It’s worrying when our pups start to behave strangely, so being able to figure out why they are doing so is something that is important for all dog owners.
Whether your dog acts peculiarly by randomly stretching their neck, or hiccuping and swallowing constantly, finding and addressing the cause as soon as possible can help to prevent future problems.
If you’re wondering why your dog is sticking its tongue out and shaking more than usual, the answer is that both genetics and external factors may be in play.
Genetic factors such as brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome and macroglossia will cause your dog to constantly stick their tongues out. These conditions are common amongst Pugs, Shih-Tzus, and Bulldogs.
External factors that can cause a dog to stick its tongue out and shake can include stimuli causing seizures, pain, emotional changes, cold, poisoning and infections.
As your dog’s condition can be induced by a combination of both genetics and environmental factors, visiting your vet or a certified dog specialist can definitely be helpful in identifying the specific cause and attaining an appropriate solution.
What Can I Do If My Dog Is Sticking Its Tongue Out And Shaking?
Firstly, it is important to determine the cause of the behavior by identifying a potential stimulus, such as something your dog heard or ate.
Recording symptoms as they are happening will be helpful for your vet once you take them in for an examination. Also, be sure to compile your dog’s medical history as this may offer clues as to why the symptoms are occurring.
Once your dog stops shaking, try to track any other abnormal behavior, altered appetite, or changes in your dog’s urine or stool habits. This will help both you and the vet to develop a better idea of why your dog is behaving irregularly.
Unfortunately dogs tend to exhibit strange behavior more frequently as they age, and while there is no specific treatment for this, medications such Deramaxx, Rimadyl and Dasuquin can help to manage pain and maintain overall health.
Maintaining a well-balanced diet, supplementing with products like collagen and Omega-3 fatty acids, and providing consistent mental and physical interaction will help delay the frequency at which your dog displays irregular behavior.
If your dog sticks its tongue out and is shaking, but appears to be asleep, there’s nothing that you really need to do. It is natural for your dog to twitch and move about when they are in a deep sleep.
If your dog is experiencing large convulsions, you can ensure it is just dreaming and not experiencing a seizure by trying to wake it up with some noise.
You can do this by dropping something on the floor, or by calling out its name to see if it wakes up. If it does wake up, then it was simply dreaming. However, if your dog is not hearing impaired and does not wake up, there is a possibility that it is experiencing a seizure.
If your dog is experiencing seizures, ensure that it is on the ground to prevent it from falling over and hurting itself.
Watch over the dog until it regains consciousness. Don’t try to grab your dog’s tongue as it may accidentally bite you. Check body temperature as seizures can lead to hyperthermia- if it is overheating, you can cool your dog with cold towels.
If your dog experiences a seizure, you should contact your vet and have your dog examined as soon as possible.
The vet will be able to perform tests to see if your dog is suffering from any conditions involving the heart, kidneys, and liver. Tests may include urinalysis, physical examinations, blood analysis and the use of MRI and CT scans.
To prevent future seizures from occurring, your vet may prescribe anticonvulsant medications such as potassium bromide or phenobarbital that may need to be administered for the remainder of your dog’s life.
If your dog is shaking due to pain, consult your vet for an examination and medication. They may provide pain medication such as Tramadol, a muscle relaxant such as Methocarbamol, or pressure-relieving medication such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
During treatment and recovery, confine your dog in smaller areas and prevent it from moving excessively to stop further injury to the affected area. You may need to confine your dog in a crate and stop your dog from using stairs or running.
If your dog is cold, you can help to warm it up by providing a dog coat or other outerwear. This can be particularly helpful during the cooler seasons. You should also provide a warm area where your dog can rest and sleep in.
When your dog is overexcited, it is important to:
- Reward your dog for relaxed behavior; and
- Ignore your dog when they are being hyperactive.
This will help to condition your dog to become more relaxed as they gradually learn that relaxed behavior will lead to rewards.
