A puppy can shake, tremble or shiver for different reasons. It could be something as simple as the cold weather outside. Or it could be over-excited to see you after a long period. Or it could be a serious health concern like seizures or brain injury.
Have you noticed your puppy’s front legs shaking? If yes, the article will take you through the possible causes behind the shaking. And also, what can you do to soothe the condition.
If the puppy shows additional symptoms of continuous limping, vomiting, or drooling, it would be best to get the pet examined by the vet.
- Why are My Puppy’s Front Legs Shaking While Standing or Sitting?
- When Does Shaking Become a Problem?
Why are My Puppy’s Front Legs Shaking While Standing or Sitting?
Here are some common reasons why your puppy’s front legs shake while standing or sitting. The more severe causes like poisoning, seizures, and brain injury require your immediate attention.
Dogs generally like to be in the company of people. They want to play with you, have you give them belly rubs, or simply sit close to you. So when you are away the whole day for work or on deployment overseas, your coming back home is a big event for them.
The mere sight of you walking through the front door can make them extremely happy and excited. And how do dogs show these feelings? By jumping, licking, barking, and shaking. Some dogs may even urinate from excitement.
Puppies tend to be more energetic and excited. It can be a challenge to get a hold of their emotions than full-grown dogs. So when the puppies come to greet you by the door, you might see their front legs shaking while standing.
Puppies getting excited at the sight of their human parents is expected. Even humans jump with joy when meeting their favorite person. The behavior does not explicitly need a treatment. Most puppies may grow out of these traits as they age.
But, if the puppy gets over-excited or you do not want to encourage such behavior, you can train the puppy to calm down. Do not react when the puppy shakes with excitement. When it does not get a reaction from you, it will calm down. And when it does, give the puppy a treat.
If the greeting is a trigger for the puppy, train them to sit at the door before you react. Also, keep the greeting sessions at the door brief.
2. Anxiety or Fear
Dogs tend to remember bad experiences. Anxiety and fear are strong emotions that are associated with such experiences. When they are faced with the trigger, their anxiety kicks in, and they show symptoms like shaking and trembling.
For example, if a puppy has been abused, mistreated, or neglected early on, it will be closed off to new experiences. As a result, its front legs can start shaking out of fear in the presence of new people. Or loud noises like fireworks can make the puppy anxious.
You first need to identify the trigger that causes the puppy to shake. Desensitization to the trigger is the most successful way of easing anxiety or fear.
For example, if meeting new people is a trigger, start introducing the puppy to people one by one. Choose an environment where the puppy feels safe, like your home. Invite one of your friends over.
The presence of a single new person in a comfortable setting will not invoke the same level of anxiety in the puppy. It may even interact with your friend at the end of the day.
You can seek help from professional behaviorists to train your puppy. If behavior modification methods are not effective, your vet may suggest medications. Treatment is necessary; if left unchecked, the disorders can progress.
3. Cold Weather
Have you experienced shivering when the weather outside is too cold? Walking or even standing out in the snow can be teeth-chattering if you are not dressed warmly. The same goes for your puppies.
If the weather is cold outside, or the puppy is wandering in the snowy backyard without any protection, it is bound to shake with cold. Dog breeds with short hair do not tolerate the cold well. They might want to be wrapped in a blanket even indoors.
A few dog breeds that can get cold quickly are Great Dane, Chihuahua, Beagle, French Bulldog, and Greyhound, among others.
If the puppy’s legs shake from the cold, do not let it outside. If you have to go out, ensure it is covered in something warm. A dog’s paws contain a complex network of nerves that keeps it warm, but winter shoes can add an extra layer of protection.
When indoors, keep blankets around the puppy’s bed. Ensure the blanket is not too thick or worn out with threads hanging. Such blankets can turn into a hazard for small puppies. You can explore heated bed options if your puppy gets awfully cold.
Do not let the dog lay on the floor. You can also feed the puppy warm home-cooked foods during winters.
