Seven reasons why your dog might be shivering

Seven reasons why your dog might be shivering

Health & Safety

Many owners of very small dog breeds like the Chihuahua will class bouts of the shivers in their dog as simply a normal part of the dog’s life, and some dogs of the breed will tend to shiver, tremble or shake regularly-often several times a day-for no obvious reason. However, whether your dog is a small breed or not, if they seem to get regular bouts of the shivers, the chances are that you wonder why this happens and what it means, and if it is a potential problem that you should be doing something about.

There are a wide range of different reasons why any given dog might have a tendency to shiver on occasion, and once you know about the most common ones, you can usually assign the correct reason to your dog’s behaviour.

In this article, we will look at seven reasons why your dog might seem to be having a bout of the shivers-and what, if anything, you should do about it. Read on to learn more.

A breed-specific tendency

As mentioned, certain breeds of dog tend to be prone to shivering in a range of different situations which would not cause a response of any kind in most other dogs, and so for breeds across which shivering is a well-known behaviour, you may not need to look any further.

However, even though some breeds tend to be more shivery than others, you can still generally assign their bouts of the shivers to a background cause, which makes it no less relevant than it is for any other dog.

Too cold

Any dog will shiver if they are too cold, and dogs with lean bodies, short fur and often, small sizes once again will be more apt to feel the cold and so, shiver even when other dogs are comfortable. The Chihuahua is of course one such breed, and the hairless Chinese crested is another, and special care must be taken of dogs will no fur or very fine fur and a low body fat percentage to keep them warm enough and help to keep their body temperature stable.


Some smaller dogs will shiver if they are feeling nervous or anxious, due to the adrenaline increase that comes accompanied by triggering the body’s fight or flight response. Again, the smaller the dog, the more likely they are to find a situation, person or other dog daunting, which increases the chances of shivering due to nerves occurring in small dogs.

However, larger dogs may shiver if they are nervous too, such as if they are anticipating being shouted at or come into contact with someone that scares them.


Fearful dogs may shiver, which is once again a manifestation of the body’s response to the adrenaline flooding their system once the fight or flight response is triggered. Such fear may be triggered by things like fireworks and other loud bangs or noises, the presence of another dog that is very dominant or frightening, or anything else, real or imaginary, that makes your dog afraid!


Excitement is another common cause of shivering in dogs of all sizes, and this cause of shivering is one that we will usually see in larger dogs that are very highly strung and/or active-such as working or sporting dogs.

For instance, if you have ever seen dogs competing in a flyball event, they have to get worked up to perform at their best and achieve a good time, and yet the period of activity they face in competition is over in just a few minutes. Before and after this period of intense exertion, the dog may shiver in anticipation and due to excitement.

Health conditions

There are a wide range of different health conditions that can lead to shaking or tremoring in dogs, including several different neurological conditions, and blood: glucose imbalances such as can occur in diabetic dogs.

There is also an idiopathic health condition called “white shaker syndrome” which most commonly affects the West Highland White Terrier dog breed, and which leads to a specific tendency to shake or shiver and that can develop later in life, and/or worsen as the dog ages.

Additionally, poisoning or toxins can cause a range of acute symptoms including shivering or shaking, so be alert for dangers of this type.


If your dog goes into shock-such as if they have had an accident or been injured-they may go into shock. The term “shock” is a medical condition for a range of specific physical symptoms that can manifest as the result of an injury or of course, something “shocking” happening, and which can be a dangerous condition in and of itself.

Shock leads to physical shivering, cold extremities, a fast pulse rate, dilated pupils, pale mucous membranes and potentially, dizziness or fainting, so it is wise to be alert to the indications of shock in dogs and know how to react if your dog has become injured or otherwise shows symptoms.

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