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Leg Tremors in Dogs


Consistent hind-end leg shaking and weakness can indicate underlying chronic conditions. When dogs have muscle spasms and abnormal muscle contractions, it should be a concern. Chronic and acute (short-term) leg shaking and instability can be symptomatic of larger issues. 

There are instances where leg shaking isn't a concern like when dogs get excited, frightened, or cold. These instances are easily discerned and quickly dissipate. Getting scared or being cold are acute and easily ascertained. However, other acute issues like vaccine related leg shaking can suggest a more urgent issue as we will explore shortly.

Key Observations and Red Flags 

Holistic care focuses on finding the root cause of symptoms and disease. Back-end weakness and trembling can be attributed to many different conditions. Figuring out if it's a chronic or an acute issue comes first.

The tricky part is many seemingly acute conditions have underlying chronic causes. For example, a dog jumps off the couch and injuries their leg. Yes, it's an acute injury but it could be from chronic arthritics or bone weakness.

There are many considerations from a symptom observation standpoint.

Here are some key questions to think about:

  • Is the symptom constant?
  • Is there weakness, shaking or both?
  • Any recent contributing activities?
  • Is the condition better with activity or worse?
  • Are they touch adverse?
  • Any recent major life changes including trauma and grief?
  • Are they avoiding certain activities like jumping?
  • Any unusual behaviors?
  • Any signs of pain?

When weakness and shaking aren't directly connected to obvious issues they could be linked to kidney weakness, musculoskeletal conditions, nervous system disorders, or anxiety. Old dogs (geriatric) can experience back-end leg shaking and weakness with different forms of arthritis wearing down cartilage and decreasing synovial fluids.

Pain can contribute to shaking and weakness with both acute and chronic conditions like degenerative joint disease, osteoarthritis, or hip dysplasia. These issues cause discomfort and instability. Other symptoms to watch out for include: Increased stress or anxiety, low energy, lack of interest in everyday activity, and difficulty standing.

Root Causes of Shaking Leg 

  • Addison's disease involves chronic low aldosterone and cortisol levels causes shaking and back-end weakness along with sluggishness, diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss, hair loss and decreased appetite. Cortisol regulates blood sugar and stress response levels affecting the nervous system. Symptoms come and go as the disease progresses.

  • Anesthesia recovery can cause shaking or trembling following surgery. The shaking should resolve within 24 hours. If your vet prescribed pain medication it should be started after the shaking has stopped and not within the first 24 hours following anesthesia. If your dog is having a hard time with anesthesia detoxification give Juniper (Juniperus communis) Gemmotherapy (1:200). Give three times daily in the mouth before eating. Symptoms should subside quickly but don't exceed eight weeks. Dosage: extra-small dogs 5 drops, small dogs 8 drops, medium dogs 12 drops, large dogs 16 drops, extra-large dogs 20 drops.

  • Degenerative myelopathy is a neurological disorder of unknown origin causing hind leg instability. The nerve sheaths surrounding and insulating nerve fibers deteriorate. Hind legs grow increasingly weak as the spinal cord nerve base degrades. Lacking nerve signals, hind leg muscles vibrate and shake. Other symptoms of degenerative myelopathy include difficulty using steps, jumping, loss of coordination, and uneven gait.

  • Diabetes can cause shaking and weak hind legs as it puts pressure on the kidneys. When treating diabetes always seek the advice of your veterinarian. Herbs are not recommended for diabetes treatment as treating diabetes with herbs can be dangerous.

  • Electrolyte Imbalances are caused by Addison's, gastrointestinal imbalance, parathyroid, and kidney injuries. Along with back leg shaking, your dog will usually exhibit uneven heart rate, lethargy, and/or difficulty breathing. In extreme cases, it can cause anemia and seizures.

  • Electrolyte imbalance can cause phosphate deficiency resulting in lameness and bone fractures. If you suspect your dog has low electrolytes, bring them to your vet for an examination and blood work.

  • Flea and Tick Medications can cause neurological events involving tremors, shaking, and seizures. Give milk thistle powder (see below) daily while your dog is taking these medications.Skullcap(see below) is also a good choice for nervous system support. These effects usually present themselves shortly after drug administration or within a few weeks.

  • Generalized Tremor Disorder (GTD)(shaker disease) is commonly found in small white breeds like Malteses, West Highland Terriers, Poodles, and Bichons. In this case, shaking is usually generalized, throughout the whole body, and not isolated to the back legs. Causes are linked to brain, spinal cord, and systemic inflammation, meningitis, and autoimmune disease. Symptoms include abnormal eye movements, compromised gait, head and generalized body shaking, and shivering but become better with rest. Nervous system herbs like Skullcap, Lion's Mane (see below) and CBD can help alleviate and control symptoms.

  • Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) affects geriatric dogs more than young dogs. IVDD happens when fibrous "gel-like" spinal discs break down and spill out causing pressure-induced pain from lack of cushioning. Spinal discs lose moisture becoming calcified. When IVDD affects the lower spine, it causes back-end weakness and leg shaking. Use a combination of Mountain Pine Gemmotheerapy and Mullein Root tincture (see below) to help decongest the spine and decrease inflammation.

  • Kidney weakness causes hind-end weakness and shaking as well as anxiety and fear of noises. Kidneys strengthen the skeletal system including bone marrow and your dog's spinal column. Some holistic veterinarians theorize that the kidneys are directly related to a healthy spine, especially in the area of the third lumbar vertebra closest to the hind legs. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the lower back and lower extremities (bones) are vulnerable to kidney weakness. Muscle tightness and stagnation (decreased energy flow) are contributing factors to kidney weakness. Accompanying symptoms include anxiety, ear infections, excess paddling while sleeping, fatigue, fear of loud noises, groaning while laying down, incontinence, irregular heartbeat, and urinary tract infections.  As a first go-to for kidney imbalances, use Nettle (Urtica dioica) seed tincture. Give for 12 weeks, twice daily before eating in a small amount of water for dilution. You can syringe into the mouth if needed (use the syringe without the needle part).  Dosage: extra-small dogs 1 drops, small dogs 2 drops, medium dogs 3 drops, large dogs 4 drops, extra-large dogs 5 drops.

  • Toxin Ingestion may cause neurological irregularities in your dog resulting in tremors. Xylitol, chocolate, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, toothpaste, household cleaners, houseplants are examples of contaminating substances. If you suspect poisoning, seek emergency help as soon as possible and administer activated charcoal and milk thistle extract for liver protection. Activated Charcoal is given at 3 grams for every 10 pounds of weight. Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum) tincture is given at 1/2 drop per pound as needed, 2-5 x per day.

  • Vaccines given in the rear legs (rabies vaccine and leptospirosis) can cause back-end shaking. Always look out for other symptoms accompanying shaking such as difficulty breathing, vomiting, diarrhea, itching, or swelling. Any of these could mean your dogs having an allergic reaction to their vaccine. For general vaccine detoxification, give Milk Thistle Powder. ⅛ tsp for every 10 pounds given twice daily in food. Mountain Pine (Pinus montana) and Black Current (Ribes nigrum) are also good for vaccine detoxification. Give twice daily until symptoms subside or up to twelve weeks. Dosage: extra-small dogs 5 drops, small dogs 10 drops, medium dogs 15 drops, large dogs 20 drops, extra-large dogs 25 drops.

General Remedies

Nervous system support: Give Lion's Mane Mushroom (Hericium erinaceus) or Skullcap. These herbs can be given together. Lion's mane supports and helps repair neurons. Give twice daily away from food in a little broth or raw goat's milk. Make sure you are giving hot water extracted powder. Dosage: extra-small dogs 1/16 tsp, small dogs 1/8 tsp, medium dogs 1/4 tsp, large dogs 1/2 tsp, extra-large dogs 1 tsp.

Vaccine reactions: Skullcap (Sculltilaria lateriflora) is good for vaccine reactions, anxiety, stress, and relaxation. It helps support the nervous system and acts as a tonic for nervous system responses. Give as a dried powder in food. Dosage: extra-small dogs 1/8 tsp, small dogs 1/4 tsp, medium dogs 1/2 tsp, large dogs 1 tsp, extra-large dogs 1 1/2 tsp.

Spinal Injuries: Mullein Root Tincture (Verbascum thapsus)is good for spinal injuries. Use as a tincture. Make sure you're using the root. It helps align the spinal column and support disc function. Combine with Mt. Pine Gemmotherapy for added benefit. Give twice daily before food into the mouth, dissolved in a small amount of water. Dosage: extra-small dogs 2 drops, small dogs 4 drops, medium dogs 6 drops, large dogs 8 drops, extra-large dogs 10 drops.

Vitamin and mineral deficiencies should be also be considered as a possible cause. Joint problems will most likely appear on X-rays, while laboratory samples can detect toxins, electrolyte imbalances, or metabolic problems. Anytime your dog's back legs shake, try figuring out the root cause as soon as possible. 

This article is not meant for diagnosis or treatment. Always consult with your holistic veterinarian for proper diagnosis.

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ChasingTails Team. 06 Jan 2021. "Dog's Back Legs Weak and Shaking: Causes and Treatments". Chasing Tails. https://chasingtails.store/blogs/tips/dog-back-legs-weak-and-shaking.
Parkes, Glenn. 04 Sept 2020. "Leg Tremors in Dogs: Are Your Dog's Back Legs Shaking or Quivering?" K9 Carts. https://k9carts.com/leg-tremors-in-dogs/
Miller, Jonathan. "Many Causes for Dog's Shaky Legs". Date Accessed 07 Dec 2021. https://www.oradell.com/many-causes-for-dogs-shaky-legs/
Wynn, Susan G & Fougere,Barbara J; Veterinary Herbal Medicine, 2007

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Sunday, September 24 2023

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