Why is my Dog Shivering? Help!

As new pet parents, it can be hard to understand what your puppy needs, as most of their communication relies on body language. One such case is shivering or shaking, which can leave you worried about your dog’s health.

While shaking can be a way of communication, it may also indicate a serious health concern. Knowing why your dog is shivering and when to contact your vet is important. Here, we explore the different reasons behind a shivering dog and share tips on what you can do to help!

Causes of Shivering

This section delves into the various reasons behind your dog’s shivering or shaking. Most tremors are common and harmless, lasting only a few minutes. These do not hinder your dog’s daily activities, like eating and drinking. The more dangerous ones, such as seizures and poisoning, are long-lasting and may even disturb your dog’s ability to maintain balance.

Let’s learn more about them so you know when to visit your veterinarian.

Cold weather

Like you, canines are also prone to shivering when they feel cold! It is generally not a serious concern; the trembling disappears when your puppy’s body returns to a comfortable temperature. Shivering is not a problem in this case, as it allows your dog to heat its body in cold temperatures.

Being exposed to colder temperatures for a long time that your pup isn’t naturally suited for is an alarming thing that must be addressed. If your dog feels cold even after trying to regulate its temperature by shivering, it can lead to hypothermia. This is a lethal condition in which the core body temperature drops and respiration stops, eventually.

To avoid this, ensuring your pet is kept in an appropriately heated space, especially if you live in a colder area, is crucial.

What to do: If your dog is trembling due to lower temperatures, quickly try to warm it up by offering a snuggly blanket beside a heating vent. You can also engage your dog in physical activity to increase the body temperature. If you have a smaller dog, like a chihuahua, it is more likely to experience shivering due to the cold.  Invest in a cute sweater for your puppy to keep it warm!

Excitement

Dogs are extremely lovable and get excited easily. As pets, they can be super playful and energetic, often displaying it as shaking or shivering.

Canines are intelligent enough to sense when it’s time for them to play or go out for a walk, so you may observe some dogs shaking right before playtime.

What to do: If your dog is shaking with excitement, don’t worry; it just means it is happy. Your dog will stop shivering once it has calmed down.

Other signs accompanying these excited shivers are forward ears, an erect tail, and your puppy’s body language showing it’s ready to move.

It’s dripping wet.

When dogs are wet, they naturally shake to dry their bodies efficiently. So, if your dog has just had a bath or a swim in the pool, the shivering is likely because your pup is trying to get dry.

What to do: While shaking is a constructive behavior in removing 70% of the water from your puppy’s fur, it can get messy. If you are in a hurry and trying to avoid cleaning, you can use a towel to dry your furry pup.

Fear or anxiety

Some dogs tend to get nervous in unfamiliar environments. The shaking could be out of fear or anxiety. If you find your puppy’s whole body in a trembling state, especially at the vet’s clinic or during a fireworks show, this could be a way to shake off its stress. Your dog will have its head, ears, and tail lowered and appear hunched when scared.

What to do: Shivering due to fear or anxiety is typical canine behavior. This type of body language indicates that your pup is under stress. You can use white noise (in case of loud noises) or plush toys to help your furry friend calm down. Cuddling also helps.

Try removing the source of stress as quickly as you can. For example, if your dog is scared of loud noises, like during a thunderstorm, you can try to block out the noise by keeping all the windows shut.

Remember to stay relaxed, as dogs can sense panic through your body language.

Ear infections

Excessive head shaking indicates ear infections, prevalent in breeds like Cocker Spaniels, Basset Hounds, Labrador Retrievers, and Golden Retrievers. If you suspect your dog is shivering due to ear infections, immediately consult your vet to prevent serious health issues, like hematoma, in which blood pools in the ear flap. It is harmful and can lead to loss of consciousness or, in extreme cases, death.

What to do: Look out for inflamed, red, or smelly ears to check if your puppy has an ear infection. Maintain hygiene and keep your dog’s ears clean and dry, especially after a bath or a swim. 

Low blood sugar

Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, is another cause behind a dog’s shivering, especially in young or smaller pups. This can be due to poor nutrition or an underlying disease. Getting your dog checked by a vet is important as this disease can be fatal.

What to do: Ensure a balanced and healthy diet for your canine to avoid low blood sugar due to a lack of proper nutrition. Visit your vet to look for any hidden illnesses, like intestinal parasites that may be causing this symptom.

Spinal injury

Spinal injuries or intervertebral disc disease can cause shivering in your dog’s hind legs. Canines with curvy legs, like dachshunds and basset hounds, are prone to be victims of this health condition.

