What Causes Dog Leg Shaking?

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Tremors in dogs can be explained as involuntary muscle trembling that consists of repetitive and uncontrollable muscle twitching.

This is not a huge concern in many cases, but frequent dog leg shaking may be due to an underlying medical condition. It’s likely that the dog won’t notice the tremors if it’s not because of a medical problem.

There are several reasons that cause leg shaking in a dog. Some of the reasons include pain tremors,degenerative myelopathy, neurological disorders, shaker syndrome, and distemper, to name only a few. Dogs can also get shakey legs when they are scared, stressed, or anxious.

If you notice that your dogs have tremors in their legs, then you might want to keep an eye on the frequency.

After doing more research, the information we gathered was very helpful, so we decided that this post would discuss the causes and treatment of leg shaking in dogs. 

What Causes Dog Leg Shaking 

What causes dog leg shaking?

When you see your dog’s leg shaking, there could be numerous reasons for this. Some dogs get leg tremors that are nothing to be concerned about, while others get leg tremors that might be a sign of a deeper issue.

We will look at both sides of what causes dog leg shaking.

Dog Leg Shaking That Is Normal Or Benign

It might sound odd, but a few causes of a dog’s leg shaking are considered normal or benign, meaning there is no need to worry about shaky legs if the reasons listed below are the cause.

You still need to get your dog to a vet if this happens to your dog so the vet can run tests to see if the tremors are normal or not.

Fear, Stress, Or Cold 

When your dog is anxious or afraid, it might go into full-body shaking, and it will go away as soon as the dog is removed from the stressful situation. The same happens when your dog shakes because it is cold; as soon as it gets warmed up, it will stop shaking and feel a lot better.

Tremors Due To Old Age

Your dog can get tremors as they grow older. They won’t harm your dog, but you need to get a proper diagnosis by a vet to ensure they are age-related.

Dog Leg Shaking That Is Harmful

There are many reasons your dog might get tremors that won’t stop. Here are some of the most common reasons.

Pain Tremors

If your dog has a degenerative joint condition in the hip or knee, a torn ligament in the knee, arthritis, or hip dysplasia, the pain can cause involuntary leg shaking when the dog tries to walk or run.

Degenerative Myelopathy

DM is a progressive spinal disease that causes your dog’s spine to degenerate slowly. This disease slowly weakens your dog’s limbs and can be most commonly seen in older dogs of larger breeds, like German Shepherds. 

The slow degeneration of the dog’s spine can lead to a lack of nerve signals that go to the muscles in the hind legs and causes involuntary leg tremors and spasms.

Neurological Disorders

Neurological disorders usually start with a tremor in the dog’s leg, and it makes it difficult for them to walk.

Your vet can make a proper diagnosis as shaking legs, or leg tremors can indicate a disruption in communication between the spine and the brain. Or it could be severe pain from a nerve problem or a slipped disc.

Shaker Syndrome

Shaker syndrome is a congenital nerve defect that occurs in the spinal cord and brain, causing the dog’s whole body to shake. This condition commonly occurs in Poodles, Maltese, and West Highland terriers.

The tremors usually start when the dog reaches adulthood, but Shaker Syndrome can be treated, and the dog usually fully recovers within a few weeks after finishing treatment.


Distemper is a viral infection that is most common in young puppies and dogs that have not been vaccinated. The virus causes flu-like symptoms, including a runny nose, fever, a green discharge that comes from the eyes and the nose, coughing, and total body shaking.

How To Treat And Prevent Leg Shaking In Dogs

While it might seem overwhelming when your dog is in pain, it’s important to know that there are ways to treat shaking legs and a few to prevent it. 

How To Treat Leg Shaking In Dogs

The treatment of your dog’s shaking legs will depend on the reason and severity of the problem. In less severe cases, the treatment would include inflammatory drugs, light exercise, and massage therapy. 

In more severe joint issues, the treatment for shaking legs in dogs may respond better to more invasive treatment options like fusion surgery or joint replacement. The vet will also prescribe medicine to help cope with the underlying metabolic imbalance.

In some cases, like with DM, there is no known cure, but exercise and massage therapy will help ease the pain and restore some of the normal leg function. 

How To Prevent Leg Shaking In Dogs

While it’s not always possible to prevent severe genetic conditions, you can provide your dog with the best chance it has at preventing shaking legs. Here are a few helpful tips.

  • Provide your dog with all the vitamins and nutrients to strengthen its immune system and bones. 
  • Give your dog bone and joint supplements to help their legs stay strong and increase calcium absorption.
  • Ensure your dog gets enough protein in its diet because the amino acids in protein-rich foods help produce collagen that can improve muscle and joint flexibility and health.
  • Take your dog for regular walks and exercise to keep their weight at a healthy number and keep their joints strong. Use a brace or harness if necessary to reduce any pain.
Dog legs up close

When To Act On Dog Leg Shaking

Leg shaking in dogs doesn’t always spell trouble, but if you see the shaking worsen or it won’t go away, you need to check with a vet to find out what is wrong.

Common issues like being cold, fear, anxiety, and stress can cause your dog’s legs to shake and is not a concern because it goes away when the dog is taken out of that situation. 

If your dog has a condition or joint issue, it might need to be put on medication or surgery to repair the damage. In worst-case scenarios, your dog might have a condition that has no cure or treatment, and you can only improve its quality of life.

The only way to know for sure is to get your vet to give a proper diagnosis. 

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