Ask a Vet

Why Does a Dog Shiver and Should You Be Worried?

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Jacquelyn Kennedy
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A shivering dog isn’t necessarily a cause for great concern, though proper measures must be taken just in case.

A healthy dog acts in a certain way: he’s happy, energetic, breathes normally, eats quite a lot, has a normal weight, shiny hair and doesn’t stand out by having an unpleasant smell.

A dog owner must look after his four-legged friend because anything that seems unusual could be a sign of sickness.

So, what are the main causes of shivering in dogs?

Some dogs could be shivering due to their own individual traits.

Their sensitive nervous system makes them shiver in situations like being transported in a car, being taken outside for the first time (this applies to cubs), in the presence of an unfamiliar person, and the list could go on.

Temperature control

Cold weather could be yet another reason for a dog to be shivering. The best thing a dog owner can do in this case is to cover him up in a thick and warm blanket.

Shivering often happens to short-haired dogs, for obvious reasons.

In these situations, shivering is normal and is an effective way of determining a proper functioning of the body.

Shivering helps the body to create heat when the body temperature is decreasing.

It also appears as a struggle of the body to drop a high temperature back to normal.


A lot of times, a dog could be suffering from a virus and one of those symptoms is shivering.

To determine whether it’s true or not, the dog must be taken to the vet for diagnosis and treatment.

Distemper may be caused by a virus and it most often occurs in puppies or adolescent dogs that haven’t completed their vaccinations.

The immune system is affected. The disease also includes nose and eye goop or discharge, fever and coughing.

Veterinarians recommend antibiotics, airway dilators, physical therapy and fluids to fight against dehydration.

Generalized Tremor Syndrome (GTS)

Generalized Tremor Syndrome is also known as white shaker dog syndrome and it appears generally in small breeds such as Maltese and West Highland white terriers.

It can also be present at any other dog breeds, independently of their size and its causes are still unknown.

The syndrome starts between 9 months and 2 years ago and responds well to the treatment with corticosteroids.


It can be caused by medication, eating too much or inappropriate or toxic food, motion sickness or liver or kidney diseases.

It can be combined with listlessness, lips smacking and swallowing, salivating, yawning, vomiting or hiding.

These symptoms should be checked by a veterinarian and treated accordingly to avoid other major health issues.

Old age

Some dogs can develop tremors in their legs because of age related muscle loss or atrophy or weakness.

This issue is commonly met in old dogs. Fortunately, the walk and moves are not affected.


Sometimes, trembling can also be associated with various types of pain. Pain may be determined by acute traumas or chronic painful conditions.

Keep in mind that pain is not always displayed by tremors and can involve other specific symptoms, so watch carefully your dog’s reactions.

Dog shiver 1


There are some toxins or poisons that can lead to tremors due to their toxic reactions.

Be aware of some human types of food that can be toxic to your dog.

Chocolate, cigarettes and xylitol, a sugar substitute, can cause poisoning, so avoid them.

Symptoms of poisoning are different from one dog to another.

They can involve tremors, drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, depression, weakness and need immediate treatment to avoid the loss of life.

Seizure Disorders

Some neurological disorders and epilepsy include symptoms like collapsing, stiffening, muscle twitching, drooling, chomping, tongue chewing and so on.

The good news is that this type of disorders can be controlled with proper medications.


Shivering is a normal emotional reaction when a dog gets excited.

Some dogs shake, bark or urinate with excitement when meets their owners or someone else they love.

You can help your canine companion calm down by keeping your greetings calm and train him to sit before greeting you.

Also, if you used to offer love or attention to your dog when you noticed he was shivering, he may start to shiver when he wants to get your attention.

Pay attention to not reinforce this behavior. You can start by offering him attention and love when he is calm and submissive.

Furthermore, ignore him when he shakes for attention and he will stop doing this.

Various diseases

Certain conditions such chronic kidney failure, neurologic problems, demyelinating disorders or Addison’s disease may lead to tremors and other associated symptoms.

These types of conditions must be regularly supervised by a veterinarian.

Steps to safely determine the causes of shivering

If you exclude the excitement and other obvious, harmless causes, you may be worried about your dog’s health.

Firstly, you should determine if there are things in your dog’s environment that could make him feel anxious or fearful and if so, remove the source of the stress.

The next step is to check your dog’s temperature to see if it is within normal limits.

Keep in mind that the normal range is 100-102 degrees Fahrenheit.

Regardless of the reason, it is best to be safe than sorry and take your dog to the vet to avoid any unfortunate experiences.

Furthermore, there are situations when the visit to the veterinarian is mandatory for your dog’s life.

If the trembling continues for more than two hours or you notice other symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, labored breathing, you must take your dog to the veterinarian immediately.

The sooner the causes are eliminated or properly treated, the greater the chance for your dog to get well rapidly.

Choosing a good veterinary may be crucial to your dog’s life.

At PremierPups, dog owners benefit from a third-party veterinary consultation service that provides a variety of tools and resources as well as high-quality medical services.

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About the author

Jacquelyn Kennedy

PetDT was founded by Jacquelyn Kennedy, a dog lover and pet admirer. She built the website to provide pet owners with information, experiences, and opinions on breeds, temperament, personalities, health, nutrition, products, and care.