? Whether or not your dog needs treatment depends on the cause. Here are some of the most common.

  • Fever or infection

If your dog shakes or pants excessively, he may have a fever or an infection. Shaking and panting help lower your dog’s body temperature. If these behaviors are accompanied by listlessness, vomiting, diarrhea, and excessive salivating, contact a veterinarian immediately. 

  • Distemper

According to WebMD, canine distemper is common in puppies and adolescent dogs that have not been vaccinated. This disease causes tremors, fever, and eye and nose discharge. If your pup has the virus, he may need antibiotics, IV fluids, airway dilators, and physical therapy.

  • Generalized Tremor Syndrome (GTS)

Small dogs have a reputation for being “shaky” and “nervous.” There are a number of possible reasons for this. For example, small dogs may be more prone to cold, or they may be more anxious.

There’s also a condition called Generalized Tremor Syndrome or “shaker syndrome,” a mild disease of the central nervous system that causes a dog’s entire body to tremble. If this is the cause of your dog’s shaking, the vet will treat him with corticosteroids.

  • Anxiety

Dogs tremble or shake when they’re stressed, anxious, or experiencing strong emotions. You may notice your pup shaking when you bring him to a vet, or when he encounters larger dogs on your walks. This is an emotional response to a stressful situation. 

However, you don’t want to let your pup grow into a fearful and anxious dog that barks or attacks when confronted by the unfamiliar. If your dog shows signs of anxiety, you may want to contact a dog behavior consultant for behavioral therapy or medications to help him relax.

  • Poisoning

If your dog has ingested a toxin, he may start trembling, panting, vomiting, and drooling. Other signs include weakness, seizures, diarrhea, and disorientation.

Some things we commonly eat or drink are highly toxic to dogs. These include chocolate, xylitol (found in sugarless gums), macadamia nuts, caffeine, alcohol, and over-the-counter medications like Tylenol.

Poisoning is a medical emergency. If you suspect that your dog has eaten or drank something toxic, bring him to the vet right away.

  • Nausea

Like humans, dogs can get nauseous from overeating, motion sickness, and certain medications. If your dog is nauseous, he may shake, pant, vomit, drool or smack his lips repeatedly. Other signs that your dog has nausea are yawning, repeated swallowing, and lethargy. 

  • Cold weather

Dogs that are naturally skinny or have thin coats tend to get cold easily. Shaking or shivering is a normal response to cold environments. But if your dog is still shaking after you’ve warmed him up, call a veterinarian.

  • Heat stroke

Excessive panting and shaking can be signs of canine heat stroke. Other signs include drooling, elevated heart rate, fast breathing, listlessness, and glassy eyes. If your dog is overheated, get his temperature back to normal by submerging him in cool water or giving him cool water to drink.

What to do?

Shaking and panting may simply be signs that your dog is too hot or too cold. Or maybe he’s too excited or anxious. But excessive shaking and panting can signal that there’s an underlying medical issue that needs to be treated.

If you’ve determined that the cause of your dog’s shaking and/or panting isn’t temperature, excitement, or anxiety, talk to a vet. If you observe any of these warning signs, bring your dog to the clinic right away.

  • Your dog is acting like he’s in pain. 
  • Your dog’s shaking is accompanied by lip licking, salivating, swallowing, and listlessness.
  • Your dog’s shaking or panting is accompanied by vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, or limping.
  • Your dog started shaking excessively after eating or drinking.
  • Your dog’s shaking is interrupting his sleep.
  • Your dog’s panting is constant and severe.
  • Your dog’s tongue or gums have turned white, purple, or blue.

If your pup is sick or injured, the vet may prescribe medication or even surgery. The mode of treatment will depend on the cause of his shaking and panting.

We hope this guide helps you with the question “what does it mean if my dog is shaking and panting?”.

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