Dog Health: Causes of Shivering in Dogs

Dachschunds May be Prone to Shivering

Why do dogs shiver?
Why do dogs shiver? | Source

If you notice your dog shivering out of the blue, chances are, you may be concerned about it. Some breeds however may be specifically predisposed to shivering due to various factors, and several of them are dog health problems specific to the breed. The following list will address some possible causes of shivering so you can bring them to your veterinarian's attention. Ultimately, only your veterinarian may be able to diagnose and determine the most appropriate treatment plan to effectively take care of any underlying medical conditions known for causing trembling in your dog.

Causes of Shivering in Dogs

Following are some common, and not so common, causes of shivering in dogs. Please consult with your vet for a proper diagnosis.

  • Feeling Cold

Some short-haired breeds such as Dachshunds and Chihuahuas are breeds less tolerant to cold climates. They will typically seek out the warmest places of the house in order to stay warm. Shivering in cold weather is not unusual and they may seek cover by sneaking under your blankets to feel better. Some short-haired small breed dogs, indeed, are sensitive to cold and may require a sweater due to their very thin coat. Trembling helps generate heat, and therefore raises the dog's body temperature, explains Erich Barchas, a veterinarian in San Francisco. If your dog is shivering and it is not cold, continue reading for other potential causes.

  • Adrenaline Rush

If your dog is pretty excitable and is anticipating something he looks really forward to, he may shiver in anticipation. The same may happen if he is nervous of fearful about something. It is not unusual to see a dog shake while at the vet's office or when a thunderstorm is approaching. Generally, you can expect to see trembling anytime there is a release of adrenaline, adds Dr. Erich Barchas. If you cannot find any possible cause for your dog to be excited, nervous or fearful, continue reading for more potential causes.

  • Vomiting/Diarrhea

If your dog is suffering from an upset stomach he may be shivering from not feeling well. It is not unusual for a dog to shiver before getting sick such as prior to vomiting or having a bout of diarrhea. After the stomach or bowels are emptied, the shivering may stop, or may continue if the dog still feels sick. According to Erich Barchas, a dog that is straining to defecate may shiver as well.

  • Feeling Pain

If your dog is in pain, chances are he may shiver. Often, the source of the pain is not obvious, and it may require a physical examination or an x-ray. This is why it is important to never underestimate a dog that is shaking. A child rough handling and dropping a dog on the floor may cause spinal injury. Jumping off a high bed or couch can also shock and injure a dog's legs.

  • High Temperature

An increase in body temperature can also cause dogs sometimes to tremble, adds veterinarian Eric Barchas. The normal rectal temperature of dogs is between 100.0 and 102.5 degrees. A fever may arise when the dog is fighting an infection which can be located anywhere in the body and may not be necessarily visible. If your dog's rectal temperature is above 103 degrees, consult with your veterinarian.

  • Low Glucose Levels

Small breed dogs may suffer from episodes of hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia means low blood sugar and may cause shaking, muscle twitching, weakness, stumbling, loss of appetite, seizures and even coma if left untreated. This is mostly seen in puppies younger than three months of age, explains veterinarian Debra Primovic, in an article for Pet Place. Teacup and toy breeds, may be particularly prone to this condition.

  • Other Causes

There may be several other causes for shivering. Allergic reactions to vaccines, insect bites and medications can cause severe reactions with shaking. Neurological disorders and seizures may cause episodes of shivering, trembling and paddling of the legs. Ingestion of toxins may cause trembling as a side effect. Shivering in older pets may be attributed to muscle weakness and arthritis. Shock, electrolyte imbalances, low calcium levels in nursing dogs, anemia, lupus and other metabolic disorders can also be factors to consider

How to Help a Shivering Dog

Now that you know some of the potential answers to ''Why does my dog shiver?'', it is time to look at a few solutions. Trembling from cold can be easily solved by bringing your dog to a warmer area or allowing him to wear a sweater. Excitement, fear and nervousness causes transient shaking episodes that resolve spontaneously once the adrenaline rush subsides. Shaking from vomiting and diarrhea should also subside once the dog feels better, but if it continues, he should see your vet especially dogs on the smaller side, since they can get dehydrated easily. A home-made dog bland diet may help sooth your sick dachshund's tummy.

Owners of young puppies or miniature breeds prone to hypoglycemia should always carry with them some Karo syrup. Owners should rub the Karo syrup on the dog's gums and call their veterinarian immediately, explains veterinarian Debra Primovic. Caroline Coile, author of the book ''Dachshunds'' also recommends never allowing a miniature puppy to go without food for more than four hours.

Shivering due to pain and fever should be addressed by a veterinarian in order to identify the underlying cause, and so should episodes of shivering possibly due to seizures, allergic reactions, ingestion of toxins, muscle weakness, low calcium levels in nursing dogs, electrolyte imbalances, etc.

As a general rule of thumb, if your dog is consistently trembling and no evident cause for it can be determined, he or she should see the vet. The same applies if he is shivering and also appears lethargic, weak or in pain.

Disclaimer: this article is not to be used as a substitute for professional veterinarian advice. If your dog is shivering please report to your veterinarian or animal emergency center for a proper assessment, diagnosis and treatment.

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Comments 7 comments

rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

Interesting. Never heard of low blood sugar in a dog?! I love mixed breeds. Fewer health problems!

Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA

Great hub. My guy shivers some, but I think I diagnosed it correctly both times. One was after vaccinations, so the vet gave him some anti-inflammatory pills to help with that. And then just recently due to the cold. I put a jacket on him and he responded well. I love your hubs. It's nice to have someone who knows what they're talking about when I'm worried about my pets! I know who to go to! Thanks! voted up, interesting, useful, and awesome!

aznpanda206 profile image

aznpanda206 4 years ago from San Francisco

my dog shivers when he has to pee (before he will pee in the house) because he is potty trained outdoors

or when he is scared s***less.

Deborah Brooks profile image

Deborah Brooks 4 years ago from Brownsville,TX

I notice real little dogs shiver all the time. great hub and very interesting

thank you


alexadry profile image

alexadry 4 years ago from USA Author

thank you, yes small dogs are notorious for shaking!

Veronika 3 years ago

I have a 7 year Jung lab, noticing her shivering and was worried. Also she had blood in her poop, which I took to the vet today.what did she eat. We don't know,just came back from a vacation ,and found her sick . We r a waiting for the vet to Call about the lab results, could also be a nasty parasite.

February 18 th 2013

alexadry profile image

alexadry 3 years ago from USA Author

Veronika, my dog shivered too one night and turned out he had a bad tummy ache and diarrhea. I hope that's all there is to it in your case too. Keeping fingers crossed on lab results, best wishes and keep me updated if you wish.

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