Why do Jack Russells shake

You may have noticed frequent quirking with your Jack Russell even when conditions are not really chilly. And you may be wondering if that’s a warning sign for an underlying medical condition that requires urgent intervention.

Well, the truth of the matter is trembling is in Jack Russells is relatively common. Other small dogs such as the chihuahua and poodles often share this trait.  However, it may well mean your dog requires some medical intervention. In this post, we shall uncover all the possible reasons that cause shaking in Jack Russells.

What Causes Trembling In Jack Russells?

The frequent tremors in Jack Russells can be caused by behavioral, environmental or medical factors. The following section shall discuss each of these causes in detail.

Behavioral Causes of shaking in Jack Russells

1. Means of Letting out Excess Energy

Like any other dog, shaking is part of the natural behavior of Jack Russells. It is generally assumed that when your dog is shaking, he is actually venting his energy.

It is important to remember that Jack Russells are hyperactive dogs. When they are not hunting rodents in your yard, they are playing actively with your children or other pets. In that way, they naturally vent their energy.

But in situations where they have lots of mental and pent up energy in them but lack outlets for the same, they may resort to shaking uncontrollably. Jack Russells are a very high energy breed that requires a lot of exercise. For more on how much exercise a Jack Russell needs and ways to provide them exercise see here.

2. Emotional and Psychological Response

Still on behavioral causes, your Jack Russell terrier could be shaking as a result of his natural response to emotions. Like human beings, dogs respond to emotions such as pain, panic, fear, and anxiety. It is important to remember that like any other dog, Jack Russells are naturally wired to mask their pain.

That happens due to their instinctive association of pain and weakness with victimization from predators and other dogs. So an untrained eye may never really establish pain as the cause of Jack Russell shaking.

Also, excitement can cause them to shake uncontrollably. Jack Russells can be very intense little dogs. Shaking due to excitement is normally caused by one or a combination of two things; when your dog anticipates something nice such as a treat or going for a walk, and when you consciously or subconsciously urge him on whenever he begins to shake.

It may sometimes be easy to judge the situation and conclude your dog is trembling in response to an emotion.

3. Old Age

Again, like humans, dogs tend to shake much as they grow old. So, if your Jack Russell is evidently old and frail, expect some episodes of intense shaking.

4. Shaking to Remove Extra Encumbrance from the Skin

The coat of your Jack Russell, though may not be as thick as that of other dogs, can still trap lots of excess encumbrance. For instance, if your dog happens to have been in the rain, he could shake so as to get rid of excess water from his coat.

Your Jack Russell could also shake to clean his coat from dust or other debris. Basically, anything uncomfortable on your dog’s coat will trigger a shake.


Environmental Causes

Jack Russell shakingThe most common environmental reason why your Jack Russell could be trembling is due to extremely chilly conditions. Jack Russells come in 3 types of coats; smooth, broken or rough. All of these coats shed.

Unlike other dog breeds with fairly long hair, Jack Russell’s coat are relatively short-haired. Even worse is that most Jack Russells are fairly small in size, which means they do not have so much of body fat they can burn during chilly conditions to produce body heat. This explains why winter can easily take a toll on them, necessitating trembling.

Usually, the shaking mechanism is believed to trigger the production of heat in the body. This heat is meant to offset the chilly conditions and regulate the Jack Russell’s temperature. As we have already mentioned, Jack Russells are hyperactive dogs and they should easily produce heat from their high-activity exercises. Therefore, shaking could be a major concern even if it is evident that the conditions are rather cold.

Apart from chilly conditions, Jack Russells could also shake in response to fear. Frightful situations such as fireworks and thunderstorms can cause them to shake.

Anxiety can also be a cause of shaking in your Jack Russell.

Medical Conditions

If your Jack Russell’s shaking seems out of the ordinary or is continuous there may be a medical reason for it. If you have any doubts that your Jack Russell’s shaking is more than a natural behavior such as a response to excitement or being cold consult your vet.

These are some of the potential medical causes that shaking may be a symptom off.

1. Hypoglycemia

The first health-related causes of Jack Russell shaking is a condition known as hypoglycemia. Basically, hypoglycemia is a condition characterized by low blood sugar level. As you probably already know, intense physical exercise is linked to a drop in blood sugar.

