Skip to main content

The Causes of Shivering in Dogs

Adrienne is a certified dog trainer and former veterinarian assistant who partners with some of the best veterinarians worldwide.

Toy dog breeds tend to shiver more than other common breeds.

Toy dog breeds tend to shiver more than other common breeds.

Common Causes of Shivering in Dogs

Dogs may shiver for many reasons, so it is important to find out the underlying cause of the condition in the first place. Shivering in some dogs can be caused by physical problems too, so a veterinary exam is often recommended. Shivering may also be a manifestation of psychological issues and stress. While large dogs may demonstrate this behavior, smaller dogs seem to shiver more often than other breeds.

Common Triggers

Common triggers include:

  • Arousal or anticipation
  • Fear
  • Cold or temperature intolerance
  • Hypoglycemia
  • White shaker syndrome

More About Triggers

Arousal or Anticipation

Shivering occurs when a dog is anticipating something it likes, such as a game of fetch. Some dogs may shiver when they see other animals and want to play, engage, or even attack. It is not unusual to see a Border Collie shivering as it anticipates seeing a group of sheep.


It is not unusual to see dogs literally shivering when waiting at the vet's office (they have good reason to do so—they sense fear in the office). Other dogs may release anal gland secretions when they are particularly fearful or stressed. Upon sensing these invisible messages, sensitive dogs become anxious as well. Add on top of this any past unpleasant happenings such as shots or painful procedures, and this behavior is quite understandable. Dogs may also shiver from fear of loud noises, mad owners, or the presence of other dogs.

Cold or Temperature Intolerance

Some dogs may shiver from the cold. These are dogs with short coats that are not adapted to or suited for the cold. Some small dogs benefit from wearing a warm coat when going outside.

Consider bundling up your short-haired dog in colder weather.

Consider bundling up your short-haired dog in colder weather.


Hypoglycemia is composed of two words: hypo meaning "low," and glycemia meaning "blood sugar." Toy breeds such as Chihuahuas, Yorkshire Terriers, Maltese, and Pomeranians often suffer from hypoglycemia, which makes them shaky and weak.

Toy dog breeds are genetically predisposed to have low body masses, which makes it hard for them to effectively store blood sugar. Toy breed puppies are most affected, but as they grow up, the episodes may gradually diminish. Some toy breeds may be prone to hypoglycemic episodes for the rest of their lives. For some non-emergent remedies, try the following:

  • Karo syrup or honey. Simply rub it on the dog's gums. These sugary concoctions may be able to help dogs recover from shaking episodes within 10-20 minutes.
  • Offer snacks. A small snack may also be helpful in such situations.

White Shaker Syndrome

White dog shaker syndrome is a condition that owners of small dog breeds (with white coats) should keep in mind. According to Petplace, this condition has yet to be fully understood.

Affected dogs appear to shiver especially when excited or stressed. The most commonly affected breeds are obviously those with white-colored coats such as Maltese, West Highland White Terriers, Poodles, and the Bichon Frise. Several dogs appear to do better once they are put on steroid medications (prednisone).

When Is Shivering Serious?

Shivering in dogs may also be a result of more serious conditions. These episodes may be caused by the ingestion of toxins, seizure activity, upset stomach, nervous system disorders, and more. For this reason, if your puppy or dog suddenly begins to suffer from shivering episodes, it is best to have your veterinarian rule out serious medical conditions.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2010 Adrienne Farricelli


Jamie on September 02, 2011:

Darline, thanks for that comment. My terrier min pin mix woke me up at 3 this morning shivering. He had never done that before. So I was holding him and all of the sudden he pees everywhere. Guess I know what he means now. Thank u for commenting.

Dallas W Thompson from Bakersfield, CA on December 03, 2010:

Your love of dogs shows.

Thanks for informative article...

Darlene Sabella from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ... on December 03, 2010:

When my little poodle has to go outside to do her business, she comes up to me and hugs me around my neck and starts to shiver, then I say, "do you have to go potty" then she jumps for funny is this...great hub, rate up peace & love darski