Shaking in Terriers can be caused by several things, such as cold or anxiety. Make your pup is healthy like this brown and black pooch in the grass.

Why Do Terriers Shake? 5 Top Reasons Why


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Although most dogs shake or tremble at some stage, if it’s happening frequently it can signal a more serious problem. And smaller breeds tend to be more prone to it, like the Terrier dog group. So, why do Terriers shake? In some cases, shaking in Terriers can be caused by less serious factors like excitement and cold. Other more serious causes include pain, anxiety, nausea or shaking puppy syndrome.

Read on to find out about what you can do to help and when to talk to your vet.

1. Shaking caused by cold weather

We all shake when temperatures dip a little, so it’s not uncommon for your pooch to also shiver to express feeling cold. Shivering is the body’s natural way to get the blood pumping. This helps increase the body temperature and prevent hypothermia.

Smaller dogs are more prone to shivering due to the cold compared to larger dogs because of a lack of body mass. So, if it’s a bit nippy outside consider getting your pooch a jumper (read about dog winter jackets), making their bed warmer with blankets, or moving their bed to a warmer place.

2. Excitement: another cause for shaking in Terriers

Excitement is the most common reason for shaking in Terriers because they have so much energy pumping through their veins. Although this type of shaking isn’t cause for concern, dog expert Cesar Millan advises that this type of behaviour be reined in.

Cesar warns in his blog, Cesar’s Way, that a pup can become hyperactive if this behaviour isn’t curbed from the start. So, as much as your dog may be ecstatic about going for a walk or welcoming you home, try to encourage them to calm down.

3. Shaking in Terriers who are anxious, stressed or older

Just like you, your Terrier can experience stress or anxiety, which can result in shaking or trembling. This article by the American Kennel Club explains that there are three types of anxiety:

  • Fear related – caused by stimuli like fireworks, thunder, strange people and environments, etc etc… the list is almost endless and depends on the individual dog
  • Separation related – caused by discomfort at being alone/separated from family (read about separation anxiety in pets)
  • Aging related – caused by loss of cognitive function

Training can help control anxiety, or you can take speak to your vet about medication that can help. You might also want to try relaxation music (yes, it’s a thing for dogs and cats!), TV for dogs, CBD oil, increasing their exercise or something else. However, always speak to your vet first before trying out a new solution.

As per the third point above, old age is also a common cause for dogs to develop tremors. It may be due to cognitive dysfunction or due to physical issues that have developed in their hind and/or front legs.

Although shaking is common in older dogs, speak to your vet if your aging pet develops trembling as it can also be a sign of pain.

4. Shaking Puppy Syndrome in Terriers

Shaking Puppy Syndrome (SPS), also known as hypomyelination, is a genetic disease that causes excessive shaking in Terriers. The disease is not unique to Terriers but research shows they’re more prone to it.  

SPS manifests during the first few months of a dog’s life and causes their back legs to shake uncontrollably, making it difficult for them to stand. Professional Terrier breeders carry out a DNA test among potential breeding dogs to prevent the spread of SPS and other health issues.

Another disease known to cause shaking in Terriers is called Epileptoid Cramping Seizures (CECS). This hereditary disease causes random seizures or shaking, similar to epilepsy. Research has found this to be a gluten-sensitive movement disorder that’s responsive to a gluten-free diet.

5. Poisoning or nausea can cause shaking

Poisoning from toxic substances can cause tremors or shaking in a pooch. Several substances that are harmless to humans can be toxic to your pet. This includes chocolate, grapes/raisins and xylitol (found in peanut butter, chewing gum and more).

Other symptoms of poisoning include disorientation, drooling, vomiting and diarrhea. Nausea caused by eating too much, motion sickness or a more serious illness can cause shaking in dogs. Speak to your vet immediately if you suspect your pup has ingested something toxic or may be ill.

For more information on what to do in such a situation read our dog poisoning FAQ.

Consider pet insurance for those vet bills

If your pup is ill and needs medical treatment, you shouldn’t have to worry about affording the right vet care in their hour of need. Consider cost-effective, award-winning dog insurance from PD Pet Insurance to provide a cushion in those unanticipated emergencies. We have no lock in contract on our month to month plans, so why not give us a try?

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