Why do Poodles shake? Find Out What it means when your dog trembles

If your pet poodle is anything like mine, you’ve probably noticed that sometimes he or she will shake and tremble for what appears to be no reason…

So, why do Poodles shake?

Poodles shake for one of the following reasons: fear, nerves, the cold, pain, anxiety or illness. If your poodle has shaking in addition to other symptoms that indicate they are in pain or unwell, you should contact your vet immediately for advice.

Shaking and tremors are caused by rapid involuntary muscle contractions in toy poodles, miniature poodles, and standard poodles. Your dog has no control over this, so do not try and punish your dog as this could make shaking worse. 

In this article, I’ll explore the following:

  1. What to do if your poodle is shaking because they are cold
  2. What to do if your poodle is shaking because they are nervous, scared or anxious
  3. What to do if your poodle is shaking because they are in pain
  4. Is my poodle shaking because they have low blood sugar?
  5. Other medical reasons your poodle may be shaking
  6. Why is my poodle shaking their head?
  7. Should you be worried if your poodle is shaking?
  8. Should you take your dog to the vet if he is shaking?

What to do if your Poodle is shaking because they are cold

One of the most common reasons why your poodle is shaking may be that he or she is too cold. A poodle’s core body temperature is set to 38.6C or 101.6F and dogs, like humans, get involuntary muscle contractions (or shakes) when they are too cold. This is their body trying hard to warm them up again when it recognizes that they are losing body heat too fast. Normally, a poodle’s fluffy fur is a very effective coat, trapping plenty of warm air next to their skin to keep them cozy. However, sometimes, if they have got wet or conditions are very cold or windy, their coat is not enough to keep them warm so they start to shake to generate more heat. When muscles contract rapidly to shake it generates body heat ( the same as when they exercise) and is an effective way to warm up when chilly. 

It’s also worth knowing that smaller dog breeds, such as toy poodles, are more susceptible to the cold than larger dogs, like miniature and standard poodles. This is because they have a larger surface area to volume ratio. Basically, being small means you lose more heat as you have more skin in relation to your body- meaning a little dog loses heat faster!

The best way to stop this shaking is by warming up your poodle. If they are wet you should dry them and put them somewhere warm to help them increase their temperature. 

If you live in a very cold place, it may be good for your dog to wear a coat outside to add some extra insulation against the weather. You can buy lots of coats for different size dogs and you can get a coat that suits your local area. For example, if you live somewhere very wet or snowy, you should buy a waterproof coat. 

If you think your home is not warm enough, it may be worth cranking up the heat! Poodles and other dogs like to live in warm cozy homes, so make sure your house doesn’t get cooler than about 18 C or 64F. Alternatively, you could try putting your poodle in a sweater or t-shirt, as adding an extra layer may be needed to keep your dog warm inside if your home is on the cooler side.

It is important to check that your dog’s sleeping or rest area is not very drafty or cool. As you know, certain areas of your home will be cooler than others, so you may need to use draft excluders or fill in any cracks if your poodle is being cooled down by a draft. If it is Summer, make sure your poodle is not having to sleep under the Air Conditioning vent as these can be surprisingly chilly.

If you think your poodle is still cold, you should consider if they would benefit from an extra blanket for them to snuggle up in. Puppies who are cold may also like a hot water bottle- just make sure it is warm and not hot so your puppy does not scald himself!

Another reason why your poodle may be colder than normal is if they have had their coat cut too short. If you’ve ever cut off long hair, you’ll know that the change between having long hair and short hair can be quite a shock. To help your poodle warm-up, a thin sweater or shirt will do the trick while their coat grows back.

 If your dog is warmed up and they do not stop shaking, they may be shaking for another reason.

What to do if your Poodle is shaking because they are nervous, scared or anxious.

This poodle is very scared and anxious about bath time!

Another common reason your poodle may be shaking is if they are feeling scared or anxious. My poodle Billie, for example, hates being in the car and will shake during the entire car journey no matter how much attention or strokes he gets- he just hates being in the car, even when he knows we are going on a fun walk somewhere.

A lot of pet owners report their dogs also shake and shiver when there are loud unusual noises- such as fireworks.

