Why Is My Senior Dog Trembling (Understanding Panting, Shaking & Seizures In Older Dogs)

If you’re the owner of a senior dog, you probably already know that older dogs can be more prone to certain health issues. “Why is my senior dog trembling?” This question may weigh heavily on the minds of many pet owners witnessing their aging furry companions exhibit this concerning behavior. 

This is why some symptoms of illness or injury become even more alarming and important to take seriously when your dog reaches a certain age.

Why Is My Senior Dog Trembling (Understanding Panting, Shaking & Seizures In Older Dogs)

One of the scariest symptoms to witness as a senior dog owner is trembling. Trembling, which can be accompanied by other symptoms like excessive panting, can be due to emotional reasons. However, in some cases, it can represent something more serious, like a seizure.

Our mature dog, Honey, is here today, along with her owner, to answer the question, Why is my senior dog trembling?’ This should help you to understand panting, shaking, and seizures in older dogs.

Key Takeaways

  • Trembling in senior dogs can have many causes, ranging from excitement to neurological disease
  • You should look for other symptoms like panting, drooling, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • Always take your senior dog to the vet if they start shaking for an unexplained reason

What A Senior Dog Trembling Looks Like

What A Senior Dog Trembling Looks Like​

“Woof! The first thing senior dog owners should know is that trembling can look different in us older dogs depending on the cause and how severe it is. The tremors might be limited to our muscles or skin and look like shivering in either one or several parts of the body. It can be very mild, or more intense.”

How do we know the difference between mild trembling and more severe trembling, Honey? And does more intense trembling mean the problem is more serious?

“Severe trembling will often be widespread through the whole body. Just because it looks more intense doesn’t mean it’s definitely more serious. But, if the trembling is so bad that we can’t move, you should call the vet straight away.”

Are there any other symptoms owners should look out for when their senior dog is trembling? Can other symptoms help us find the cause of the trembling?

“Yes! Depending on the cause of the trembling, it might be accompanied by other symptoms like panting, drooling, swallowing a lot, or being less energetic.”

Seizures In Senior Dogs

Honey, how can owners tell the difference between a senior dog trembling and having a seizure? Wouldn’t these look very similar?

“Usually, the main difference is that a senior dog having a seizure will lose consciousness suddenly while having muscle spasms. A senior dog having a seizure might also lose bowel or bladder control and make distressed noises. These symptoms suggest a medical emergency.”

So, a seizure in a senior dog looks scarier than trembling and comes with symptoms like unconsciousness and loss of control. Got it. Are the causes of seizures in senior dogs different from the causes of trembling?

Cognitive Causes

Neurological disorders, which we’ll talk about more later, can cause both tremors and seizures. This is the main cognitive cause of seizures in senior dogs, along with head trauma. But there are also physical causes.”

Physical Causes

Could you tell us more about the physical causes of seizures in senior dogs, Honey?

“Basically, any physical condition that causes pressure on the brain, an increase in toxins in the body, or an imbalance of blood sugar and electrolytes. The physical causes of seizures in senior dogs can include diabetes, brain tumors, liver or kidney disease, poisoning, or an electrolyte imbalance.”

Why Is My Senior Dog Trembling?

Reasons For Senior Dog Trembling

Honey mentioned that the cause of the trembling will impact what it looks like and what other symptoms might be happening at the same time.

Let’s take a look at some of the main causes of trembling in senior dogs:

1. Experiencing Pain

“Sometimes, us senior dogs can start to shake or shiver if we’re in pain. This is more likely to happen as we get older because we’re more likely to develop conditions like arthritis. Pain in older dogs can also be down to infection, injuries, or diseases like cancer.”

What other symptoms should owners of senior dogs look out for if they think their dog might be in pain?

“If something hurts, we might not want to move around as much as usual. We might also try to tell you about our pain by whining – like you do on Monday mornings!’

