It’s a balmy 30 degrees outside, your doggo is enjoying the warm sun, and suddenly you catch them shivering. “Surely this can’t be due to a sudden cold wind,” you think, “so why is my dog shaking? And I thought only Chihuahuas and other small breeds shivered – I’ve got a giant German Shepherd on my hands!”
Chihuahuas might be the most famous shakers of all, but that doesn’t mean they’re the only breed prone to trembling and shivering. Keen to figure out why your dog is shaking? We’ve put together some of the most common causes – and what you can do about it.
Why is my dog shaking?
Quivering is often fairly benign, but it can be a sign of something more serious. Here are some of the more harmless answers to “Why is my dog shaking?”
They could be excited
Have you ever been so excited about something that you can barely contain your emotion? Well, the same goes for our pooches! Be it when you get home from work or their favourite local Dog Walker arrives at the door, some dogs shake when they get excited – especially young puppies. They may bark and jump, too.
Luckily, if your dog is shaking when they’re excited, it’s likely nothing to worry about. However, if you’d prefer they didn’t reach 80 decibels and go a little haywire when they get excited, you can try and train them out of this behaviour.
When you walk through the door – well, when anyone walks through the door – do so calmly and quietly. Don’t look at them or engage with them if they start barking or getting overexcited. Then, when they’ve calmed down, you can reward your pupper for their good behaviour.
On the other hand, they could be anxious
If your doggo is shivering, they could also be feeling stressed, nervous, or anxious. Perhaps they get a little shaky when rambunctious young children are around, or maybe noisy storms set them off. If you notice your dog trembling during particular experiences, you might pick up a pattern and figure out what’s making them anxious.
Once you’ve worked out their trigger, see if you can either avoid it (if possible) or distract them if it enters their orbit. Things like loud parties, loud kids, and loud roads are more easily avoidable, but loud thunderstorms are not.
During an episode that could stimulate your doggo, keep them relaxed and occupied with their favourite toys and games. As well, try to stay composed yourself, as your pupper will pick up on your emotions. If you’re cool, calm, and collected, they’re more likely to stay cool, calm, and collected, too.
Or, they’re simply cold
We humans shiver when we’re cold, and so do our pooches. Shivering is just a way for your dog’s body to pump more blood and raise their temperature.
Interestingly, cold temps are the main reason why tiny breeds shake more than bigger ones. They’re smaller and have less padding on their bodies. Dogs with very short coats or little to no hair are also likely to feel the cold more acutely. Chihuahuas in particular are prone to shaking because they have faster metabolisms that burn body heat pretty darn quickly.
If they’re shivering because they’re chilly, there are lots of easy ways to keep your dog warm in colder months. Providing dog with coats and cosy places to sleep, or simply keeping them indoors during winter, are all good tactics.
Are there more serious reasons why dogs shake?
In some cases, shaking in dogs can be caused by disease, pain, or other medical conditions. Here are a few of the most common.
A number of neurological conditions can drive your dog to shake. White Shaker Syndrome, or generalised tremor syndrome (GTS), is one of them. This is where dogs – particularly breeds with white fur, such as Maltese Terriers – experience an inflamed central nervous system, which makes their body shake.
\Shaking puppy syndrome is another neurological condition that initiates tremors. It’s an inherited nerve defect that causes shaking, difficulty walking, and balance problems. It can start when puppies are as young as one to two weeks old.
Epilepsy and Cerebellar Hypoplasia (a condition where the cerebellum hasn’t developed properly) are other conditions that may result in trembling.
Your doggo might have accidentally eaten one of the foods or ingredients that are toxic to dogs, such as chocolate or xylitol (a sweetener commonly found in human foods). Or, they may have gobbled up a bit of snail or rat bait, or even some compost or mouldy food.
All of these things can lead to shaking, as they’re effectively poisonous to pooches. (Yep, that’s right – our favourite sweet treat definitely shouldn’t be eaten by dogs!)
Some dogs may also react badly to new medication, such as flea and tick treatments, which can make them tremor.
Particularly among dogs who are in their winter years, quivering can be caused by pain. Older dogs often have weaker leg muscles, or may even develop conditions like arthritis. Shaking is mostly experienced in their hind legs, but can also occur in their front legs.
There are many things that stimulate nausea in dogs, including car sickness, medication, overeating, or eating something they definitely shouldn’t (hello, chocolate, our old friend). Serious conditions involving the liver and kidneys can also cause nausea. And nausea can often lead to shaking.
Other serious reasons behind dog shaking
Outside of the conditions and causes we’ve already mentioned, there are a few other serious reasons why dogs may shake. These include hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), hypocalcemia (low calcium), distemper (a virus that affects unvaccinated puppies), hypoadrenocorticism (an endocrine problem also known as Addison’s disease), and chronic kidney failure.
Now that you’ve figured out the answer to “Why is my dog shaking?”, when should you see a vet?
If your dog is trembling, ask yourself a few questions to determine whether or not you should visit the vet.
Is my dog cold?
Figuring out if your doggo is a bit chilly is the first step to discovering why they’re shaking. Gently feel the inside of their ear; if it’s cold, they might need warming up.
Does my dog only shake when a trigger is nearby?
If the shaking is limited to certain events or triggers, it’s likely your pupper is only trembling because they’re excited or anxious.
How long have they been shaking?
In some cases, the shivering might persist long after you warm up your pooch or remove the trigger. If your dog can’t stop shaking, you might want to take them to the vet to rule out any serious physical, medical, or behavioural disorders.
Could they have eaten something bad?
If you know your doggo has accidentally eaten some chocolate, or even if you just suspect it, a visit to the vet is in order.
Are there any other symptoms present?
If the shaking is accompanied by other symptoms, that’s a big sign that something more sinister could be going on. If you notice any of the following, get your dog to the vet – stat.
- Retching or vomiting
- Diarrhea or leaking urine
- Limping or trouble walking
- Difficulty maintaining balance, or collapsing
- Muscle twitching, jerking, or stiffening
- Lethargy or depression
- Excessive drooling or foaming at the mouth
- Eye or nasal discharge
Even if your vet finds that the shaking is due to a serious issue such as poisoning or an ongoing disorder, they can take the steps to alleviate your dog’s condition. With early intervention, poisoning can be treated, and many other issues can be managed through medication or continual care.