Tremors in Dogs: Could My Dog Be Poisoned?


As an emergency critical care specialist, I often see dogs presenting to the veterinarian or emergency veterinarian for acute tremors. Tremors are brief, spontaneous muscle-contractions that can occur all over the body. Often, the tremors may start in the head and progress down the body. In severe cases, tremors can progress to seizures. Untreated, tremors can result in severe complications, including:

  • Hyperthermia (due to the muscle activity)
  • Secondary clotting abnormalities (called disseminated intravascular coagulation [DIC])
  • Hypoglycemia (i.e., a low blood sugar)
  • Death

While tremors are a muscle activity in origin, seizures are actually a brain activity, making them very serious.

Is my dog having tremors?
If you notice your dog tremoring, you want to differentiate it from trembling or shivering. Both trembling and shivering may be due to causes like:

  • Nervousness
  • Anxiety
  • Behavioral issues
  • A metabolic problem (like kidney failure or liver problems)
  • An endocrine problem (like an underactive thyroid gland, a diabetic crisis, etc.)
  • Abnormal body temperature regulation
  • Cancer

What can cause tremors in my dog?
Tremors often occur as a result of poisoning. There are several poisons throughout the house, yard, or garage that can be life threatening to dogs when ingested, and can result in severe tremors or even seizures.
Some common poisons that result in tremors include:

  • Compost poisoning
  • Tremorgenic mycotoxins (found in moldy food or garbage)
  • Prescription antidepressants
  • Prescription amphetamines (used for ADD/ADHD in humans)
  • Snail and slug bait containing metaldehyde
  • Certain types of mouse and rat poison containing bromethalin
  • Chocolate

How do I protect my dog from tremors?
When in doubt, avoid the common causes of tremors due to poisoning by doing the following:

  • Make sure your compost is fenced off and out of reach to dogs.
  • Don’t allow your dog to free roam around unsupervised—often he can get into someone else’s compost pile or garbage.
  • Secure your garbage in a pantry or closet and keep it out of reach.
  • Keep all prescription medications out of reach.
  • Hang up your purse, briefcase, or backpack—these often contain a lot of products poisonous to dogs such as coins, prescription medications, over-the-counter NSAIDs, xylitol gum, etc.
  • Never put mouse or rat poison in your yard or house if you have pets; consider more humane, safer snap traps instead.
  • Especially during the holidays, make sure to keep all candy out of reach! This is one of the top emergency calls or visits—thanks to chocolate!

When in doubt, when it comes to any poisoning, the sooner you recognize the problem, the sooner we can treat it. It’ll be less dangerous to your dog and less expensive for you!

If you suspect that your dog may have been exposed to something poisonous, contact your veterinarian or emergency veterinarian immediately. When in doubt, call ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 for 24/7 life-saving care. They may be able to instruct you on how to induce vomiting and whether or not there is a poisoning risk or not.

Thankfully, tremors are often preventable—just make sure to keep those poisons out of reach!

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian -- they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.

Reviewed on:

Tuesday, September 2, 2014


Dog Poisoning: Signs and Symptoms

Poisoning is very serious and can be fatal if left untreated. The average household is littered with hidden dangers. Keeping these well out of paw’s reach is vital to protecting your dog.

Dogs are naturally inquisitive, always sniffing out and tasting new things. Unfortunately, this puts them at risk of encountering poisons and toxins which, if eaten, licked or brushed up against, can make them very unwell.

Read more for the hidden dangers.


How is dog poisoning diagnosed?

What to do in an emergency

  1. Prevent your dog from eating or breathing in any more of the toxin
  2. Phone your vet and take their advice
  3. Gather up any packaging from the poison, or a sample if it's safe
  4. Drive your dog to the vet, keeping them calm and cool on the journey
  5. Show your vet the packaging or sample

Your vet will want to know what’s caused toxicity in your dog so, as long as it’s safe, take any packaging or substances with you. While it’s not possible to test for all toxins, analysis of blood samples should help determine the cause.

What to do in an emergency

  1. Prevent your dog from eating or breathing in any more of the toxin
  2. Phone your vet and take their advice
  3. Gather up any packaging from the poison, or a sample if it's safe
  4. Drive your dog to the vet, keeping them calm and cool on the journey
  5. Show your vet the packaging or sample

Most pesticides or insecticides (typically those that come in a spray can) are basic irritants to the pet and are usually not a huge concern unless a pet’s symptoms become persistent. Some may contain an organophosphate which can be life threatening when consumed in large quantities. It is always best to speak to a trained medical professional if there are any questions.

Slug and snail baits are commonly used on the West coast and in warm-weather conditions, and are available in a variety of forms (pellets, granular, powder, and liquid). The active ingredient is typically metaldehyde, which is toxic to all species (particularly dogs).2 When ingested, metaldehyde results in clinical signs that resulted in the nickname “shake and bake.” Within 1 to 2 hours of ingestion, clinical signs of salivation, restlessness, vomiting, and incoordination are seen, which then progress to tremors, seizures, and secondary severe hyperthermia. Treatment consists of early decontamination, supportive care, temperature regulation (cooling down to a temperature of 103.5⁰ F/39.7⁰ C), anticonvulsants, and muscle relaxants. Generally, the prognosis is favorable if treatment is quickly and aggressively implemented.


The distemper virus is common in young dogs and puppies that haven’t been vaccinated. This virus causes flu-like symptoms and causes tremors, hence the shaking. The dog will also experience coughing and a runny nose. You should get your dog to the vet ASAP so they can receive medication to counteract the distemper virus. Once home, they will need rest as the antibiotics fight the infection. Then, at another appointment, they can receive their distemper vaccination.

GTS is also sometimes called white shaker dog syndrome. GTS causes full-body tremors in small dog breeds such as Poodles, Maltese, and West Highland White Terriers. Symptoms begin around nine months to two years old. The best treatment is corticosteroid medications. Some small dogs may simultaneously experience seizures and difficulty walking. If your small breed dog begins to shake, comfort your pet until the shaking has stopped and then call your vet.


Watch the video: 4 Symptoms That Could Cost Your Dog Its Life


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