Your dog can’t tell you when something’s wrong, so it’s up to you to decode their actions and behavior. Shaking can be completely benign, but it can also be a sign of a serious medical issue. 

Why does my dog shake while eating?

If your dog shakes while eating, there are many possible causes. Determining the cause can require a little detective work, but it’s well worth it.

Decoding the Shakes

It’s helpful to keep a record of when your dog shakes. What they were doing, when it occurred, and when it stopped. Does your dog only shake while eating? Do they shake during periods of excitement? Do they shake at random times with no discernable pattern? Tracking when your dog shakes will help you narrow down why your dog is shaking. 

Excitement

Dogs get excited, just like people do. However, they often express it differently. It’s rare for a human to shake from sheer excitement, but not unheard of. It’s much more common for dogs. 

If your dog shakes while eating, they may simply love the food and be shaking from excitement. Another sign of excitement is a high or wagging tail. 

Fear or Anxiety

If you have multiple dogs in the home, your dog may shake while eating due to fear or anxiety, particularly if they have fought in the past. 

Other issues can also cause anxiety while eating. The area where you feed them could be too noisy or busy. They may have had a bad experience while eating in the past. Even a loud noise while eating can create a negative association that causes fear when your dog eats. 

To distinguish between shaking due to excitement or anxiety, the tail is a tell tell sign. An excited dog will have a high tail, while an anxious dog will have a tucked or low tail. 

Their posture will be low and tense instead of relaxed. Their ears may be flattened against their head, instead of relaxed. The hair on their back may be raised. 

If fear or anxiety is causing your dog to shake while eating, you’ll need to determine the underlying cause and remedy it if possible. If it’s another dog, feed them in separate areas. If the area is too noisy, begin feeding them in a quieter space. If there’s a negative association, moving the food bowl and getting a new bowl can be helpful. 

Pain

Pain can cause your dog to shake as well. If your dog is older or has orthopedic problems, this might be the cause. Pain in the back, neck, or hips can make eating difficult and uncomfortable. 

If your dog has orthopedic problems, you may need a raised food bowl. This prevents the dog from bending down to eat. 

Dental Problems

Dental problems can also cause your dog to shake while eating, because they cause pain when eating. If your dog only shakes while eating, this might be the issue. 

Check their mouth for broken teeth, red or swollen gums, and cavities. If you notice any dental issues, you’ll need to see the vet. In the meantime, wet food may be easier for them to tolerate than dry food. 

Cold

Your dog may be shaking simply because they are cold. If the area where they eat is cold, consider moving them to a warmer area. A dog that’s cold may tuck it’s tail, whine, or bark in addition to shivering. 

Some dogs are more sensitive to cold than others. Puppies younger than 4 weeks old can’t fully regulate their body temperature. Older dogs can also have difficulty regulating body temperature, causing them to be sensitive to cooler temps. 

Dogs with short hair will naturally get cold quicker than dogs with long shaggy coats. If you go outside in a short sleeve shirt, you’ll get cold much easier than if you were wearing a coat. The coat helps trap your body heat and insulates you from cold temperatures. Your dog’s coat functions the same way. Short hair is similar to a short sleeve shirt, instead of a warm coat. It’s perfect for warmer temps, but doesn’t provide as much warmth. 

Shaker Syndrome

Shaker syndrome, also known as white dog shaker syndrome, typically occurs between 1 and 4 years old. Dogs with shaker syndrome shake, as the name suggests. They may also have loss of coordination, collapse, or seizures. 

Shaker syndrome affects smaller breeds. Many of the affected breeds are white, like white terriers and maltese. However, it also affects other dogs, including beagles and Yorkshire terriers. 

Shaker syndrome is typically treated with high doses of steroids, which require a prescription from your vet. 

Old Age

Researchers haven’t been able to determine why dogs shake as they get older. It’s called idiopathic tremors, which essentially means the dog shakes and no one knows why. 

One theory is that the layer around the nerves gets thinner, which leads to misfiring that causes shaking. Similar to an electrical cord with an exposed wire. 

Learned Behavior

Do you pick your dog up and comfort them when you see them shaking? If shaking results in attention and pets, it’s possible you’ve actually trained your dog to shake!

Positive reinforcement is the basis of dog training. This means when your dog performs the desired behavior, they are rewarded, usually with praise or a treat. 

Many owners train their dogs to do certain things without realizing that’s what they are doing. When the dog does something and it gets rewarded, it will continue doing it to get the reward. In this case, you aren’t intentionally rewarding them, but it doesn’t matter. The result is the same. 

