Trembling in Cats and Dogs

Trembling in Cats and Dogs

Most instances of trembling in pets are the result of temporary excitement, fear, or cold. Therefore, in most cases, trembling is not a serious concern.  However, some instances of trembling may be caused by serious medical problems.

Common Causes

More common causes are listed first.   Less common causes are listed later.

  • Animals that are excited, nervous, or fearful will tremble due to adrenaline release.
  • Trembling often precedes episodes of vomiting or diarrhea.  Trembling may be associated with straining to defecate.
  • Animals, like humans, will tremble if they are cold.  Trembling generates heat and helps to warm the body.
  • Elderly animals often will tremble due to muscle weakness.  This benign form of trembling is especially common in the hind legs or jaws of older dogs.
  • Pain may lead to trembling.
  • Allergic reactions to vaccines, insect bites, medications, or ingested substances may lead to trembling.
  • Ingestion of toxic plants or substances such as snail poison or insecticides may lead to trembling.
  • Metabolic disorders such as thyroid disease (especially in cats) may lead to trembling.
  • Trembling may be sign of infection, dehydration, fever, or shock.
  • Trembling may be occur as a result of neurological disorders or minor seizures.
  • Electrolyte (blood salt) imbalances may lead to trembling.

Recommended Course of Action

If trembling is clearly related to an episode of fear, anxiety, or excitement, it is likely to resolve spontaneously.

If you suspect that your pet is trembling due to cold conditions, immediately remove him or her to a warmer location.  Trembling may be an early sign of hypothermia (a dangerous condition characterized by low body temperature).

Any pet that trembles consistently when no immediately identifiable cause is present, or any pet that trembles and appears to be ill, weak, lethargic, confused, or in pain should receive immediate veterinary attention.

When in doubt, consulting with a veterinarian is the safest course of action.

Copyright © Eric Barchas, DVM. All rights reserved.
The contents of this page are provided for general informational purposes only. Under no circumstances should this page be substituted for professional consultation with a veterinarian.