If your dog shakes due to stress, anxiety or fear, you can:
- Remove the stimulus, or place the dog somewhere where they will not experience the stimulus
- Redirect attention by providing therapeutic toys or treats
- Provide calming medications for severe cases, as advised by your vet
- Consult with a certified dog behavioral specialist, as they can help to identify the cause and recondition the behavior
- Increase socialization by having your dog go to new and different environments
It is important to remain calm when your dog is suffering from these emotional episodes, as your emotional state will be reflected on your dog.
If your dog suffers poisoning due to ingesting toxic substances, or from coming into contact with toxins, it will need to be examined by a vet.
The vet may advise you to induce vomiting by using 3% hydrogen peroxide, or by applying ointments to calm the affected area. In severe cases, your dog may need to be hospitalized and placed on supportive care.
Treatment for infections involve strengthening your dog’s immune system by using antibiotics over a course of weeks or months. Vets may also use IV fluids to help keep your dog hydrated.
As some infections such as canine distemper do not have any specific treatment available, vets will focus on boosting your dog’s immune system as much as possible.
Other Conditions and Treatment:
Addison’s Disease: To treat Addison’s Disease, a dog may initially require hospitalization and intravenous fluids. This may then be followed by replacement hormones, which usually will be prescribed for the rest of the dog’s life. Medications that may be used include Florinef and DOCP.
Hypoglycemia: To treat hypoglycemia, a dog may constantly need to consume sugary foods such as corn syrup, fruit juice and honey in small amounts during and between meals. In severe cases, IV fluids with concentrated sugars will be needed.
Kidney Disease: Depending on the cause, your dog may require medications such as antibiotics. Supplements and a change in diet may also be necessary to lessen the workload on the affected kidney.
Generalized Tremor Syndrome: Treatment commonly involves prescribed corticosteroids such as Prednisone. High doses will initially be administered to your dog. Over time, the dosage is lowered until the amount that is required to treat the symptoms is established.
What Does It Mean If My Dog Is Sticking Its Tongue Out And Shaking While Sleeping?
If you find that your dog sticks out its tongue and shakes while sleeping, it could be due to a combination of genetics and environmental factors.
Two common genetically inherited conditions that can cause a dog to stick its tongue out include brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS) and macroglossia.
BOAS is a condition common amongst French bulldogs, Shih-Tzus and Pugs. This is because their airways are shortened, their faces are flat, and they cannot breathe as effectively to cool themselves down.
Macroglossia is a rare condition where dogs develop large-enough tongues which do not fit in their mouth. This can be due to either environmental factors or genetics.
While having their tongues out does not in itself cause any significant problems for your dog, it may become dehydrated from the constant loss of moisture from their tongue. It is therefore important to always have sufficient water available for your dog to drink to prevent dehydration.
In addition to genetics and environment, a sleeping dog may also shake and stick their tongue out because they are dreaming. Your dog could be experiencing emotions such as feeling stress, anxiety or fear within their dreams.
You may also observe brief movements such as shaking or twitching that can happen occasionally when your dog is experiencing REM sleep.
Dogs that are really relaxed while sleeping will sometimes have their tongue out- especially if they are lying on their side!
In rare cases, your dog may be suffering from a seizure during the middle of their sleep. However, more often than not, your dog will be asleep and dreaming.
Why Is My Dog Acting Weird And Shaking?
When your dog acts weird and shakes, it can be due to reasons such as neurological problems, problems with blood composition, changes in emotional activity, poisoning, and infections.
Older dogs may act weird and experience tremors due to cognitive deterioration, arthritis, and joint pain. A dog may also react strangely to any new medication that may have been provided.
Your dog might be behaving differently from normal due to seizures. Seizures involve changes in neurological patterns, and symptoms may include:
- Changes in, or loss of, consciousness
- Abnormal muscle movement
- Eliminating or salivating excessively
- Changes in behavior, such as running around in circles
A dog may suffer from seizures due to cardiovascular issues, or an inability to absorb sufficient oxygen resulting from abnormal heart structures that create pressure on surrounding organs.