Distemper

Distemper is a serious disease. It can make your dog very sick, and it’s sometimes fatal. It can be passed from dog to dog. It’s often present in wildlife, including skunks and raccoons, which can spread the disease to dogs as well. 

Shaking is one sign of distemper, and will occur frequently. Discharge from the eyes and nose, lethargy, fever, and vomiting are also common. The best treatment for distemper is prevention with vaccination. It’s possible for dogs to survive the disease, but it requires expensive veterinary care. 

Why does my dog shake when hungry?

There are a few reasons why your dog may shake when hungry, in addition to the reasons listed above.

Hypoglycemia

Hypoglycemia is the technical term for low blood sugar. Mild hypoglycemia can cause shaking, fatigue, and mild disorientation. Severe hypoglycemia can cause seizures, loss of consciousness, and death. 

Puppies and toy breeds are at a higher risk of hypoglycemia. Normally, the body will break down stores of glucose to raise blood sugar. In toy breeds, this process doesn’t occur quickly enough, leaving them vulnerable to low blood sugar. 

It can occur because of vigorous exercise or too much time between meals. It can also occur as the result of another medical condition, including tumors or Addison’s disease. 

If you suspect your dog has hypoglycemia, you can give a few drops of maple syrup. This should quickly raise their blood sugar. Once they are stable, you’ll need to contact the vet. They can perform an exam to determine the cause of low blood sugar. 

Fatigue

If your dog has been playing or exercising, they may simply be tired. Overexertion or fatigue can cause your dog to shake. If it’s been awhile since their last meal, the lack of food can also contribute to fatigue. 

Stress

You’ve seen those Snicker’s commercials proclaiming, “You aren’t you when you are hungry”. There’s a lot of truth in that statement. Hunger makes it more difficult to control emotions in humans, and it likely has a similar effect on your dog. 

They may be more affected by stress when they are hungry. Hunger can also be stressful itself. These factors can cause them to shake. Signs of stress are similar to those of fear or anxiety. These include a tucked tail, lip licking, yawning, barking, whining, and pacing. 

Why does my dog shake before eating?

You reach for the food bowl and notice your dog starts shaking. They do this every time you are about to feed them. What’s going on?

Excitement or Anticipation

The most likely explanation is that your dog is simply excited. Some dogs are more enthusiastic about meal time than others, and some are more easily overexcited. 

Do they shake when you grab their leash for a walk, or when you return home from work? If you notice your dog is very easily excited and shakes during other periods of excitement, it’s a safe bet that’s why they are shaking.

Of course, it’s possible that meal time is the only thing that excites them so much that they shake as well. 

Hunger

Hunger can also cause your dog to shake for the reasons listed above. Low blood sugar, stress, and fatigue commonly occur along with hunger. 

Why does my dog shake after eating?

Does your dog begin shaking after they’ve finished their meal? In addition to the other causes of shaking, there are a few reasons to be aware of. 

Naseau

Naseau will often cause a dog to shake. They may have a virus or eaten something that didn’t agree with them. They may have eaten their meal too fast or ate too much. Mild nausea isn’t a big concern, but if it occurs frequently, you may need to change your dog’s food or feeding schedule. 

If the nausea occurs with vomiting or prolonged gagging, it’s best to call your vet. Gagging without vomiting can be a sign of a potentially fatal condition called bloat. 

Toxic ingestion

One of the most concerning reasons for a dog to shake after eating is ingesting something toxic. There are many substances that are toxic to your pet. House plants, medications, and even chocolate can be poisonous to your pooch. 

Signs of poisoning include shaking, vomiting, drooling, foaming mouth, lethargy, whining, agitation, and collapse. If you suspect your dog has eaten something toxic, you’ll need to seek veterinary attention or call the animal poison control center immediately. 

Cold

Dogs can’t regulate their temperature as well when they are digesting food. This makes them more sensitive to the cold. If your dog seems to catch a chill after a full belly, try raising the temperature a few degrees. You can also give them a warm or sunny spot to rest while their food is digested. 

Seizures

Seizures can occur at any time, not just after eating. They often cause shaking, or convulsions. Seizures can be complex or partial. Partial seizures typically affect one part of the body. Your dog may kick one leg or have a facial twitch. They may also stare into space. 

Complex seizures affect the entire body. Full body convulsions are common with this type. Dogs may lose consciousness during a seizure as well. 

Author

I created and currently manage Pet Dog Owner, the website you can go to when you have questions about your dog's behavior. It is my hope that you find Pet Dog Owner to be a helpful resource. It is also my hope that it will help you to improve your relationship with your dog. You can read more about me and my website here.