Why Do Golden Retrievers’ Legs Shake?

by Jennifer Nelson

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Many pet parents of Golden Retrievers report seeing their dogs’ legs shaking.

Sometimes it’s only when they are squatting to relieve themselves, other times, it’s when they are walking.

Either way, it’s a troubling behavior that anyone would want to get to the bottom of.

Why does my Golden Retriever’s Leg shake?

Your Golden Retrievers’ legs may shake as a result of a normal muscle contraction, which is nothing to worry about. It could be a sign that they are cold (shivering), or a symptom of pain, possibly associated with a hip or joint condition. Many other issues big and small may be causing your Golden’s legs to shake.

Other possible causes include blood sugar imbalances, weak or fatigued muscles, or even degenerative myelopathy.

Depending on what is causing your Golden Retriever’s leg to shake will determine what needs to be done to fix these issues. 

These are a few reasons that your Golden Retriever’s leg could be shaking. This may be perfectly normal, but many times if this continues, you need to see your vet. 

Normal Muscle Contraction

It is normal for your dog’s leg to shake some. 

They should have normal muscle contraction. 

You can see their muscles move and twitch when they move. 

Sometimes this twitching and shaking can be noticed when your dog is lying down.

This type of shaking will be very infrequent, and you may only see it for a few seconds, and it goes away. 

They are cold

One main reason for a dog’s leg to shake or their whole body to shake is because they are cold

This is especially seen in winter months or very hot summer months when the AC is set to very cold. 

Shivering is the body’s way of generating heat to warm themselves up. 

If you notice that your Golden Retriever is shaking and it is cold outside, or you have to AC on high, it would be best to try to warm them up. 

You can give them a warm blanket or move them to a warm spot in your house. 

Also, giving them a heating pad or heating blanket to sleep on will help keep them warm. 

They are in pain

As your Golden Retriever gets older, they can develop joint issues and arthritis. 

This can be painful. 

If your dog’s legs are shaking and they are older, they may be painful from arthritis build up in their legs. 

Most commonly, back legs are seen shaking more than front legs from joint issues. 

You can give your Golden Retriever glucosamine and chondroitin supplements to help decrease the pain and inflammation in their joints. 

Many of these can be found at your local pet store and do not require a prescription.

One great brand that you can give your dog is Dasaquin with MSM

This is a taste treat that you can give your dog each day to help increase the lubrication in their joints. 

If this does not help, it may be best for your Golden Retriever to see your vet.

They can examine your dog and prescribe your Golden Retriever prescription pain medication to help with any pain that they are experiencing. 

Sometimes your vet may even need to take x-rays to see how severe your Golden Retrievers arthritis is. 

They have an electrolyte imbalance

If your Golden Retriever is dehydrated, has been vomiting, or has diarrhea, they can have an electrolyte imbalance. 

Electrolytes in your dog’s body are needed for your dog’s muscles to properly contract and function.

If your dog has an electrolyte imbalance, you may notice that their legs are shaking. 

You can get electrolyte supplements for your dogs at your local pet store. 

Two great brands of electrolyte supplements are:

Wolf Spring Vitamin Water supplements for dogs: This supplement comes in a water bottle that you can give to your dog. 

Petralyte Electrolyte supplement: This is a power that you can add to your dog’s water to help provide them with electrolytes. 

These two supplements are great to have on hand to give your dog if they are going to be outside playing in the hot summer. 

If you do not have either of these two supplements, you can also give Pedialyte or Gatorade too. 

It is best to mix these with water. 

It is best to mix 50% water and 50% electrolyte supplement. 

They have weak muscles

Older dogs will have weaker muscles than younger dogs. 

This can cause them to have issues standing and walking normally. 

Usually, this is noticed as your dog is trying to stand up. 

The most common sign that you will see is that your Golden Retriever’s back legs are shaking as they are trying to stand. 

They may also fall down a little more often while walking. 

If your dog has weak muscles, exercising them will help strengthen their muscles. 

Swimming is a very low-impact exercise that you can do with your Golden Retriever.

It is also good to take them on a walk each day. 

This movement will help make sure that their legs stay strong. 

They have degenerative myelopathy 

Degenerative myelopathy is a progressive disease that affects the spinal cord and nerves. 

This disease is very similar to ALS in people. 

This usually starts off with the back legs. You will notice that your dog has issues walking around. 

They may be stumbling, shaking, or not able to use their back legs.

While there is no effective treatment for this disease, there are things that you can do to help make your dog more comfortable. 

Some dogs will end up in a doggy wheelchair or need other mobility support. 

With proper care and early detection, your dog can live with just a few lifestyle changes. 

What can be done at home?

If your Golden Retriever’s legs are shaking at home, there are a few things that you can do, such as:

  • Keep them warm: Giving your dog a warm blanket or a heating pad to sleep on will help keep your dog warm in the winter. 
  • Start exercising to increase muscle mass: Exercise is a vital part of your dog’s health. Keeping them active will not only help keep them healthy but also keep their muscles strong.
  • Give them joint supplements: Joint supplements are great to help keep your Golden Retriever’s joints lubricated and free of pain. This is something that you can give to your Golden Retriever each day to help keep their legs strong. 
  • Keep them hydrated: Make sure that your Golden Retriever always has plenty of fresh water available. If you are planning on going for a long walk or playing for a long time, investing in electrolyte supplements will help keep your Golden Retriever hydrated and healthy. 
  • Ice the shaking leg: If your dog is shaking from pain from a joint injury, you can ice that area. Applying ice to the leg for 15 minutes twice a day can help. Makes sure that the ice is wrapped in a towel. NEVER apply ice directly to your dog’s skin. 

If you have tried many of these at-home remedies for their legs shaking or cannot figure out what is causing your Golden Retriever, it would be best to see your vet. 

Your vet will be able to examine your Golden Retriever to figure out why their legs are shaking and what you can do about it. 

When Do I need to see my Vet?

If your Golden Retriever’s legs are shaking, there are sometimes that it is just best to see your vet and not try any at-home treatments for your dog.

These are times when it is best to see your vet. 

  • Your dog cannot walk: Sometimes, your dog’s legs are shaking, and they also cannot get up and walk. Not being able to walk is an emergency, and you should see a vet right away. Usually, the quicker this is treated, the more likely your dog will be able to make a recovery
  • Your dog cannot pee or poop: If your dog has had a traumatic event, it can affect their nerve function. This can prevent them from peeing or pooping. If you notice this, you should take your dog to the vet right away. This is also a medical emergency that will need to be tended to immediately. 
  • They seem very painful: If your dog is very painful, it would be best for them to see your vet for prescription pain medication. There are not any safe over-the-counter pain medications that dogs can take. Your vet can quickly diagnose what is going wrong with your dog and start them on medications to help them feel much better. 
  • They are not improving: Sometimes, just monitor your dog at home, and they will improve. Other times they just steadily get worse. If your dog is not quickly improving, it would be best for them to see your vet. 

Final Thoughts 

If your Golden Retriever’s leg is shaking, this could mean many different things. 

You should start to watch your dog to see if you can figure out why your Golden Retriever’s leg is shaking so that you know what you need to do to help your dog feel better. 

Many times, you can get the shaking to stop by just changing a few things at home. 

Other times you will need to see your vet for prescription medications and an exam. 

Making sure that your dog is fed a proper diet and get proper exercise will help make sure that your Golden Retriever is happy and healthy 

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