Expert Q&A

My Shih Tzu keeps licking its nose. It also trembles in its sleep, even when it\'s not cold. What\'s causing these behaviors?

My Shih Tzu keeps licking its nose. It also trembles in its sleep, even when it's not cold. What's causing these behaviors?

BY: The Dog Daily Expert

From the nose-licking to the trembling, it sounds like you have a stressed-out pet. According to Joan Hustace Walker, author of Training Your Shih Tzu, the type of licking that you describe -- when it appears the dog is frequently trying to lick its nose -- can be a symptom of anxiousness. Other “stressed body language,” as she calls it, includes a droopy or overly stiff tail, a “half-moon eye” sideways glance, panting, a closed mouth when panting, yawning and flattened ears.

Excessive trembling, cringing, hiding, crying and whimpering are also all behaviors tied to stress in the Shih Tzu, writes Walker. You mention that your dog trembles in its sleep, however. Many small dogs do experience trembling and tremor with some frequency. Theories as to why this happens range from body-heat maintenance issues to genetic issues. Some medications can help to reduce this behavior, but speak with your veterinarian about what is best for your particular dog.

I’m a proponent of not over-medicating unless absolutely necessary, given possible side effects, the expense and more. In this case, your dog may not even be in any pain -- especially since it’s sleeping through the trembles -- but your vet is the one who can make the determination about the need for medication, such as prednisone or other corticosteroid therapy.

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