If your poodle only shakes during certain events (such as the vacuum cleaner being switched on, car journeys, when going to the vet, during fireworks, etc.) then you can be pretty sure that your poodle is shaking because he’s stressed out and scared. Dogs who are anxious or scared may also pant, lick their lips, yawn frequently and have less appetite than normal. If you are worried your dog’s anxiety is extreme, you should book an appointment with your vet to speak about this and if any treatment is needed.

The best thing to do to soothe your dog in these situations is to help them feel more relaxed. Tips on how to make your dog more relaxed are below.

  1.  One of the best things to do can be to try and distract your dog with a favorite toy or treat.  
  2. Another form of distraction could be exercise, which has the added benefit of helping tire your dog out so they are able to rest and relax better. Exercise also helps release endorphins or “feel good” chemicals, making your pooch happier and fitter!
  3. Some poodle owners report their dogs to enjoy listening to music to calm down (this has been picked up on by the music bigwigs, with Spotify recently making a playlist, especially for dogs left home alone!). You can check it out here.
  4.  Stroking and petting your dog can also offer comfort and reassurance if your pet is stressed, but be careful to pay attention to their body language, as your pet may actually prefer some alone time instead of being stroked when they are unhappy.
  5. Make sure your dog has somewhere calm and quiet they can retreat to when they need some alone time- this could even be a crate, basket or even area such as under the bed where they feel safe, and ask children and visitors not to disturb your dog when they go there. 
  6. If your dog is scared because of fireworks or other loud noises, try and place them somewhere quiet (easier said than done when there is a day of national celebration I know!).
  7. Make sure that you yourself are calm. Dogs can sense human emotions so if you are stressed your dog may be picking up on this, making them feel more anxious!

When poodle puppies arrive at their new home, it is very common for them to tremble and shake while they get used to their new surroundings. Remember, moving to their new family and leaving their birth mother and littermates behind is a big change for a little poodle puppy and can be very stressful, so be extra patient with your new puppy during the first few months of them in your home. You can help your puppy acclimatize by making sure he has lots of toys, somewhere warm, comfortable and quiet to sleep and plenty of food and water.

Poodles can also shake when they are excited, such as anticipation of a walk or the arrival of a favorite family member. This is not something to worry about, as your poodle is just really happy about what is happening. You will know if your poodle is excited because their tail will be wagging and they will probably be behaving in a very energetic way.

What to do if you think your Poodle is shaking because they are in pain

When poodles are in pain, this can also cause them to shake. 

Sometimes it will be obvious why your dog is in pain e.g. if they have twisted their leg and are limping or have cut themselves. You should use your common sense if this has happened and decide if it is something your Poodle can recover from at home or if they need to be taken to the vet.

However, if you are worried your dog is shaking because they are in pain and there is no obvious reason why you need to keep a close eye on your dog to make sure there is nothing more serious wrong.

If you notice swelling on legs, bloating or tenderness of the stomach, your dog appears to be wobbly or stiff, appears weak or lethargic,  changes the way they walk or is not interested in their food and water, you should ask your vet for advice to rule out illness or injury as soon as possible.

Is my Poodle shaking because they have low blood sugar?

Like humans, when a dog’s blood sugars get too low this can make them shaky and weak. 

If a poodle has had a lot of vigorous exercise without topping up their food, they may have low blood sugar and need to raise this to get them back to their normal self.

If your dog has low blood sugar, the best thing to do is give them something to eat- sometimes this is easier said than done!

If your poodle does not want to eat, you can try rubbing something sweet on their gums, like honey, syrup or a favorite treat like cheese or peanut butter.  You could even give your dog some sugar water or a sugary snack if you don’t have anything else available- anything that will help their blood sugar get back to normal will do the trick.

After this, you should see an improvement pretty quickly and the shaking should stop. If it does not and your dog appears to get worse, such as vomiting or refusing to eat, they should be taken to the vet immediately.

To avoid low blood sugar in healthy dogs, ensure your dog gets fed regularly with enough nutritious food. Poodles who need to be left alone should be given treat release toys and plenty of food to keep their blood sugar stable when their owner is away.