Your dog may be in pain due to internal injuries or physical trauma. This can in turn cause your dog to shake and act strangely. If your dog trembles and pants excessively, this could mean your dog is suffering from severe pain.
Other signs of pain can include weakness, loss of appetite, whining and emotions such as aggressiveness or depression.
Dogs can experience pain and weakness if they exercise too much, and may develop tremors when the injured area is massaged or moved.
Some species such as the Havanese are more prone to internal injuries, and therefore are more likely to exhibit signs of pain.
If you notice your dog shaking and moving around strangely, they could simply be moving about because they are cold!
It is normal for a dog to shake when they are cold, and it may move around strangely in order to try to increase their body temperature.
Anxiety, Fear or Stress
Your dog can become anxious from the changes in their surroundings.
In response, its body may produce elevated levels of the chemical norepinephrine, which stimulates muscles in preparation for a fight-or-flight response. While the muscles are stimulated, they may cause involuntary contractions and thereby create a shaking behavior.
If your dog is anxious, afraid or stressed, they may also show other signs such as:
- Irregular chewing
As you well know, dogs can become excited for an endless range of reasons- from seeing guests, receiving food, or playing with their favourite toy.
If your dog shakes and is hyperactive in response to a stimuli, this can be a sign of excitement. This is a pretty normal reaction, and as such your dog should calm down over the next few minutes once they get used to the situation.
Dogs are known to get into common household items that can cause poisoning. Some examples include chocolate, garlic, onions, human medications and weed killers.
In addition to panting and shaking, other symptoms of poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, weakness and seizures.
It is common for a dog to develop a fever in response to infections. Excess heat causes the dog to pant, and it will also involuntarily shake to increase body temperature in order to fight off the infection.
A relatively common viral infection amongst young, non-vaccinated dogs is canine distemper. Some signs of canine distemper include fever, eye and nasal discharge, coughing, seizures and tremors.
While medication can help treat symptoms of canine distemper, there is currently no cure for this illness.
Other explanations for the irregular behavior and shaking may include:
- Addison’s Disease: Addison’s Disease describes an insufficient production of aldosterone and cortisol. Symptoms include GI issues and weight loss.
- Hypoglycemia: Hypoglycemia is a condition involving low blood sugar commonly caused by a poor diet or internal organ abnormalities. Symptoms include weakness, loss of coordination and in severe cases, paralysis and collapse.
- Kidney Disease: This illness commonly develops from the ingestion of poison substances. It usually involves changes in urine and eliminating frequency, as well as weight loss.
- Generalized Tremor Syndrome: Also known as Steroid Responsive Tremor Syndrome or White Shaker Syndrome, Generalized Tremor Syndrome involves consistent and involuntary tremors in a localised region or around the body. The exact cause of the syndrome is currently unknown.
If your dog sticks out its tongue and shakes frequently, it could be due to genetics and environmental factors.
Dogs such as pugs inherit the brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome, a condition where they constantly stick out their tongues due to shortened airways and flat faces.
Some dogs may have macroglossia, which means that they develop larger tongues that do not fit in their mouth.
Other factors that can contribute to shaking and tongues being stuck out can include seizures, pain, cold, emotional changes, infections and poisoning.
The exact cause can be difficult to identify, so while this article may provide an idea of potential causes, it would be best to contact your vet for a more thorough examination and advice.
Elena Gherman is a highly skilled and knowledgeable animal care expert. At the start of her career, she gained practical expertise with multiple animals. In addition to that, she works as a DVM veterinary editor for Joy Pet Products, which focuses on offering reliable information on pet health and wellbeing. She meticulously reviews each piece of writing before it is published to make sure pet owners get the most precise and updated information possible.