A common cause of shaky legs in puppies is distemper. It is caused by a virus called a paramyxovirus. The condition usually affects puppies that are not fully vaccinated. Once infected, the symptoms may take up to two weeks to show. However, neurological symptoms like muscle twitching may show up months after the infection.
A puppy with distemper can show signs like:
- Discharge from nose and eyes
- Skin sores
- Difficulty breathing
Some neurological signs are:
- Legs shaking
- Involuntary eye movement
The virus is highly contagious. Your puppy can get infected after coming into contact with infected urine, blood, saliva, or even respiratory droplets. Most distemper cases are diagnosed during the late fall and winter seasons.
The treatment for this condition is supportive. The vet will prescribe medications to manage the symptoms the puppy is showing. For example, the vet might give the puppy broad-spectrum antibiotics, fever reducers, or IV fluids.
Puppies can recover from distemper, but the condition can turn serious and fatal in some cases. In addition, some puppies may continue to show neurological symptoms later in life, like muscle twitching or seizures, even after recovering.
A puppy can get nauseous for a variety of reasons. It may have scoffed down its food too fast, eaten more than its stomach can handle, or eaten something it should have not, like your facial cream or a plant in the backyard.
Other reasons include motion sickness, exposure to toxins, or even intestinal obstruction.
If the puppy is nauseous, its front legs might shake white standing up or walking. It will feel tired and lethargic and may even refuse to eat.
If you have your eye on the pet’s diet and are sure it has not eaten anything that it should not, then nausea could also indicate kidney or liver disease. If the puppy is showing additional symptoms like vomiting, drooling, or listlessness, do not hesitate to contact your vet.
The solution depends on why your puppy is nauseous. If the symptoms are mild, withholding food for a few hours and giving water can help ease the condition. However, do not try to induce vomiting on your own, as it could worsen the puppy’s situation in some cases.
Giving the puppy easily digestible food like chicken and rice over the next one or two days can give its stomach a chance to heal.
If the cause is motion sickness, limiting the puppy’s food and water intake before the car ride and giving it an anti-nausea medication can help.
If your puppy has ingested any toxins, shaky legs could be a symptom. Food items that are perfectly safe for humans can be toxic for dogs. Thus, it would be best if you avoided sharing human food with your dog.
For example, chocolate does not deserve a place in your puppy’s diet. This is because it contains a chemical known as theobromine. Now, dogs cannot metabolize this chemical as well as humans can.
In mild cases of chocolate poisoning, the puppy could show symptoms like:
- Increased urination
- Increased water intake
In severe cases, the puppy can have muscle tremors and seizures.
Xylitol is a sweetener used in many baked products and desserts. For example, you can find sweeteners in ice cream, pie fillings, and cakes. When a puppy consumes xylitol, it can quickly get absorbed into its bloodstream, resulting in the rapid release of insulin. This can bring down its blood sugar level, and if left untreated, the condition can become life-threatening.
If the puppy has ingested a toxin in the form of chocolates, household cleaning products, or your skincare products, it may require the vet’s immediate attention. The vet might induce vomiting if the toxic was ingested recently.
Supportive treatments in the form of intravenous fluids and medications may be prescribed.
In the case of xylitol poisoning, the puppy will have to be hospitalized so the vet can monitor its blood glucose levels. Again, supportive care will be provided depending on clinical signs.
7. Generalized Tremor Syndrome (GTS)
The condition is popularly known as Little White Shaker Syndrome as it is commonly diagnosed in small white dogs like Maltese and Poodle. The condition, though, can affect any dog breed.
The cause of this syndrome is currently unknown. Affected dogs start showing signs between the ages of 9 to 24 months. The tremors may be restricted to a part of the body. For example, you see your puppy’s front legs shaking. Or the tremors could spread across the entire body.
The degree of the tremors also varies. In some puppies, the tremors could be mild, letting them engage in daily activities, while in others, it could be severe, holding them back from simple tasks such as walking.