What to do: If you suspect an injury and notice your dog’s hind legs shaking, have it examined by a vet immediately.

Canine distemper

More common in young dogs, canine distemper is a prevalent problem behind shivering caused by a virus. It is an extremely lethal and contagious disease that can only be prevented through timely vaccination.

Distemper has no cure. It can only be treated through supportive care like antibiotics to stop the spread of infections and fluids to remedy dehydration.

If your dog experiences tremors with other signs like discharge from the eyes and nose, fever, and coughing, it is likely suffering from distemper. Take immediate action if you notice any of these symptoms, as the survival rate for this disease is low.

Those who survive canine distemper have to live with a damaged nervous system.

What to do: Vaccinating your puppies is the most important step in preventing this disease. Make sure that your puppy’s vaccine schedule is up to date. If you observe any signs of distemper, take your dog to the vet for appropriate treatment. Keep your dog isolated from other dogs to block the spread of this highly contagious, deadly virus.

Generalized Tremor Syndrome (GTS)

More widely known as White Shaker Syndrome, GTS, or Steroid-responsive Tremor Syndrome, is another reason behind your dog’s shivering. The causes are unknown, and any size or breed of dog can get GTS. It can be a mild tremor or an uncontrollable body shivering that makes it difficult for your dog to move.

What to do: Visit a vet for proper diagnosis and treatment through medication. If your dog is already getting treatment, the worsening condition could mean a change in medicines is needed.

Nausea

Dogs will chew on anything they can get their paws on and swallow things that can upset their stomach causing nausea, vomiting, and shivering. Motion sickness, medicines, and kidney or liver disease can also make your canine nauseous. If the shaking is accompanied by excessive drooling, hiding, yawning, lethargy, or lip-smacking, it is likely due to nausea.

What to do: Your dog will get better once it vomits, and the nausea and shivering will disappear. If the condition persists even after 24 hours or starts happening more frequently, get your puppy checked by a vet.

Old age

As your dog gets older, there is a high chance it will experience shivering, especially tremors in its hind legs. This is due to a loss in muscle mass (luckily, it doesn’t affect your canine’s movement). Older dogs may also shiver as they tend to get colder.

What to do: Ensure your dog has a warm bed close to a heating vent. Get blankets and sweaters to keep your old dog warm.

Pain and illnesses

Sometimes, shivering can be a symptom of severe pain. This may result from an injury or a painful condition like arthritis. If your canine is shaking and you think an injury or arthritic joints are a reason, visit your vet for a check-up.

Other illnesses that can lead to tremors are:

  • Degenerative Myelopathy causes shaking in the hind legs due to slower nerves and a weak back.
  • Kidney failure
  • Inflammatory brain disease
  • Improper functioning of the adrenal gland

What to do: Get appropriate professional help for each condition. Pain maintenance and treatment may require medication. Physiotherapy, hydrotherapy, and acupuncture are also options for your dog. Getting a veterinary check-up regularly is important.

Poisoning

Canines can easily access things that are safe for humans but dangerous to dogs. Your dog may swallow something toxic, which will cause it to shiver. Other signs of poisoning include fatigue, inability to focus, depression, drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, and seizures.

What to do: Keeping your home safe for your furry friends is crucial. Keep poisonous things out of reach. Common household items that are toxic include:

  • Chocolate and caffeinated beverages
  • Cigarettes
  • Xylitol and Sorbitol
  • Rodent poison and mosquito repellent
  • Alcohol
  • Bar soap and face wash
  • Petroleum jelly

Immediately contact your vet and the Animal Poison Control Centre if your dog appears to have consumed something harmful.

Seizure

It is highly unlikely to confuse normal shivering as a seizure episode, especially if your dog is currently under treatment for a seizure disorder like epilepsy. While seizures mostly come in the form of uncontrollable tremors that last several minutes, they can also show up in other ways.

The symptoms range from twitching muscles to unconsciousness, jerking motion, collapsing, drooling, and foaming at the mouth. If a seizure lasts 5 minutes or more, it can be life-threatening for your canine. Immediate veterinary intervention is a must in this condition.

What to do: Contact your vet immediately if your dog exhibits seizure-like symptoms. Intravenous anticonvulsants are needed to treat seizures. If delayed, they can cause death or permanent brain damage.

As a dog parent, there is a high chance you will find your pup shivering or shaking at some point. This blog will help you identify the cause and plan the next steps.

In most cases, you will need to visit your veterinarian immediately. For non-emergency situations, you can turn to the PetMyPal [1] app. This app lets you chat with a licensed vet from the comfort of your home using the Vet-Chat feature. There are multiple affordable subscription plans available. 

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