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Why Does My Doberman Shake? 9 Vet-Reviewed Reasons

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By Nicole Cosgrove

doberman with his owner in the garden

Vet approved

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Lauren Demos

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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The Doberman is a popular breed in the USA ( ranked as the 16th most popular dog breed in 2021), and it’s easy to see why. They’re sleek, elegant, confident dogs, poised for action but waiting on the command. They’re also loving, silly, and devoted to their families. That is why it can be worrying to see your Dobie suddenly tremble and shake. Why is this? This article will explore nine likely reasons why your Doberman shakes.

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The 9 Likely Reasons Your Doberman Is Shaking

1. Fear

Even though they look intimidating, Dobermans are still animals and can feel fear. Fear can make a dog shake due to the adrenaline coursing through their bodies, a hormone released in the “fight or flight” survival mode 1. All dogs who feel threatened, scared, or anxious can shake, and because Dobermans are usually stoic and slim, this shaking and shivering may seem more pronounced.

Finding out what is causing your Dobie’s fear and taking them away from the situation is the first step to helping them stop shaking and calm down. Ensuring that they feel safe, loved, and secure is another way to soothe them, and socializing them (getting them used to) lots of different people, sights, sounds, and smells can also reduce their fear response.

owner walking her doberman dog
Image Credit: YamaBSM, Pixabay

2. Pain

Pain is another reason Dobermans may shake, as pain can not only trigger involuntary responses within the nervous system but also attempts to hide pain, as part of a survival mechanism, can lead to shaking 2. Pain can also release hormones such as adrenaline, into the system, which can also lead to shaking.

3. Cold

When dogs or any warm-blooded animal gets cold, they will shake 3. This is an entirely involuntary response: the body will tense and contract its muscles to warm itself. If your Dobie is shaking because they’re cold, it’s a good sign that it’s time to get them warmed up!

Doberman Pinscher
Image Credit: patstatic, Pixabay

4. Excitement

It’s a classic image; a dog is excited and wants something (such as a tasty treat), and it can’t help but vibrate. Your Doberman might be trembling with excitement because they’re getting overwhelmed with the emotion. In this case, the shaking isn’t bad; it shows just how much your Dobie wants to spend time with you (or eat the treat, or both!).

5. Wobblers

Malformations of the cervical vertebra in a dog’s spine can cause shaking and other signs of weakness 4. This disorder is typically found in large breeds, such as Borzoi and Great Danes, but a particular form is more likely to occur in Dobermans. If you suspect this in your Dobie, contact your vet as soon as possible.

Vet teacher explaining anatomy to students
Image Credit: Elnur, Shutterstock

6. Toxin Ingestion

Certain toxins such as chocolate (theobromide), marijuana, and pesticides can cause shaking in dogs. This involuntary shaking is caused by the toxin interfering with a dog’s neurological system and causing twitching, jerking, or shaking movements.

7. Seizures

Seizures are what most people think of when talking about severe shaking. This can be very distressing for owners to witness but remaining calm and quiet is the best thing you can do for your Dobie as they’re having and coming out of a seizure. Seizures occur when neurons in the brain misfire, and can cause focal or full-body signs.

Other than shaking, these symptoms in Dobermans can include:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Incontinence or loss of bowel control
  • Crying
  • Collapse
  • “Paddling” of the legs
Image Credit: Best dog photo, Shutterstock

8. Idiopathic Head Tremors

This phenomenon causes shaking of the head from side to side or up and down at regular intervals. “Idiopathic” means that science currently doesn’t understand the cause, and the head tremors have been observed in a few breeds, including the Doberman. In Dobies, it’s thought that this disease is inherited, and although it doesn’t cause the Doberman much distress, it can be distressing for owners to witness.

9. Muscle Weakness

Dobermans can shake if their muscles have difficulty working properly. This can be due to electrolyte imbalances, old age, heart disease, drugs they might be taking, or after intense bouts of exercise. If your Dobie hasn’t just finished a long run in the park, it’s a good idea to contact your vet if you see sudden changes in their ability to walk.

doberman puppy lying on the ground
Image Credit: Doug Brown, Pexels

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Serious or Not: When It’s Time to See the Vet

Seeing your Doberman shake is always an unpleasant experience for you if you don’t know what’s causing it. Only the most obvious, excitement-induced shakes are pleasant and usually the easiest to identify.

If you suspect your Dobie is shaking for any other reason, you should take them to the vet ASAP. Some of the reasons your Doberman might be shaking require immediate veterinary attention and can quickly become life threatening (e.g. poisoning) if not treated.

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There are many reasons your Doberman might be shaking, ranging from being overly excited for a delicious treat, to eating something they shouldn’t have, to being in pain. Keeping an eye on your Doberman’s symptoms and identifying why they’re shaking is the first step to relieving them. Also, knowing what to do in an emergency (i.e., contacting your vet or veterinary poison center) is crucial to getting your Doberman the help it needs if it’s suffering.

Featured Image Credit: liaoxh1981, Pixabay

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