A steroid called prednisone is the typical treatment administered for GTS. Your puppy’s tremor should stop within a couple of weeks after being on the steroid treatment.
Prednisone, though, can have side effects like increased hunger, thirst, and urination. So, once the tremors stop, the vet will lower the dose of the medication. The goal is to keep tremors at bay while keeping side effects to a minimum.
If prednisone does not work for your puppy, the vet may recommend other immunosuppressant drugs.
When it comes to neurological disorders in dogs, seizures are one of the common conditions observed. Involuntary muscle activity is one of the primary symptoms of this condition.
Your puppy is in a seizure when its brain activity is temporarily interrupted. If this interruption occurs multiple times, the condition is known as epilepsy.
The causes of seizures range from hereditary to liver or kidney disease, brain tumor, and toxins. It might be difficult to predict when the puppy could go into a seizure. There could be multiple episodes or just one. The puppy can be completely normal between such episodes.
A vet will treat your puppy for seizures only if it has had multiple episodes in a month or if the episodes are severe, prolonged, or occur in clusters.
The vet will prescribe Keppra or potassium bromide medications to control the seizures. Anti-convulsants can also be given to manage symptoms. A word of caution, once the puppy is started on anti-convulsant, it is to be given a lifetime.
If you abruptly stop the medications, the dog will be at a greater risk of having severe seizures.
9. Brain Injury
A brain injury could result from a direct impact or because of another underlying health condition. For example, if your puppy has been hit by a car or takes a bad fall, the force can injure its brain. If the brain does not get enough blood or oxygen, it could lead to injury.
If the puppy has erratic blood pressure, extended fever, multiple seizures over short intervals, or blood-clotting disorders, they can all lead to brain injury.
When it comes to tumors, brain tumors are most common in dogs. They usually affect the older canines.
A puppy with a brain injury will show symptoms like:
- Muscle twitching
- Slow heartbeat
- Change in pupil size
- Bleeding through the nose and ears
Treatment depends on the injury sustained. If the brain is not receiving enough blood, the vet will work on stabilizing the puppy’s blood pressure. If pressure or fluid builds up in the brain, then the fluid will have to be drained with surgery.
In the case of trauma, surgery will have to be performed if the puppy has suffered a skull fracture or there are objects penetrating the skull. You might have to take the puppy to a hospital as specialists will perform these surgeries.
If the puppy is stabilized and its condition does not deteriorate further in 48 hours, the prognosis is favorable. Brain injuries can have long recovery periods, but your puppy can enjoy a decent quality of life.
When Does Shaking Become a Problem?
If you see your puppy’s front legs shaking once in a while, and at other times it behaves normally, it might be fine not to sound the alarm bells. Instead, you can discuss it with the vet at your next routine appointment.
If the puppy’s legs shake because of emotions like excitement, happiness, fear, anxiety, or stress, behavioral training can help. Again, you can discuss this issue with the vet, but there is no need to make an emergency visit.
Contact your vet immediately if the shaking persists or you notice other symptoms like vomiting, loss of appetite, walking in circles, listlessness, or seizures.
Are your puppy’s front legs shaking? Shaking in puppies can be a result of simple to severe causes. For example, your puppy’s legs could be shaking because of the cold weather outside.
It could be excited and happy to see you after spending a long day in your absence. Other emotions like anxiety, stress, and fear can also trigger shaking.
Other health conditions that can lead to shaking are distemper, GTS, nausea, poisoning, seizures, and brain injury.
In the case of emotional triggers, behavioral training is the recommended treatment. In addition, the vet will offer supportive care, prescribe medications, and perform surgery if required for health conditions.
Heather Abraham is an owner of two dogs, one cat, a leopard gecko, and a parrot (who her dad still cannot teach bad words to), and an avid blogger. From the time she was a young girl, she always felt a connection with pets. She brings her love of every type of pet to you, with information on animal nutrition, medication, toys, beds, and everything else in between. Along with newly-on-board veterinarian DVM editor Elena, she puts pups first while offering other various fun tidbits along the way.