Other reasons your Poodle may be shaking…

In some circumstances, poodles can get diabetes, something that mostly, though not always, affects older or obese dogs. As well as low blood sugar, other symptoms of diabetes include excessive thirst, more frequent urination, weight loss, and increased hunger. In bad cases, your dog could also go blind. Your vet will perform tests to easily determine if your dog has diabetes, but if you suspect your dog could have this it can make your dog very unwell, so get them to the vet quickly.

Generalized Tremor Syndrome or white shaker dog syndrome is a less common reason why your poodle may be shaking. This illness got its nickname because it used to only be present in white dogs, however, it can occur in dogs of all colors, though is more common in lighter colored dogs such as those who are white, cream or apricot. The main symptom of this condition is full-body shaking and this condition needs to be diagnosed by a vet. Symptoms can be mild or severe and can interfere with walking, eye movement and bad coordination for the poor poodles affected by this illness. Poodles can get this at any age but are most likely to get it within the first two years of life. It is thought to be caused by a problem with the central nervous system, and when treated using medication prescribed by a vet, most dogs are able to live a happy and normal life.

If your poodle is shaking in combination with other signs they may be unwell, such as loss of appetite, lethargy, changes in the amount of urine or feces they pass, changes in weight, fever, coughing you should take them to see a vet as soon as possible.

Why is my Poodle shaking their head?

Some dog owners report that their poodle is only shaking their head while their body remains still. While it may look like your poodle is trying to tell you “no” when they are shaking their head, it is probably caused by the same things that would cause full body shakes. The best way to find out is to use the guide above to determine if these shakes are due to being stressed and anxious, too cold or having low blood sugar.

Another thing to look into if you notice your pooch shaking their head regularly is if there could be a problem with their ears. All dogs occasionally get ear problems, such as infections, fleas or mites. If you spot your dog trying to scratch their ears with their paws or rubbing their head against things this is another sign you need to get their ears checked out.

Another condition that could be causing your poodle to shake their head is a condition called Idiopathic head tremors (IHT). These tremours will be either rotational (in a circle), up and down, and side to side.  This normally affects younger or middle ages Poodles and a study conducted by Veterinary Medicine International found that poodles appeared to be less affected by this disease than other purebred dog breeds. You can read this article here. Typically, you can stop this behavior by distracting your dog with food and play and it is thought that when dogs are stressed they are more likely to have head tremors. 

Should you be worried if your Poodle is shaking?

Most of the time, your poodle shaking is not something to worry about. Common reasons why poodles shake are being too cold, low blood sugar and being stressed or anxious. If you have ruled out the common reasons why your poodle is shaking and they are still shaking then you should get a vet’s opinion on the reason for shaking.

If you think your poodle is shaking because they are in pain or ill this needs to be explored by a vet to get to the root cause. You don’t want your favorite pet to suffer unnecessarily and luckily, most of the medical conditions that cause shaking are treatable with early medical intervention. 

Should you take your dog to the vet if he is shaking?

You should see a vet immediately if you poodle is shaking and has other worrying symptoms.

These include:

  1.  Vomiting
  2.  Fever
  3.  Swollen abdomen
  4.  Fatigue that can’t be explained by vigorous exercise
  5.  Diarrhea
  6.  Extreme changes in temperament or personality
  7.  Heavy panting not explained by exercise
  8.  Whining or crying
  9.  Changes in food or drink consumption
  10.  Not passing urine or feces as normal
  11.  Pawing at ears 
  12.  Trouble breathing

If your poodle is shaking because they are cold, hungry with low blood sugar, stressed or very tired from exercise, your dog probably doesn’t need to go to the vet right away. However, if this is something that happens regularly, it is worth getting your dog seen by a vet for a second opinion. 

If your poodle is only shaking occasionally, some owners worry that when they take their dog to the vet the vet won’t believe them if the dog is not shaking during their appointment. Therefore, it is useful to take a video of your dog shaking to show the vet during your appointment. 

 Your vet will probably do a physical examination and blood work to see what is causing your dog to shake. 

I hope you’ve found my article useful- please get in touch if you think I have missed anything or you have any questions.

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