2. Feeling Excited

Honey, you sometimes tremble when I come home from work or when I bring out your treats. What does that mean, and how can we tell the difference between shaking from excitement and trembling we should worry about?

“That’s a great question! You’re right, sometimes we do get so excited we start shaking. The difference between this kind of trembling and other shakes and shivers is when we’re excited, we might wag our tails, and we’ll probably seem perky and energetic.”

3. Anxiety

I have another question for you, Honey. Now that you’re 12, I’ve noticed you sometimes tremble a little when someone new comes into the house. Why is that?

“My hearing isn’t what it used to be, so I can’t always hear people before they come in. That can be a little scary.”

So, senior dogs might tremble because they’re anxious or scared. What other signs can we look for as dog owners to make sure the trembling is anxiety-related and not down to something else?

“Since we can’t speak Human, you should always ask a vet if you’re at all unsure why we’re trembling. Signs of anxiety in dogs like drooling, panting, and hiding can look like symptoms of other problems. There’s also CCD, or Canine Cognitive Dysfunction, which can cause confusion, anxiety, and restlessness in senior dogs.”

4. Being Cold

old dog in a sweater

We humans often tremble when we’re cold. The same is true for dogs. Trembling in a senior dog can just mean they need a sweater or a warm bed, right, Honey?

“That’s exactly right. Just like our human friends, we might start shivering when it gets cold. Try to monitor the temperature inside and outside when the weather cools down, and bring us indoors to put a sweater on us if we’re shivery.”

5. Poisoning

“Lots of things can be poisonous to us doggies, even if they’re harmless to humans. Poisoning is a very serious cause of trembling in dogs of all ages, including us seniors.”

That’s very important to know, Honey. Can you tell us some other signs of poisoning in dogs besides trembling?

“Signs of poisoning might include vomiting and diarrhea. Diarrhea might have blood in it because of internal bleeding. We might also seem lethargic and have an unusual heart rate.”

What kind of things should dog owners keep away from their senior dogs to make sure they don’t get sick, Honey?

“Some of the most common things that are poisonous to dogs are pesticides, chocolate, and xylitol. Xylitol is a sweetener, and it can be sneakily hidden in a lot of foods, so check the ingredients carefully!”

6. Neurological Conditions

“We mature dogs can be more at risk for neurological conditions. We might develop tremors as a result of this. Neurological diseases can also cause seizures, which may look like severe trembling.”

How likely is it that trembling in senior dogs is due to a neurological disease?

“It’s hard to say. If your canine companion is shaking, and you don’t know why, the vet will probably want to rule out neurological reasons early on, especially in older dogs.”

7. Nausea

“I know that as a senior dog, I sometimes get shaky when I’m feeling sick. Usually, that’s just because I’ve eaten my food too quickly, but there are other reasons for nausea in older dogs. Some of them include kidney disease and liver disease.”

For all our readers out there, other symptoms of nausea in dogs can include panting and drooling. Your dog might also swallow more than usual or smack their lips.

8. GTS

I’ve heard of a condition called GTS, or Generalized Tremor Syndrome, that causes trembling in dogs. Is this something owners of senior dogs should worry about?

“GTS usually affects young dogs and is more common in small, white dogs. However, if your dog is shaking for an unexplained reason, regardless of size, age, or breed, GTS will need to be ruled out.”

9. Idiopathic Disease

What’s Idiopathic Disease, Honey? Some senior dogs are diagnosed with this when they have trembling symptoms.

“Idiopathic Disease is what your senior dog will probably be diagnosed with if everything else is ruled out, especially if the shaking mostly affects the back legs. This diagnosis just means that the trembling doesn’t have any other cause.”

Final Thoughts

Trembling in senior dogs can be a concerning symptom, but understanding the potential causes is the first step toward providing appropriate care. 

By addressing “Why is my senior dog trembling?” with the guidance of your veterinarian, you can ensure your senior dog’s well-being and quality of life.

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