Though you want your Russell to maintain its active, playful nature, it is important to remember he might suffer from hypoglycemia as a result. The case is often worsened when your Jack Russell also has irregular eating habits, as this means there are no clear mechanisms of replenishing the depleted blood sugar. Most hypoglycemic shaking episodes last 15 to 20 minutes but could be longer for smaller and/or younger dogs.

2. Nausea

Nausea is also a common cause for Russell tremors. Your dog could be feeling nauseated from eating something his body does not agree with. However, many cases of nausea may be a symptom of a medical condition.

3. Wobbler Syndrome

Wobbler syndrome is a neurological disease that results in episodes of shaking. The disease normally affects the spine near the dog’s neck region. Medically known as cervical spondylomyelopathy, this debilitating syndrome often causes Jack Russells to have a wobbly posture in their back end. However, the gait may not always be visible unless when the dog is walking slowly or walking on a slippery floor.

In such cases, you will notice your Jack Russell walking with their head stooping low, a clear indication your dog is in pain. If you do not seek urgent medical intervention, the condition will progress to all the 4 legs of your Jack Russell, thereby aggravating the trembling. In the most advanced stages, Wobbler syndrome could make it impossible for your Jack Russell to get up, walk or buckle over using their front legs. This stage is usually the onset of paralysis.

4. Shaker Syndrome

This is an autoimmune common medical condition causing trembling in your Jack Russell. Shaker Syndrome is also known as idiopathic cerebellitis, which means it is an inflammation of the cerebellum [the part of your Russell’s brain in charge of the coordination of all voluntary muscular movements].

The condition is characterized by generalized head and full body tremors. Shaker syndrome is also marked by involuntary rhythmic and repetitive tremors. The tremors could range from very feeble to potentially incapacitating.

You will also notice that tremors improve with eating and rest, but worsen with excitement and exercise. If not diagnosed and treated in time, the shaking could progress to vision problems such as nystagmus, a condition marked by rhythmic back-and-forth eye movement.

5. Addison’s Disease

Basically, Addison’s disease manifests itself in canines nearly the same way it does in humans. Also known as adrenal insufficiency, the disorder occurs due to a deficiency in certain hormones.

In most cases, the disease leads to an under-secretion of cortisol and aldosterone by your Jack Russell’s adrenal glands. Apart from shaking, other symptoms of Addison’s disease include irritability, generalized fatigue, weight loss, muscle or joint pains as well as gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Addison’s disease is normally characterized by extremely low blood pressure, hyperkalemia [high level of blood potassium] and hyponatremia [low levels of sodium in blood]. The disease often gets worse when the dog is exposed to further stressful situations such as panic, intense activity, and other medical conditions.

6. Myokymia

Myokymia is an involuntary and spontaneous shaking condition that affects certain muscles or bundles of muscles. It is often localized, to mean it normally targets specific muscles at a time.

It could affect any muscles in your Jack Russell; from the leg muscles to the neck and even the eye muscles. The condition is commonly caused by too much anxiety, dehydration, fatigue, lack of sleep and too much exercise.

Apart from these major conditions, the following are some more medical causes of trembling in Jack Russells;

I. Scotty cramp – These are muscle cramps that are triggered by intense exercise or excitement.

II. Myelodysplasia – Poor brain development causing coordination issues.

III. Epileptic seizures – Seizures resulting from recurrent brain injury, but could also be idiopathic.

IV. Hydrocephalus – The accumulation of fluid inside the brain.

V. Congenital Myasthenia Gravis – Very severe weakness and degeneration of muscles.

Conclusion – What causes a Jack Russell to shake

Evidently, there are so many possible causes of trembling in Jack Russells. If you have any doubts about what is causing your Jack Russell to shake you should consult a vet as soon as possible. Though you may want to diagnose the cause and apply remedies on your own, it is always wiser to consult a veterinary expert.

They will not only treat the symptoms but also diagnose any underlying medical conditions and prescribe the right treatment plan.

More Jack Russells related posts you may like

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Why do Jack Russells shake

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