Reasons why your dog is shaking and when to see the vet

Over 48 million American households own a dog as a pet, with 1.6 dogs being the average number owned per household, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Owning a dog is a large responsibility which includes keeping an eye on their behavior for anything unusual. Dogs exhibit many interesting behaviors, such as digging, chasing their tails or even sniffing each other’s rear ends.

But what happens when man’s best friend starts shaking? There could be multiple reasons, some of which are mild while others require attention from a veterinarian.

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Why is my dog shaking?

Fear

According to Dr. Katherine Houpt, James Law Professor Emeritus at Cornell University, one reason your dog might be shaking is fear. The response is usually to audible signals, but can sometimes be visual as well, she said.

Loud sounds like fireworks during the Fourth of July or vacuum cleaning could frighten your dog, she said.

“It would be kind to the dog to go to the veterinarian well ahead of time [and] get medication so the dog will not be so scared, as well as finding a place where the dog is safe (and) can't hear loud sounds.” Houpt said.

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Happiness or excitement

According to Windermere Veterinary Services in Windermere, Florida, sometimes dogs shake when they are happy or excited, and this is a completely natural reaction. This could be when you’ve just arrived home and it is glad to see you, or it is anticipating something.

Cold

Another reason for your dog’s behavior is that it might be cold. Houpt noted that if it’s wintertime, the dog could be shivering. The Kennel Club notes dogs that are smaller, slimmer or have thinner coats lose heat more quickly and have a higher chance of shaking when cold, which helps make them warm.

How much better is a dog's hearing?

Dogs have different hearing abilities than humans. While humans can't hear over 20,000 Hertz, dogs are able to hear sounds up to 47,000 to 65,000 Hz, according to American Kennel Club. Dogs are also able to hear softer sounds than humans when the sounds are between certain frequencies.

Houpt said that a dog's ability to hear high pitched sounds might be a reason for shaking.

"Owners should know that dogs are usually doing something for a reason," she said. "And they shouldn't blame the dog or think the dog's being stupid."

When to see the vet

While some reasons for shaking don’t require medical attention, other cases of shaking can be more serious.

“If the dog is shaking and there seems to be nothing to scare the dog, then I would certainly take it in [to the veterinarian] because it could actually be shivering with a high fever or something else,” Houpt said.

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How to prevent shaking

Owners should try to figure out what in the dog’s environment could be causing its shaking, Houpt said, whether sounds or something visual, like nail clippers.

Houpt also gave a tip for dogs who shake because they are scared of the vet: going to a Fear Free Certified Professional. These specialists are able to handle dogs in a way that won’t scare them.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Why is my dog shaking? Tips on what to do and when to see the vet